The Early Stuarts and Hampton Court

Simon Thurley explains why the first Stuarts kept the great Tudor palace virtually intact.

The reigns of the first two Stuart kings are frequently seen as an artistic  golden age. A new style in architecture, painting, drama, music and sculpture swept the educated elite, and the new style was centred on the royal court. We are used to seeing James I (r.1603-25) and Charles I (r.1625-49) as patrons of the new, as champions of the modern. Recent work on Hampton Court Palace, however, paints a slightly subtler picture. The Stuart kings did not simply seek the shock of the new. They were also interested in what we would call antiques, partly for their intrinsic beauty and worth, but also as a way of displaying the continuity and legitimacy of their dynasty. At the heart of the image of an ancient dynasty was a dynastic seat. For the Stuarts this was not Whitehall, the official residence of the sovereign, which they filled with modern works of art and adorned with buildings in the latest style: it was out west at Hampton Court.

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