Hampton Court Palace

David Starkey looks at what impresses the contemporary visitor to Henry VIII's palaces

 Queen Mary II

Few buildings have a more obvious, or magnificent, point of entry than Hampton Court. A bridge, lined with the King's Beasts, leads the visitor to the Great Gate, which is surmounted by the arms of Henry VIII. On the far side of the first, or Base, Court is another Gatehouse and another set of royal arms. Inside the Gatehouse a broad, plain staircase leads to the first floor and the Screens Passage of the Great Hall. The Passage is also plain, but the Hall beyond is vast, splendid, gaudy even in the competing colours and textures of tapestries, stained glass and carved and gilded wood. After the Hall comes the Great Watching Chamber. It too is a nobly proportioned room, with a richly fretted ceiling and walls hung with the choisest tapestries.

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