Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, 12 miles south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. Building of the palace began in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the cardinal gave the palace to the King to check his disgrace; Henry VIII later enlarged it. Along with St James’s Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
In the following century, King William III’s massive rebuilding and expansion work, which was intended to rival Versailles, destroyed much of the Tudor palace. Work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace’s styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, if vague, balancing of successive low wings. King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.
Today, the palace is open to the public and a major tourist attraction, easily reached by train from Waterloo station in central London and served by Hampton Court railway station in East Molesey, in Transport for London’s Zone 6. In addition, London Buses routes 111, 216, 411 and R68 stop outside the palace gates. The structure and grounds are cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown. In addition the palace continues to display a large number of works of art from the Royal Collection.
Apart from the Palace itself and its gardens, other points of interest for visitors include the celebrated maze, the historic real tennis court, and the huge grape vine, the largest in the world as of 2005.
The palace’s Home Park is the site of the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.