As a child one of my favorite places to visit was Hampton Court, home of Henry VIII and his many wives. The gardens are beautiful and the maze is a real challenge. That's before you get into the Palace itself with the animated staff and furniture and décor from the original days of Henry.

Not forgetting the kitchens and hallway where the ghost of Anne Bolelyn is said to walk with her head under her arm. Luckily I haven't witnessed that phenomena. Here is some info on the Palace and I hope if you are ever in the area you will make the time to visit – it's a place you won't soon forget.
The Maze - Get lost and test yourself in the most famous Maze in the world. Entry is included in the All Palace and Gardens Admission or you can purchase and Maze only ticket.
The Kitchens - The kitchens were built to feed the court of Henry VIII – over 600 people twice a day. See the sights and smells or a real Tudor Kitchen.
Animators - Hear about the life of Henry and his courtiers and you might even see the big man himself.
Henry's Crown - See the recreation of Henry VIII's Crown of State. 
The Chapel – The Chapel has been in use for over 450 years and visitors are welcome to attend services on Sundays.

The Gardens - 60 Acres of internationally celebrated and beautifully maintained Gardens at Hampton Court Palace.

The Palace was originally the property of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem until it was taken over in 1514 by Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop or York and Chief Minister to Henry VIII who spent the next 7 years rebuilding the Palace into the finest Palace in England. Nothing was too lavish as Wolsey attempted to create a Renaissance Cardinal's Palace in all it's grandeur. Even today most of Wolsey's original building work remains and his seal remains visible over the entrance arch of the clock tower.
Wolsey passed the Palace onto Henry VIII as a gift in 1528 when he realized that his enemies and the King were engineering his downfall. He died in 1530.
After the King took ownership he immediately started rebuilding and expanding the buildings. In order to transform Hampton Court into his principal residence and to house his huge court of over 1,000 people he built the huge kitchens and expanded the buildings to hold his assembled court. The King owned over 60 houses and palaces but none were big enough to house the assembled court. He followed the same style as Wolsey in his building and this remained the same for nearly a 100 years until classical influences from Italy were added to the London Palaces of the Stuart Kings.

Henry added the Great Hall were he would dine in state at a table set on a raised dais. The still functioning Astronomical Clock was gifted to Henry. The clock was important especially for those transported by barge Thames side as the clock showed them when low water levels created dangerous rapids.

The Palace was the scene of many historic events including the birth of Edward VI. Henry died in 1547 and was succeeded by Edward, then by Henry's daughters Mary I and then Elizabeth I. Elizabeth had the Eastern kitchen built which is today the Public Tea Room.

The Tudor period came to an end in 1603 with the death of Elizabeth I. James VI succeeded her as King of England. King James met at the Palace with the English Puritans in1604. An agreement was not met but led to King James commissioning the King James version of the Bible.

In 1625 King James was succeeded by his son Charles I. For Charles Hampton Court become both his Palace and his prison. Charles' was executed in 1649 and the Palace then became the property of the commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. Many of the contents were auctioned off while the building itself remained relatively unscathed.

King Charles II and James II visited but resided elsewhere. During their time French Court standards made Hampton Court appear old-fashioned. It wasn't until 1689 that the Palaces antiquated state was addressed. William of Orange and Queen Mary II (daughter of James II) embarked on a massive rebuilding project at Hampton Court. Half the Tudor Palace was rebuilt replacing Henry VIII's state rooms and private apartments with new ones that reflected the unique status of William and Mary as joint sovereigns. When Mary died William lost interest and the work stopped.

In 1702 William fell off his horse and later died. He was succeeded by Queen Anne who completed the decoration and rebuilding at Hampton Court. The Stuart period ended in 1714 on the death of Anne.

Anne's successors George I and George II were the last Kings to reside at Hampton Court.

Today the grounds are laid out in the grand style of the late 17th century with Privy Gardens, sunken Gardens and more. Part of the gardens recreate the style of Henry VIII's gardens of 1536.

After George II no King has ever lived at Hampton Court. George III never set foot in the Palace.

After some heavy restoration plans were completed during the reign of Queen Victoria the Palace was opened to the public.

During the 20th Century Hampton Court became a major Tourist Attraction and still is to this day. The Palace was home to some esteemed servants and subjects of the crown. One of these elderly residents caused the major family which spread to the King's Apartments in 1986. Restoration work completed in 1990.

Make sure to visit the Palace if you are visiting London you won't regret it.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Avril Betts, I am originally from England and now a Canadian Citizen, I have over 35 years experience in all aspects of Travel and Tourism, including running an online agency for over 13 years. I holds a CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator) an internationally recognized accreditation and in 1996 hosted the president’s wives luncheon for the G7 conference.

I have co-chaired Atlantic Canada Showcase an International Travel Trade Show, managed 450 volunteers for the Tall Ships Visit in July 2000, and was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. In 1988 I founded the Country Inn Association in Nova Scotia still going strong today. I have been involved in numerous Travel and Tourism volunteer activities throughout Atlantic Canada and across Canada.

As an experienced speaker I have spoken and presented seminars to large and small audiences for many years on subjects ranging from Marketing and Sales and Life Skills to Tourism, Travel and Real Estate, and operating an online Travel business.

As a recognized tourism expert I am accustomed to working with tourists and passing on my knowledge of the various destinations to help them make the most of their vacations.
Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or travel inquiries.