Read part 1 of Britain’s Top Palaces here. Let’s continue!
Buckingham Palace, Westminster
Buckingham Palace may have a bit of a shorter history than other palaces but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. It began life in 1703 as Buckingham House, built for the Duke of Buckingham and was purchased as a royal residence by George III for his ever-expanding family in 1761. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to adopt Buckingham Palace as the official royal residence in 1837. It was she who began the tradition of appearing on the palace balcony in 1851. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms and has seen many famous guests over the years.
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
Hampton Court Palace is perhaps most closely associated with Henry VIII. It was Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York who acquired the site in 1514 and he spent the next seven years building an amazing palace. In 1528, sensing that his downfall was near, Thomas Wolsey gifted the palace to Henry. It would not save his life, however. He died en route to London, where he was to face charges of treason. Henry himself also greatly expanded the palace and it was at Hampton Court Palace that his son and heir, Edward VI, was born. Tragically Edward’s mother Jane Seymour died at the palace two weeks later. Henry’s fifth Catherine Howard was confined to her rooms at Hampton Court before being sent to Syon House and later the Tower of London. She supposedly ran down the Haunted Gallery to beg for her life, but she was dragged away screaming. Henry’s daughter Mary stayed at the palace for several months to await the birth of a child that never came.
During the Stuart period it was used by James I and his wife, Henrietta Maria, but later Stuart monarchs preferred to reside elsewhere. Joint monarchs William and Mary again showed interest in the palace and they embarked on a massive restoration project. George II was the last monarch to reside at the palace and it was opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1838.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1722 and was originally intended to be a reward for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal house in England to be called a palace.
St Davids Bishop’s Palace, Pembrokeshire
St. Davids Bishop’s Palace has been a holy site since the 6th century and it was raided at least 10 times over the next 400 years. The majority of the construction took place in the 13th and 14th century. It initially consisted of two grand sets of rooms around a courtyard; the simpler one intended for bishops’ private use, the other for entertaining. It was visited by Edward I in 1284, who was on a pilgrimage. Following the reformation the palace fell into disrepair and it these roofless ruins that you can see today.
The ruins are considered to be one of the most significant sites in the history of Christianity in the British Isles.