The Lost Palaces of The Tudors

One of the heart-breaking things about being in love with the past is that we have to come to terms with the fact that so many beautiful buildings built in days gone by are now completely gone, and we'll never know what it was like to wander along their galleries or gardens. We're so used to rocking up at Hampton Court Palace for a mooch about the grounds and a cup of tea, or the 1,000 year old walls of Windsor Castle. History is so accessible to us today, but, sadly not through these buildings, which have long perished. Come and learn about the lost palaces of the Tudors... 

Oatlands Palace: Sold by Oliver Cromwell and later demolished

Oatlands Palace, c17th: Public Domain

This red-bricked palace was where Henry married his fifth wife Catherine Howard in 1540. As the wooden gate of the main gatehouse creaked open, a visitor to the palace would have probably gasped at the sight of tall towers, chimneys and the many rooms within the grounds. Designed originally as a residence for the queen, it had a central tower that rose up amongst the other buildings and gave unlimited views of the landscape. Elizabeth I also used the palace, along with the Stuart monarchs. However after the English Civil War it was sold off, and then demolished. A hotel occupies the spot today.

Richmond Palace: Destroyed by Oliver Cromwell (again)

An 18th century reconstruction of Richmond Palace as it looked at the time of Henry VIII, Public Domain

Richmond Palace was the scene of Elizabeth I's dramatic death in 1603, where she refused to lie in her bed in case she couldn't get back up again. She lay on cushions her ladies put for her on the floor, until she was eventually persuaded to rest in her bed for her last moments. The palace was was built in 1500 by her grandfather Henry VII who would also die here in 1509.  Katherine of Aragon would give birth to her and Henry's first son here in 1510, but he died a month later. Another casualty of the English Civil War, much of Richmond Palace was destroyed under Cromwell and the bricks and materials sold to pay off debts. Just the red-bricked gatehouse remains today, with the arms of Henry VII above it. 

Chelsea Palace: Demolished to make way for new homes

Chelsea Place, 19th century drawing. British Library, Public Domain

There is debate over whether Henry VIII built Chelsea Place (also referred to as Chelsea Manor), but we do know that some Tudor monarchs spent time here. The young Elizabeth spent part of her childhood here, and Anne of Cleves died here in 1557. Recently, decorative wall panels were found on the site with Anne's insignia on them, cementing her connection to the building. The house was demolished in 1759 and a new set of houses were built on the site. 

Greenwich Palace (Palace of Placentia): Demolished by Charles II

Greenwich Old Palace, British Library, Public Domain

A fifteenth century mansion, Henry VII inherited this palace when he came to the throne in 1485, making extensions and improvements to the original building. It was here that his wife, Elizabeth of York, gave birth to Henry VIII in June 1491. From then on, it was certainly a fortuitous place for Tudor births. Mary I was also born here in 1516 and Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth here in 1536. Henry married both Katherine of Aragon here in 1509 and also Anne of Cleves here in 1539. The palace was allowed to fall into disrepair under Oliver Cromwell and it was demolished by Charles II on the condition that a new palace be built in its grounds. This never happened, and the old parts of the building now form part of the Royal Naval College. 

Nonsuch Palace: Demolished to Pay Debts

Nonsuch Palace, British Library, Public Domain

Built by Henry VIII and named, because there would be 'none such' palace like it, Nonsuch Palace was a huge building project of its time. Built with French and Italian inspired decorations, vast hunting grounds and a Long Gallery for daily exercise indoors, work began in 1538. Drawings that survive of the palace show an incredibly ornate building with tall, red-bricked chimneys and white walls lined with flags that would have fluttered in the breeze. It had turreted towers around a central courtyard, which housed all the many rooms. Henry never saw the palace to completion. Charles II later granted it to his notorious mistress, Barbara Villiers, when he made her Baroness Nonsuch, who had quite a reputation for gambling, amongst other things. She was to demolish the palace in 1682 to help pay her debts. There now exists a monument to the palace in the park where it once stood, but no trace of the original palace stands today. 

Whitehall Old Palace: Destroyed by Fire

19th century depiction of Whitehall in the 16th century, British Library, Public Domain

We know that Henry loved a good wedding ceremony, and he married two of his wives here. It's thought he secretly married Anne Boleyn here in 1533 - and came back to marry Jane Seymour here in the queen's closet three years later. The famous Holbein life-size mural of Henry VIII once adorned Whitehall's walls, with Henry standing astride looking at us head on. Henry often spent Easter at Whitehall, as he did in 1539, and it was here that he died, in the chilly January of 1547. Whitehall Palace was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1698. 

Destroyed by fire, demolished in an act against the crown or sold off to pay gambling debts - any action that sees the end of any magnificent building such as these is heartbreaking to us history fans. 

Which palace would you go back in time to visit? Let me know in the comments below...