Tag Archives: HRP

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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On The Lost Palace and holding a dead man’s heart…..57/100

DSC_0464Good guests were coming to town. Really, really good guests. So I needed to pull out the proper showing off stops. Fortunately, as regular readers will know, London treats me very well. Often, I have but to ask and I am given. No exception this time. I wrote “what to do with James and Greg” on the top of a blank piece of paper and within hours the HRP sent me an email about their brand new interactive tour, opening just days after The Guests arrived. Would I be interested in tickets??? Would I ever!!! And so it was that on a sunny afternoon (of course London was sunny for The Guests) that James and his son Alexander (age 11), Greg and his son Danny (age 11) and me with my Stephen and Katherine (ages 10 and 12), history lovers all, set off to explore Whitehall Palace, an enormous complex that extended from Trafalgar Square to Big Ben and over into St. James’s Park. At its height it had more than 1,500 rooms, far more thanDSC_0496 either Versailles in France or the Vatican in Rome. It was a favourite of Henry VIII, who married two of his queens and died at the Palace. Both Charles I and II also died there, under very different circumstances. It hosted plays and masques and enough intrigue to keep thriller writers busy for years. Unfortunately, the whole thing, except for Banqueting House, with its still stunning Peter Paul Rubens ceiling, burned down 300 years ago. But that is the beauty of technology. And imagination. And feet.

DSC_0466Using headphones and the two before mentioned accoutrements, the tour takes you round and through Whitehall Palace, exposing celebrations and secrets alongIMG_2966 the way. It runs in geographical rather than chronological order, so we were sometimes a bit confused by the details. But the main acts were great. Playing Cordelia in the first ever performance of Shakespeare’s  King Lear, overhearing the secret marriage of Anne Boleyn to Henry, eavesdropping on the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. A busker sang us a ballad near 10 Downing Street. The triangular device we carried along the way turned into a sword, complete with satisfying swishing sounds. We enjoyed the full gruesomeness of a cock fight in Horse Guards Parade, though some chose to watch a joust instead. We heard fire consuming the building without mercy and the equally merciless looting that took place after. But best of all, BEST of all, we held the beating heart of Charles I in our hands as he was executed, his DSC_0480head removed from his body just above the current entrance to Banqueting House, the throbbing device in our hands made still by an axe. How often do you get to hold a dying man’s heart in your hands? That alone is worth the tour.

It is only running until 4 September, 2016, so book those tickets now and get ready to live history.


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