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That of Westminster Hall is, indeed, grander and more imposing; those of Crosby Hall and Eltham Palace purer in taste; but the roof of the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace maintains an undisputed pre-eminence for complexity of workmanship and richness of decoration.
To analyze its structure in detail would be alien to the scope of these pages, but a general idea of its plan and appearance can be formed from the plate of the Hall here inserted, while the architectural student will find full particulars as to all its parts in the author's larger work, “The History of Hampton Court Palace."
Contemporaneously with the building of the Great Hall, there were carried on several other works of scarcely less importance; such as the re-decoration of the adjoining room, henceforth called "The King's Great Watching Chamber," or “Guard Chamber”; the enlarging and beautifying of the apartments occupied by the King; and the raising of an entirely new suite of State Rooms for Anne Boleyn. The last were in substitution of the “Queen's Old Lodgings" before referred to, and were projected and carried out on a scale of unexampled splendour.
But these sumptuous apartments Anne Boleyn was destined never to occupy, for her brief reign was rapidly drawing to its tragical close. Very soon after their marriage Henry's passion for her had shown signs of cooling, and the disappointment he felt at her not giving birth to a son rankled in his breast and increased his estrangement. He had already begun, as we have said, during the Christmas that followed their honeymoon visit to Hampton Court, to flirt with the young ladies of her Court. And it was not improbably in one of the rooms of this palace that Anne surprised Jane Seymour, her maid of honour, engaged in most affectionate conversation with him.
Anne, whose temper was always quick, was incautious enough to show her resentment; but Henry was not a man to tolerate any interference with his amours, or to stand a rebuke from a woman. He abruptly turned away, and from that moment her doom was practically determined. About four months after, his “own darling," on the 19th of May, the anniversary of the very day of her triumphal entry as Queen into London, was executed on Tower Green. That night
Henry supped with Jane Seymour, and the next morning they were married.
The trial and execution of one Queen and her replacement by another was not a sort of event, in the reign of Henry VIII., to cause any interruption in the building of the
Queen's New Lodgings.” Everything went on at Hampton Court as usual ; only that the magnificent apartments, which had been begun for the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, were completed for her rival. Still, the rapid succession of Henry's wives caused some perplexity to the workmen and decorators. For scarcely had they carved or painted a falcon, Anne Boleyn's badge, in juxtaposition with the rose or portcullis, or linked an A with an H in a true-lover's knot, than the badge and monogram were out of date. In the case of the groined ceiling under the Clock Tower, the initial of her murdered Majesty was suffered to remain; but elsewhere the painters, gilders, and glaziers were busily occupied, during the summer months of 1536, in adapting their heraldic embellishments to the altered circumstances.
Even the figure of St. Anne, in stained glass, in the east window of the chapel, shared the degradation of her namesake, and was taken down from its exalted position.
In the two tablets, also, of carved stone at the chapel door, which had been executed some two or three years before, and emblazoned with Henry VIII.'s and Queen Anne's arms, Queen Jane's quarterings took the place of her predecessor's, and the A, which was linked with an H in a true-lover's knot, was painted out and replaced by a J.
In the meanwhile the works on the King's apartments were being continued ; and it was probably in the year 1536 that the final touches were put to Henry VIII.'s “Great Watching Chamber” or “Guard Chamber," which, as we have said, had been nearly completed during the reign of Anne Boleyn. Among all the State Rooms in the palace there is scarcely one so large and fine as this; and with its low ceiling of intricate ribs and pendants, its great semicircular oriel of thirty-six lights, its high clerestory windows, and its quaint and faded hangings of antique arras, it preserves more of an old-world aspect than almost any other room in England.
During the first year or so of Jane Seymour's reign she
BIRTH OF EDWARD VI.
does not appear to have resided at Hampton Court at all. But she retired here, on September 16th, 1537, "to take her chamber," previous to her accouchement, which was expected in about a month. We may presume that she was installed in the new rooms, which were now ready, and fitted with every magnificence.
The annexed print of the old east front of the palace, as completed by Henry VIII., gives the view of them from the outside. The elevation is certainly irregular, and not imposing ; but for that very reason, probably, the apartments were all the more convenient and comfortable inside.
Henry accompanied his wife, or followed soon after, and
VIEW OF THE OLD EAST FRONT OF HAMPTON COURT PALACE, AS
FINISHED BY HENRY VIII.
he was present when, on Friday, October 12th, being the vigil of St. Edward's day, at two o'clock in the morning, she gave birth to a son. On the announcement of this happy event, the joy of the whole nation, which thus found the dreaded danger of a disputed succession between Mary and Elizabeth set at rest, knew no bounds. The news communicated by a circular signed by Jane Seymour, sent to all the estates and cities of the realm.
In answer to this, congratulations poured in upon all sides, and “Te Deums” were sung, bells rung, and bonfires lit in nearly every town in England. Of course the Protestant party were especially elated. Latimer's expressions of delight were so extravagant as almost to border on the blasphemous. “There is no less rejoicing,” wrote he to