By George! Hampton Court and the glorious Georgians

Thursday 08 October 2015

Hampton Court, for me, is synonymous with summer. Walking through the great main gates beneath embossed stone ceilings, on through sunny courtyards and rooms painted by Italian masters, you leave something of everyday life behind.

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As you move on toward the multi-coloured tulip beds and finely cut hedges of the formal garden, a sense of that leisurely life that kings and princes must have enjoyed here over the centuries settles in on your shoulders like an imaginary ermine.

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Waterside walks, the blossoming trees and shrubs of the Wilderness garden, getting lost in the maze: Hampton Court gives you plenty of opportunities to be outside and relish the charm of an English summer's day, while taking in the majesty of a historic royal palace.

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The last time I was here I was about 10, and I vividly remember adventuring through corridors, looking up at the magnificent buildings, and discovering rooms full of intriguing things. The room full of swords and pistols was particularly exciting.

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If you have children, Hampton Court has all the open space to let off steam you could need, while giving plenty of food for thought in its exhibition rooms.

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Most of us associate Hampton Court with Henry VIII and his hubristic advisor, Cardinal Wolsely. But 2014 marks the anniversary of King George I's ascent to the British throne. Under the reign of George I, but thanks particularly the influence of his son and heir, Hampton Court saw a sumptuous overhaul. Sir John Vanbrugh filled the Queen's Apartments with sumptuous furnishings, and a new state bed was brought in under elaborately painted ceilings.

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While George I was a reclusive, retiring man who spent much of his time in his native Hanover, his son and daughter in law enjoyed a lavish life of style and entertainment at Hampton Court. A rivaly grew between them until George I himself began to hold grand public occasions here, from balls and assemblies to public dining, where the king would eat and courtiers would come to watch. So many would attend that crowd-control barriers were erected to keep the throng away from the table!

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The Glorious Georges exhibition, which runs until 30 November, will reveal even more about the life of the Hanoverian dynasty. See gaming rooms, bedchambers, and listen to anecdotes from the time told by expert tour guides. You can even go one step further and get a whiff of court life with the 'smell map' provided for the tour!

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When you're done, be sure to walk through the gardens, have a glance at the real tennis court here (one of Henry VIII's favourite sports), or even take a boat trip from just outside the palace

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To learn more about Hampton Court and the Glorious Georges exhibition, take a look at the palace website here.

Or click here to buy tickets from the VisitBritain shop.

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