The Palace of Westminster

Another in the  occasional series on “London Settings for Shakespeare’s Plays” …

The Palace of Westminster (Henry IV Part I; Henry IV Part II; Henry V; Henry VI Part I; Henry VI Part II; Henry VI Part III; King John; Richard II; Richard  III)

The old Palace of Westminster was purportedly originally built for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward “The Confessor”, in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Parliament meeting in Westminster Hall from 1265, and then in the secularised Royal Chapel of St Stephen from 1547/8.

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Thomas More - Copy.JPG

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Some of the palace complex was destroyed in a fire in 1512; and most of what remained in another fire in 1834, with essentially only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower surviving, together with parts of the Royal Chapel of St Stephen, including the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.

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The new palace was built by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, in the Victorian Gothic style, between 1840-58.

Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II in 1097-99, and subsequently rebuilt,  with a spectacular hammerbeam roof by Hugh Herland and Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  It survived the fires of 1512 and 1834, but was damaged during the Blitz of the Second World War, and has since been  further damaged by Death Watch Beetle, the infestation thought to have taken hold in  timbers that had become soaked during the war-time fire-fighting (note also, though, that Westminster was historically particularly prone to floods, Matthew Paris describing one such in 1241, during which “people rode into the great hall on horseback”).  What is widely regarded as the first representative Parliament, convened by Simon de Montfort, was held here in 1265.

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