Henry brought each of his six wives to the palace, and all except for Katherine of Aragon had their honeymoon there, illustrating how favoured this palace was to Henry. Anne Boleyn’s apartments were constructed over what is now called Anne Boleyn’s Gateway and if you look closely you can still see a tile on the roof with an intertwined H&A that fortunately survived Henry’s purge of Anne-related designs after her downfall in 1536. Henry VIII’s son Edward was also born at the palace in 1537. Unfortunately, the palace was also the scene of some traumatic events during Henry’s reign including the death of Jane Seymour, his third wife and the arrest of Catherine Howard, his fifth wife before she was taken to the Tower of London.
It is rumoured that Hampton Court may also be home to Catherine Howard’s ghost along with some others that have been mysteriously witnessed over the years. Catherine Howard’s ghost has often been seen in the most haunted part of the palace, The Haunted Gallery. Palace residents, cleaners and visitors have all witnessed who they believe is Catherine in a white dress with long hair. Catherine supposedly ran down this hallway to try and convince Henry not to have her arrested, but she was stopped by guards and brought to the Tower. Other sightings of ghosts throughout the palace include Jane Seymour near the Silver Stick Staircase, a phantom dog on the King’s Staircase, a man in red at the Great Gatehouse in Base Court, The Lady in Grey who may be Mrs Sybil Penn, young Edward VI’s nurse in the southwest corner of Base Court and many others.
Inside the Great Gatehouse is the Base Court surrounded by dozens of lavish apartments that Wolsey set aside for his most important guests. At the other side of Base Court is Anne Boleyn’s Gateway which then leads into Clock Court. Clock Court is so named because of the beautiful astronomical clock sitting over the inside, west entrance, which was crafted by French horologist Nicholas Oursian in 1540.
As Henry’s children grew up, they used Hampton Court as well. Mary I had her honeymoon with Philip II of Spain there and it was one of Elizabeth I’s favourite palaces. She loved to rest there, and is said to have been relaxing in the gardens when she received word of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. She enjoyed the entertainments of the palace as well, supposedly watching Shakespeare and his company perform the drama of the fall of Wolsey in the grand Great Hall.
After Elizabeth I’s death, the throne, alongside Hampton Court, passed to King James I and VI and the Stuart dynasty. James enjoyed leisure time at the palace just as his predecessors did. In one instance he watched the first performances of Hamlet and Macbeth by Shakespeare and his ‘King’s Men’ in the Great Hall in 1603. He also organised the 1604 Hampton Court Conference which resulted in the publication of the King James Bible in 1611. After James I, his son Charles I used Hampton Court as a place to hold and display his vast art collection and used the palace’s Privy Garden to evade Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians when he was held prisoner there in 1647. Once Cromwell defeated Charles I and the Commonwealth began, Cromwell saved Hampton Court from damage by deciding to live in it, as he greatly enjoyed the art and tapestries. When the Stuarts reclaimed the throne, Charles II used Hampton Court for his honeymoon and later as a place for his mistress and their children to live.