There are many songs I would gladly forget. That line from one of them was on my mind all day as we were headed to Hampton Court Palace, the country home of Henry VIII. Yes, the Herman Hermit’s song had nothing to do with the monarch Henry VIII, but what did it have to do with? She wouldn’t have a Willy or a Sam, but who would?
Some things are better left unexamined.
We planned to take a boat down the Thames to get to the palace. The boat leaves Richmond at 11 a.m. and there isn’t another one until much later in the day. We had miscalculated a bit getting off the Tube at Kew Gardens instead of Richmond, so our walk was longer than anticipated. We struggled with data on our phones and couldn’t get a clear bead on whether we were headed in the right direction.
We asked several people for the directions to St. Helena Pier, and were met with mostly shrugs. When we finally got to Richmond, we understood why. St. Helena Pier is as anonymous a starting point as you could ever imagine. If imagining anonymous piers is your thing. (I do not judge.)
We didn’t have time to grab a bite, but we managed to get to the Pier on time. We boarded the boat and headed down the Thames, changing boats at Kingston. It was a lovely ride, and fun to see all the stately private houses and decks that were carefully constructed as peaceful places to watch the boats go by. There were many people rowing and sailing on the river since it was a school holiday.
We arrived at Hampton Court Palace, and made a quick detour to grab a quick lunch at the chain Pizza Express before returning to the palace.
Hampton Court was used by quite a few royals after Henry VIII, but we spent most of our time there focused on his use of the castle, visiting his living quarters, an exhibit about his life, his kitchens, and wine cellars. We walked through the church he attended as the head once he had left the Catholic Church, which had refused to allow him to annul his marriage of more the 20 years to his first wife. Also the “real tennis court,” which was indoors, to our surprise. Probably not to the surprise of anyone who knows the difference between tennis and “real tennis.” I can now count myself among them.
Henry VIII lived quite a train wreck of a life; it was a thousand times worse for his many wives who variously struggled to produce male heirs and to otherwise keep their difficult man happy (and themselves alive). Palaces are rarely comfy and cozy, but this one felt especially cold.
We had a bit of extra time so we spent some time in William III’s quarters and in his privy garden, which has been restored to its original state. The garden was in bloom with spring flowers, looking lovely.
We took the train back and met some friends at the Angel for a few beers. Several of us went over to The Sichuan and had dinner. Crispy duck, kung pao chicken, pork with cabbage, and wonton soup.
It was a feast Henry VIII would certainly approve, in a different time and place.