When you visit England, you need to visit at least one royal palace. If you can’t get an invitation to see the current Queen, head back in time and visit one of the most significant and scandalous of her predecessors, King Henry VIII. This is the man famous for cutting ties with Rome and creating the Church of England so he could divorce his wife. He then went on to behead, remarry and divorce until he got the total wife count up to six. In the meantime, he redeveloped a hunting lodge into an incredible red brick palace with chimneys and towers aplenty, an incredible Great Hall, and a wonderful Royal Chapel. It’s full of paintings and gilded decorations and history.
Hampton Court Palace is on the edge of London alongside the Thames River, and while famous as the home of Henry, Hampton Court remained an occupied royal palace for many centuries. King William III and his queen Mary redeveloped it during the 17th century, joining on a very large and very different Baroque-style palace. They laid out the formal gardens and developed the maze. The result is a palace of two very different halves – when you look from the gardens you’ll see a symmetrical Baroque façade, when you approach from the road you see the wonderful chaos and mismatching chimneys of the Tudor palace.
Don’t be alarmed if you see Henry himself drifting through the corridors – it’s not a ghost (though the place must surely be haunted) but a guide in full Tudor regalia. The palace has a wonderful program of information and events, including the famous annual flower show in early July. And in every room there is a red coated custodian – ask them anything you like, these people know the palace and its history inside out and backwards.