April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m blogging about history.
W is for Whitehall Palace or How Many Bathrooms Does One Need?
In the 11th and 12th centuries, the center of the action in London was Westminster Palace. Since 1049, the king had lived there, and subsequently, government held their operations there. As you can imagine, the surrounding neighborhood became too expensive for any normal person to afford. So, in 1240, the Archbishop of York bought a more affordable piece of land a little further away and called it York Place. He built a pretty nice house on the 23-acre property. So much so, that King Edward I stayed there while Westminster was being rebuilt to accommodate his large entourage. It must have been a large and splendid house. The photo is a depiction of the property from the show Tutors.
Years later in the late 1400s, Cardinal Wolsey owned the property (confiscated and passed down through a couple wars), and he expanded and expanded and expanded it. For some reason, this guy wanted bigger and bigger. In 1530, Wolsey got on the wrong side of the king, and King Henry VIII removed Wolsey from power and confiscated his house. It is suspected that Henry’s girlfriend Anne Boleyn wanted the house for herself and had something to do with Wolsey’s downfall. Neither here nor there, Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533, and the two lovebirds moved into the house. Due to the building stones being white, they renamed it Whitehall.
Henry expanded the house even larger than York and Wolsey had done, adding a bowling green, indoor tennis courts, and a full tiltyard for jousting. After
dumping beheading Anne, Henry married Jane Seymour in the house in 1536. Masons spent the next few years removing Anne’s monogram from all the woodwork and stonework as embroiderers replaced it in the needlework. A decade and much drama later, Henry died within the walls of the great estate in January of 1547. By then, the palace had grown to 1500 rooms, overtaking the size of the Vatican.
Following Henry’s death, the palace passed from his children Mary to Elizabeth, to their cousin James, who in 1622 constructed the Banqueting House, and finally to Charles I who was beheaded on the lawn of the Banqueting House by Parliament during the English civil war, and to his son Charles II, who also died in the house, but of a stroke.
This brings us to 1691. On April 10, a fire broke out and destroyed much of the living quarters and damaged much of the rest. In 1698, a second fire took what remained. Sadly, it is said that Michelangelo’s Cupid, a mural of Henry VIII, and a marble sculpture of Charles I was also lost in the fire.
The only thing left today is the Banqueting House.