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Henry VIII’s luxurious tent to be recreated at Hampton Court

The period of Henry VIII is synonymous with grandeur, elegant fashion and over the top celebrations. Whether on progress or the war front, a sense of opulent renaissance followed this Tudor monarch. Temporary lodgings were always created that consisted of multiple chambers, including great halls, all furnished with sumptuous tapestries. These demonstrations of wealth and power were essential in Renaissance politics, but these makeshift palaces have left no physical evidence behind of their existence.
Historic Royal Palaces oversee six palaces in the greater London area and have recently announced a new undertaking that aims to recreate one of Henry VIII’s tents at Hampton Court Palace. This project coincides with the 500th anniversary of The Field of Cloth of Gold, which marks the meeting of Henry VIII and the French king, Francis I. A painting in the Royal Collection Trust conveys a gathering of epic fashion. Wine flowed from fountains while golden tents glistened in the sunlight.

A painting depicting the magnificence of The Field of the Cloth of Gold (painting c. 1545). Photo: Royal Collection Trust/Public Domain

Research associate Charles Farris commented that the project had been titled, Portable Palaces: Royal Tents and Timber Lodgings 1509-1603, and aims to understand the architectural significance of these portable tents. Given that they could be assembled and dismantled, it is crucial to use this reconstruction to explore these lavish tents.    

A design of this spectacular tent has survived and been housed by the British Library. The painting depicts a magnificent structure made from red cloth and decorated with Tudor roses. Details include a tent that measures fifteen by six metres, which will be attached to a circular structure that is five metres in diameter. It will also consist of a corridor.
Historic Royal Palaces have chosen to house this project at Hampton Court Palace, which happened to be one of Henry VIII’s most favourite residences. Architectural historian Alden Gregory recently commented to the Observer: “My background is in researching great palaces and elite houses in this period, the early 16th century, but there’s a real gap in our knowledge about these temporary structures.”

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