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OtherPalaces & Buildings

Britain’s Top 10 Palaces: Part 1

Britain’s palaces have been the scenes of royal births, marriages but also scheming and murder. Here is the first part of the top 10 palaces in Britain.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace via Flickr

Eltham Palace was given to Edward II in 1305 by Anthony Bek, the Bishop of Durham and it was used as a royal residence until the 16th century. Supposedly the event which inspired Edward III’s foundation of the Order of the Garter took place here. It was host to Manuel II Palaiogos, the only Byzantine emperor to visit England. The future Henry VIII grew up at Eltham Palace and it was at this palace that he met with the scholar Erasmus in 1499. By 1656 it was in miserable ruins. The current house dates from the 1930s but incorporated the surviving Great Hall.

Kew Palace

Kew Palace via Flickr

Kew Palace was built in 1631 as a country retreat for a silk merchant and it became a royal residence in 1729 when it was purchased by King George II and his Queen Caroline of Ansbach. It is now famous for its Royal Botanic Gardens, which was founded by Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King George II and which flourished under Frederick’s wife, Augusta. Frederick and Augusta’s son was George III, who was secluded at the palace in the 18th century after he began showing signs of mania, probably caused by the blood disease porphyria.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse has been the home of the Scottish monarchs since the 16th century and it was built on the foundation of a 12th century abbey. It was built into a comfortable home for James IV’s bride Margaret Tudor and further construction took place under the watchful eye of her son, James V. It was also the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived at the palace between 1561 and 1567. She was married there twice, first to Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and later to James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. In 1566 her private secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered at the palace in front of a heavily pregnant Mary.

Apethorpe Palace


Once known as Apethorpe Hall, Apethorpe Palace was built between 1470 and 1480 as an informal place of retreat. King James I visited Apethorpe in 1603 and he met his favourite, George Villiers, The Duke of Buckingham there. The bedchamber next to the King’s chamber is was called the Duke’s chamber. A statue of King James I once stood in the main court. It was the family seat of the Earls of Westmorland until they were forced to sell it due to financial difficulties. It was briefly a school and then fell into decay. It was renovated by English Heritage and last year it was to French millionaire, Baron von Pfetten, who renamed it to Apethorpe Palace to honour its royal connections.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace began life as Nottingham House and was chosen by William III and Mary II to escape Whitehall Palace and it was expanded into an elegant palace. After them it was occupied by Queen Anne and her successors, George I and II. George II died at Kensington Palace in 1760. Queen Victoria was born at Kensington in 1819 and grew up there under the strict terms of the so-called ‘Kensington system’ put in place by her mother and Sir John Conroy. She left the palace to become the first monarch to take up residence in Buckingham Palace. Kensington Palace first became open to the public on Victoria’s 80th birthday in 1899.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Additional photo credits: Eltham Palace, seanabrady, Apethorpe_Hall and andrew_annemarie via Flickr