It was a pleasant day, in many ways not unlike the Park Sanssouci at Potsdam, outside Berlin, though of course the original buildings at Hampton Court are much older. On entry we were clearly mistaken for German tourists as no-one asked us to fill in Gift-Aid forms to allow them to reclaim the tax for our entrance fees.
The palace is sensibly divided into several suggested tour sections, from Henry VIII's Great Hall and the Tudor Kitchens through to William III and the early Georgian period. One American visitor was overheard describing the Base Court as "just like an Oxbridge college". Bah! There are no quads in Oxford like that, though the Tudor red-brick architectural style is perhaps similar to one or two Cambridge colleges. The Clock Court and Fountain Court were both more impressive, though smaller.
There was some scaffolding in the Chapel Royal; a notice explained that there had been some recent disturbance in the levels and urged us to donate further (Translation: The Windsors are a poor family from Berkshire. Please give generously.).
Later in the afternoon, we traversed the maze (it seemed easier to get in to the centre, than it was to get back out again) and much of the gardens, including the Privy Garden (formal) and the Hampton Court Great Vine, which we were assured by the literature, was "probably" planted by Capability Brown (Translation: We have no idea who planted it, but this way it sounds interesting.).
Also rather well hidden was the Lower Orangery, with its rather spectacular collection of The Triumphs of Caesar by the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. The room is in (very) subdued light because of the poor condition of the paintings, but the presentation along an entire wall was impressive (and, in its way, again quite reminiscent of the baroque Bildergalerie at Potsdam), though I do think it would be interesting to see an Orangery used as an Orangery on occasion.
Further interesting observations of the day were:
- the car park on site is £3.50, but the car park 500 metres away seems to be free parking
- I didn't realise quite how in-bred the Royal Family is (for example, the Queen and Prince Philip are both descended from Queen Victoria)
- It appears that you can get an olive tree to bear fruit in the UK.