Tag Archives: Hampton Court Palace

On Jousting in the Sunshine…94/100

IMG-20170714-WA0000The weather in London has been glorious, beautiful for weeks now. What better way to enjoy it than a spot of jousting at Hampton Court Palace. As one does.

Jousting, when two men ride at each other carrying long lances and try to score points by hitting each other, rather like fencing on horseback. It is fast and furious and a sport of Kings. Henry VIII was a particularly keen jouster. It was during a jousting tournament at Greenwich Palace in 1536 that he got the injury to his thigh that would never heal cofproperly, become infected and torture him for the rest of his days. It is a dangerous sport, still so today. I had a nice chat with one of the competitors at the end. Last year, at this same event, he “was so broken,” (his words) that he was out of action of the rest of the year. Dangerous, but great fun to watch.

Henry VIII loved Hampton Court Palace and lavished money on the place, once he took it off Cardinal Wolsey in 1529. Banished for failing to get that divorce Henry so desperately wanted  from Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow and his wife of more than 20 years,  so he digcould marry Anne Boleyn. Anne was there today as well. In fact, a whole host of worthies filled the Royal Box. Wimbledon has their Royal Box, and a few favourites filled the one at Hampton Court for the tournament, including Thomas Cromwell, my great historical crush. He is a very good looking man indeed. And speaking of tennis, when the jousting was over (and I may or may not have been lurking about in a stalkerish manner) I overheard Henry invite Thomas  to play some tennis, a game Henry frequently davplayed on the grass courts he had built, (still in use today, refurbished, obviously) at the Palace.  He also installed two bowling alleys.  His jousting days were behind him by the time he occupied Hampton Court, but his competitive nature was not. Sport, in a gentler fashion, was still necessary. But I digress. Jousting.

Today’s competitors were Henry Grey, Henry Radcliffe, Francis Weston and George Boleyn. Sadly, two of these men will lose their heads soon….as will Anne and later on, Thomas. Historians speculate that part of Henry’s paranoia and rage, often resulting in the bloody machinations that make him famous, were caused by the limitations his injury put on his sporting life. Sport wasn’t just a past time for Henry, it was a passion, and without it he struggled, even more so the people around him. But today he sat back and enjoyed. He in his Royal Box

and me in a rather nifty historical deck chair. My children lounged on picnic blankets on the grass. The sun was out. The horses were gorgeous and high spirited. The palace buildings glistened in the background.

davThe jousting took the form of 2 runs between each competitor, for a total of 6 runs. Except Francis Weston insisted he get an extra go at George Boleyn and the Knight Marshal let him have it, twice actually. So it ended up two versus two, four times each. Misses, hits, points scored, lances shattered. That is a modern thing, the shattering. Back in the day, lances were solid. Spectators were familiar enough to see what touched where, at top speed, but no longer. We need things to blow up. So the lances are hollow and breakable and what a satisfying smacking sound they make when they clash. dig


IMG-20170714-WA0001The finalists on the day were George Boleyn and Henry Radcliffe. They had two passes. The first was a stunning lance to lance touch, a thing of rare beauty, so the commentator told us. 5 points each. But the next pass was a total miss. From one extreme to the other. Such is the nature of sport.


Jousting isn’t just about the physical, manners and control count. The Knight Marshal deducted a point from Radcliffe for not being ready when called. The crowd groaned. He gave the point back for Radcliffe’s excellent handling of his horse. The crowd cheered. A draw. A happy finish to a happy day. For now. Storm clouds are gathering for many of those seated here today. And for us too. This balmy weather won’t last forever, so must take advantage while we can. And we did.




We remained in the gardens and played in the sunshine. A band cofstarted up. We wandered over to a tent to find our merry Royals dancing. We stayed and watched. Thomas Cromwell may have smiled at me. Oh Thomas, 500 years is but a moment in time when in your presence. And jousting is a perfectly reasonable way to spend an sunny July afternoon in 2017.

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Free Wine!!! (and a bit about Hampton Court Palace) 22/100

IMG_20150414_190947 Went along to Hampton Court Palace, last night, to celebrate it’s 500th birthday, as one does, only to learn that until the end of August, Hampton Court is serving 100 GLASSES OF FREE WINE EVERY DAY, from the gorgeous wine fountain in the courtyard.IMG_20150414_190754 IMG_20150414_190749

I assume most of you will now leap into cars/onto trains and rocket down the A3, but if you are still reading, or perhaps simply pacing yourself, I will try to wax eloquent about one of London’s most beautiful royal complexes.

Hampton Court was transformed from a fancy home into a palace by none other than Cardinal Wolsey, a man familiar to us all thanks to Hilary Mantel’s books/plays/television sensations, 500 years ago. Henry VIII took a fancy to it and, well, made it his own. Nice to be king. Rebuilding, renovations, refurbishment and a gift from Queen Victoria have made this palace a favourite with the public, not least because it is stunning both inside and out. And because they are serving FREE WINE, from 4:15 pm*.

DSCN4787 My children have played in the kitchens, gotten lost in the maze andDSCN4780 scampered throughout the gardens countless times. Alice and I once spent a day there wearing capes. Why not? I highly recommend it. Grand halls, high ceilings, tapestries, paintings, fountains, trees with space to hide, oh yes, this place has it all. The closet, tended by Henry’s closest courier, The Groom of the Stool (of yes, that is what it means) always causes lots of laughter and then fake vomiting sounds. What people were willing to do to be close to the King.photo-103

with Cardinal Wolsey
with Henry VIII

Last night, I was invited to mingle with characters throughout history (I particularly enjoyed my chat with Sir Wren, responsible for a serious revamping in late 17/early 18thc) in the Great Hall (a location the Games of Thrones set-designer must covet). Of course I drank wine from the fountain and admired a model of the Palace as a cake.IMG_20150414_191552 But most of all, absorbed the beauty of the place on a sunny, spring evening without throngs of other amateur photographers. And came to the conclusion that every garden, no matter how small, deserves a wine fountain. Wouldn’t mind a few of the rose beds either.

IMG_20150414_191016And now, instead of continuing to blab on about history you probably already know, I will leave you to think of the free wine in a magnificent setting. Enjoy!

All activities are listed on the Hampton Court website. http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace

*Tokens for the wine are handed out at the information desk from 3:50, and once the 100 for the day are gone, they are gone. Plan your day accordingly.