Yesterday I spent a lovely (if slightly damp) day guiding a group of friends who had booked a tour around Hampton Court Palace for a birthday celebration. Despite the torrential rain I talked to smiling faces and we managed to see everything on our itinerary, bumping into various Tudor courtiers en route around King Henry VIII’s Apartments.
One of the highlights was probably the wonderful new temporary exhibition ‘The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned’. Featuring fabulous portraits of King Charles II’s mistresses, including both Sir Peter Lely’s famous ‘Windsor Beauties’ and Sir Godfrey Kneller’s ‘Hampton Court Beauties’ the exhibition also features paintings on loan from ‘our locals’ Knole House and Penshurst Place, all displayed together for the first time in Queen Mary’s State Apartments – well worth a visit.
As we headed to the Tiltyard for lunch an almighty crack of thunder set off the piercing fire alarm and the restaurant had to close temporarily. Undeterred we retreated to the very atmospheric Privy Kitchen cafe in the centre of the Palace for warming soup before setting off under large umbrellas to walk briskly (sadly not a day to potter) around Hampton Court’s beautiful historic gardens where not even the leaden skies could dull the magnificent colours of the displays of thousands of tulips.
Everyone agreed that it was certainly a memorable day for the birthday girl with rain, thunder and lightning adding to the atmosphere and drama of this most special of Historic Royal Palaces.