Tag Archive | My London Adventure

Hever Castle: Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home

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The original defensive castle was started in 1270, and in the 15th and 16th centuries, it became the home of the powerful Bullen (Boleyn) family, who added the Tudor dwelling to the castle. This is where Thomas Boleyn, a diplomat and politician who later became the 1st Earl of Wiltshire and the 1st Earl of Ormond lived with his wife, Elizabeth Howard (daughter of the Duke of Norfolk), and their three surviving children, George, Anne, and Mary.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Anne, of course, was destined to become the second wife of Henry VIII—and the reason for his break from Rome to make himself the Head of the Church of England so that he could grant himself a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to give him a son. And since Anne herself could only give him a daughter, a pretext had to be found to get rid of her so that he could find a woman who would. She was convicted of adultery and incest with her brother George, and both of them were executed on the block.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Very tragic. But it was Anne’s daughter Elizabeth who would become one of the greatest monarchs of England, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I. And Thomas Boleyn, who lies in the nearby church, is her maternal grandfather.

Church where Thomas Boleyn is buried

Church where Thomas Boleyn is buried

Poor Henry is more known for his marital discords than anything else he did, unless it might be destroying England’s greatest monasteries in order to steal their wealth to fund his lifestyle. (Apologies to anyone reading this who might be a Henry VIII fan, but as you can see, I’m not one.) His third wife gave him a son and promptly died, and he had his marriage to Anne of Cleves, annulled. In the annulment document, she was granted Hever Castle, which had come to him at the death of Thomas Boleyn, among other properties.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves

By the early 20th century, the property was in poor repair and was purchased by the American millionaire, William Waldorf Astoria, for a family residence. He added the Astor Wing, built in Tudor style, which has now become the Hever Castle Luxury Bed & Breakfast. I stayed there and highly recommend it! Be sure to book ahead, as rooms are limited.

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Astor Wing

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Astor Wing

One of the things I noticed here was the large number of families, including seniors in wheelchairs, visiting the castle and grounds. I’m pretty sure the castle isn’t accessible to wheelchairs, but the gardens have ramps so that Granny and Aunt Sally can come to enjoy the beauty of nature. I have also noticed that many of these sites offer playgrounds and activities for children, and that school children come here for field trips. Lucky kids! Imagine how much more knowledgeable and interested in history they will be when they are older than our American kids are!

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Yes, it has a moat and a drawbridge!

Yes, it has a moat and a drawbridge!

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Banquet Hall

Banquet Hall

Maze

Maze

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For more photos, check out my Pinterest page.

Hever Castle is near Edenbridge, Kent. And if you go there by train, make sure to have a mobile phone with you, because there is no one, absolutely no one, at the Hever train station!

The Banqueting House: An Artistic and Historical Masterpiece

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The Banqueting House on Whitehall Street is the only remaining building of the Palace of Whitehall, which was the primary residence of English monarchs for much of the 17th century. In its day, it was the largest palace in Europe, eclipsing even Versailles and the Vatican with its 1500 rooms. Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour there (in 1533 and 1536), and it was there where he died in 1547.

banqueting2In 1622 James I commissioned Inigo Jones to redesign the Banqueting Room, and Charles I was responsible for adding the beautiful ceiling with paintings by Rubens. These paintings, designed to reinforce Charles I’s belief in the divine right of kings, were completed in Antwerp and rolled up for transportation to England, where they were painstakingly laid out and attached to coffers in the ceiling.

Prior to the addition the ceilings, the room was often used for elaborate masques and pageants. Afterward, it was determined that the smoke from the bright lights would damage the ceiling, and it was used primarily for official functions.

It was across this floor that Charles I walked one final time before meeting his fate on the scaffold constructed outside. (So much for the divine right kings.)

banqueting9For some reason, Cromwell chose not to destroy the building as he did so many other buildings symbolic of royal preference. Perhaps because he decided to use it for his own state functions.

Fires in 1691 and 1698 destroyed nearly all the Whitehall Palace buildings, except for this one, probably because Sir Christopher Wren, the reigning architect of the day, had the building next to it blown up to prevent the fire from spreading to the Banqueting House.

A Single Room

While it’s only a single room, it’s definitely something not to be missed. The audio guide that comes with your admission fee is excellent, there are lots of chairs and benches where you sit and gaze at the room while listening, and if you’re very fortunate, you can grab one of the beanbags on the floor and lie prone while admiring the lovely ceiling. When I was there on a Saturday, there weren’t a lot of people there—while I expect everywhere else in Westminster was teeming with crowds as usual—and I could lie there and contemplate the historical and artistic significance of the room in peace.

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