« PreviousContinue »
the Horse Guards, and the War Office, to say nothing of the Metropolitan Police, all of which occasionally join in the fray, if they deem that their prerogatives are being tampered with, or their dignity lightly treated, our readers will understand something of the difficulties of getting anything done at Hampton Court.
No better instance, as we have said, could be given of this than the story of the lady mentioned above, who applied for the privilege of having access to the gardens, down a disused staircase, which communicated with her rooms. In the first place, she had to apply to the Lord Chamberlain's department for permission to use the staircase, and to open the doors at the top and the bottom of it. This having been, after much discussion, conceded, she thought she would have no difficulty in passing through the door, at the bottom of the stairs, into the passage that leads to the garden. But in this she was pitiably mistaken. She did, indeed, manage to reach the door, and the Lord Chamberlain had opened it, but she could not cross its threshold without authorization from the Board of Works; for woe to anyone who breaks their “shell” without leave! This obstacle, however, being in due course surmounted, the lady thought she would now be allowed to pass, without any further obstruction, through the passage into the garden.
But it is one thing to get into one end of a passage in a royal palace, quite a different thing to get out of it at the other. For, barring her way into the garden, all three “Boards” again confronted her: first, the Lord Chamberlain, brandishing his keys; next, the Board of Works, with their “shell”; then the Board of the Lord Steward, who always mysteriously appears on the scene when least expected, flourishing his "green cloth," and objecting to everything everywhere, on no grounds in particular. The three “Boards," however, were once more propitiated; and the lady rashly thought that, at last, the goal of her hopes was
But she had reckoned without another “Board.” For, after reaching the garden door by the combined authority, and the joint and several assents and consents of the three chief departments; after turning the lock by leave of the Lord Chamberlain, opening the door by leave of the Lord Steward, and passing through it by leave of the Board
BATTLING WITH THE “ BOARDS.”
of Works, she could not get into the garden, through a small iron gate, without the high permission and authority, for that purpose duly sued for, and after full consideration, deliberation, and consultation, properly had and obtained from the First Commissioner and Board of her Majesty's Office of Woods and Forests. For a while the matter looked ominous, for the “Board” at first would not relentthe sensibility, so it was maliciously said, of some sensitive Commissioner having been ruffled, by the way in which his
permission had been taken for granted. The lady, in fact, would, we suspect, have been pining at the gate of this paradise to this day, had she not wisely approached this Commissioner in a proper spirit of deference, so that at last the “Board” was soothed, permission was given, “the gate was passed, and heaven was won.”
The above is by no means a solitary instance of a lady occupying apartments at Hampton Court getting her way in spite of the opposition of the officials of the Crown. For a story is told of a refractory resident, some years ago, who, when informed by the Lord Chamberlain that some fine old
tapestry, belonging to the Crown, which hung in her rooms was required for another of the royal palaces, replied, that as the tapestry was in the apartments when she received her warrant, she altogether declined to part with it. My lord remonstrated, my lady was firm ; my lord insisted, my lady was inexorable. At last his lordship threatened that unless she gave it up voluntarily he would send some of his myrmidons and have it forcibly removed, to which her ladyship replied that, if he dared to do so, she would set fire to the palace ! The determined character of the lady being well known, her threat prevailed, and she remained in undisturbed possession of the tapestry until her death.
Before leaving this topic, we may refer to an idiosyncrasy of the life of the inhabitants of the palace, the use of an old sedan-chair, mounted on wheels, drawn by a chairman, and called “the Push,” which is used by the inhabitants for going out in the evening to dinners or parties from one part of the building to another. This curious survival of a bygone age, of which we have inserted a sketch on the preceding page, is probably the only sedan-chair in actual use in England.
Having now brought our narrative down to the present time, we will just glance, before closing these pages, at the general aspect of the palace and its surroundings as they appear to-day; and first of the parks and gardens, though no words of ours can convey any adequate conception of their enchanting beauty in the early summer. It is then that the ancestral hawthorns, which thickly stud the whole 1,080 acres of the area of Bushey Park, are in full flower, and the air scented by the sweet odour of the blossom of the lime trees, which compose the quadruple aisles, as it were—each fourteen yards wide, from row to row-of the great avenue down the centre of the park, fifty-six yards wide, and a mile and forty yards long, its centre, or nave, being flanked by stately horse-chestnuts, which, when themselves in full blossom, about the middle of May, present an appearance of unrivalled splendour. Their wide, low, sweeping branches are then laden with myriads of spiked white flowers, tinged with red, to which the massy, dark green piles of foliage serve as an admirable background; and which, falling, powder and bespangle the turf below with countless stars. The sight of
ASPECT OF THE PARKS AND GARDENS.
this magnificent chestnut avenue, in all the pride of its growth, and the full glory of its bloom, usually draws thousands of visitors from London and the neighbourhood; and the Sunday when it is at its zenith, called “Chestnut Sunday," is announced beforehand in the newspapers.
It is at the same time that the Home Park, of 752 acres, is also at its prime, and offers a picture of surpassing loveli
ness and delight. For the great avenues that border the Long Canal, and bend the graceful amplitude of their lower branches, arch-like, towards the water; as well as the side avenues that stretch away in long divergent vistas—“living galleries of ancient trees”-are composed of limes, every separate twig of which carries its fragrant blossom; so that the air far around is pervaded with the intensest perfume, and filled with the murmuring music of innumerable bees.
At such a time, it is indeed an exquisite pleasure to stroll over the fresh green velvet turf; to wander beneath the lowhanging branches, by the side of the long sheet of water, whose placid surface, whereon “broad water-lilies lie tremulously,” is broken only by the plash of some sluggish carp; to watch a herd of deer, browsing peacefully amid the ferns, or gracefully gliding beneath the cool shade of the trees; to come, perhaps, upon one solitary fawn, drinking at the water's edge, which bounds away, startled at the sound of an approaching step: all this combines to form a picture of stately grandeur and repose, which endues this park with an indefinable fascination and a poetic beauty, entirely its own.
The gardens of Hampton Court, also, have a captivating charm peculiar to themselves, chiefly derived from so much of their original formal trimness, and their old-fashioned air, as they are still permitted to retain.
This is especially the case with the Private Gardens, which retain more, perhaps, of the form and spirit of former days than any others in England, the grounds being laid out in a way suited to the variability of our climate : for winter, walled parterres and sheltered alleys; for summer, grassy banks and plots, shady bowers and nooks, refreshing fountains, and flowery arbours—all of which give it an air of repose and seclusion, and an irresistible charm, entirely unattainable by the most lavish expenditure and display of modern horticultural art.
To see them in all their beauty, one should visit them on some sunny morning, towards the latter end of the month of May, when all the flowers are just budding forth, and all the shrubs are in bloom. Standing on the terrace, or looking from the windows of the palace, nothing could be then more enchanting than the scene. On either side are the fresh grassy slopes of the two terraces; and between them are three vistas or alleys extending to the Thames—the centre one a shady walk entirely canopied by over-arching boughs of “tressy yew,” amid which is just seen the picturesque old fountain, and the two others carpeted with turf, edged with brilliant masses of candy-tuft and alyssum, and embanked