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A SHORT HISTORY OF
CARDINAL WOLSEY AT HAMPTON COURT.
reach of London, there is none, if we except Windsor Castle, that can be held to vie in historic and artistic charms with the Queen's magnificent palace at Hampton Court.
Nowhere else do we meet with attractions so uncommon, and
yet so varied, as those which are to be found within its precincts. There we may behold a building, which still remains, altered and restored though it has been, an almost perfect specimen of Tudor palatial architecture, side by side with the best example existing in England of the debased classic Louis XIV., namely, Wren's State Apartments. There, too, we may feel, in a more than ordinary degree, amid its red-brick courts, solemn cloisters, picturesque gables, towers, turrets, embattled parapets, and mullioned and latticed windows, that indescribable charm which invests all ancient and historic places. While walking through Wolsey's courts we may recall the splendour and wealth of the mighty Cardinal; and while standing in Henry VIII.'s chapel, or his gorgeous Gothic hall, ponder on the many thrilling events enacted within the palace in the days of the Tudors and Stuarts—the birth of Edward VI. and the death of Jane Seymour; the marriages of Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr; the honeymoons of Philip of Spain and Mary Tudor, and of Charles II. and Catherine of Braganza; James I.'s conference with the Puritans; and Cromwell's sojourn here in almost regal splendour. And while passing through William III.'s splendid suite of rooms, with their
painted ceilings, carved cornices, tapestried and oak-panelled walls, we may mentally people them again with the king's and queens, and statesmen and courtiers, who thronged them in the last century. Moreover, by the aid of an unbroken series of historical pictures and portraits, illustrative of three centuries of English history, we may recall the past with a vividness that no books can ever excite.
And then, when satiated with art and archæology, we can relax the mind by wandering beneath the shade of William III.'s stately avenues of chestnut and lime; strolling in the ever-delightful gardens where Wolsey paced in anxious meditation a few weeks before his fall; where Henry VIII. made love to Anne Boleyn and to Catherine Howard ; along the paths where Queen Elizabeth took her daily morning walk; past the tennis court where Charles I. played his last game on the day he escaped from the palace; beneath the bower where Queen Mary sat at needlework with her maids of honour; along the terrace to the bowling green and pavilion where George II. made love to Mrs. Howard and Mary Bellenden ; under the lime groves which sheltered from the sun Pope and Hervey, Swift and Addison, Walpole and Bolingbroke.
Hampton Court is pleasantly situated on the left or north bank of the river Thames, in the hundred of Spelthorne, in the county of Middlesex, about one mile distant from the villages of Hampton and Hampton Wick, about a mile and a half from the town of Kingston-on-Thames, and thirteen miles or so from London, reckoning in a westerly direction from Charing Cross. It longitude is oo 20' west of Greenwich, and its latitude 51° 24' north. The boundaries of the ancient parish of Hampton appear to have been coterminous with those of the manor, which consists of about 3,000 acres and of which Hampton Court forms a part.
The natural features of the country in which Hampton Court is situated are not particularly striking. The ground is flat, with scarcely an undulation rising more than twenty feet above the dead level, and the soil, though light and gravelly, supports very little indigenous timber. Indeed, in primæval times, the whole district of Hampton appears to have been an open tract, forming part of the famous Hounslow Heath, to which it immediately adjoins; and the
thorns in Bushey Park, with a few ancient gigantic elms and oaks in the Home Park, are still surviving remnants or traces of its original state. One of the oaks, which is believed to be the largest in England, is as much as 37 feet in girth at the waist.
Nevertheless, the surrounding prospect must, from the earliest times, have been not unpleasing. The stretch of
the river opposite Hampton Court-studded with eyots, and bordered with luxuriant meadows fringed with willows—is one of the prettiest in the lower Thames; and the stream, which is particularly clear and swift at this point, is always lively with boats and barges. When we add, that the view from the palace extends, across the river, over a wide expanse of
“Meads for ever crowned with flowers,”
clusters of trees, flowery hedgerows, and broad undulating heath-clad commons,
“ To Claremont's terraced height, and Esher's groves,
By the soft windings of the silent Mole,and that in the distance can be traced the dim blue outline of the Surrey hills; while on another side appear the crowded gables and the picturesque old church-tower of Kingston, we have enumerated all the natural and local amenities of Hampton Court.
Of the annals of the place in the days of the ancient Britons, Romans, and Saxons, we can record nothing but a complete blank; nor have there been found here many traces or remains of those periods of history.
To Saxon times we owe, of course, the name Hampton, a compound of the words Hame, meaning home or place of shelter, and Ton, signifying an aggregate of houses environed and fortified with a hedge and ditch.
The first mention of Hampton in any records is to be found in Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, where the manor of Hamntone in the county of Middlesex, and the hundred of Spelthorne, which in Saxon times had belonged to Earl Algar, is entered as held by Walter de St. Valerie or Valeric, and valued, including arable land, pasture for the cattle of the manor, and 3s. arising from the fisheries in the Thames, at £39, a very high value for Domesday. In the time of Edward the Confessor it was valued at £40, of which the King received £20.
For a century and a half after this, the manor remained in the possession of the family of De Valery or De St. Valery. From their hands it passed into those of Henry de St. Albans, who about the year 1217 gave it, lent it, or leased it to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who appear to have had here, as early as the end of the twelfth century, a preceptory of some sisters of their Order; and who were, at any rate, by the middle of the thirteenth century in possession of the whole manor of Hampton.
The Order was at this time in the heyday of its prosperity and power, and possessed enormous property in every country in Europe, and not least in England, where their lands were farmed, and money amassed, to be paid into the