Tag Archives: Whitehall Palace

Whitehall Palace (1529)

On this day in 1529, the Tudor King, Henry VIII appropriated the thirteenth-century York Place, which had  originally been built for the Archbishops of York, from the then Archbishop, Cardinal Wolsey, and he renamed it Whitehall Palace (whence, from Shakespeare’s “King Henry the Eighth”, “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s and called Whitehall”).   Whitehall Palace essentially came to take the place of the  Old Palace of Westminster, large parts of which had been rendered unusable by a fire in 1512.

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It was considerably extended by Henry VIII and later by his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, and  by the Stuart Kings  James I, Charles I and Charles II.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.

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Detail from Rubens's ceiling

Essentially only the Banqueting House, built for James I by  Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue, the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade, part of his tennis court  in the Cabinet Office at No. 70 Whitehall, and “Queen Mary’s Steps”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532, and notable as the probable  place of the clandestine marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn in 1533,  survived  both fires, but was demolished in 1759.

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Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.

A description of Whitehall Palace (Baron Waldstein, 1598)

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On this day in 1598, the Moravian aristocrat and gentleman-traveller Baron Waldstein wrote in his diary, on a visit to London:

“We … went into the royal residence known as … White Hall.  It is truly majestic, bounded on the one side by a park which adjoins another palace called St James’s, and on the other side by the Thames, and it is a place which fills one with wonder, not so much because of its great size as because of the magnificence of its … rooms which are furnished with the most gorgeous splendour.

First you come to a vast hall which leads through into a very large walled garden where they keep deer and all kinds of other animals.  We then went to see the rooms, every one of them furnished and arranged with perfect taste and elegance, with all sorts of statues and pictures to add to their beauty …

There is … a portrait of Edward VI in 1546 at the age of nine – note the artist’s ingenuity in perspective …

Another room has … some very rich hangings.

A portrait here shows Queen Elizabeth when she was still young, in the dress which she wore when going to attend Parliament …

In another place we saw … the Queen’s couch which is woven with gold and silver thread … .  The Queen’s bed-chamber has rich tapestries all around: The adjoining room is reserved for the Queen’s bath: the water pours from oyster shells … .  In the next room there is an organ on which two persons can play duets … .

The next room to this was the one where the Queen keeps her books, some of which she wrote herself …

From here we were taken into a large and lofty banqueting hall …

In another room Henry VII and Henry VIII and their wives are painted … ”.

Whitehall Palace was substantially destroyed in a fire in 1698.

Inigo Jones's plan for the Banqueting Jouse

The  surviving  incarnation of the Banqueting House was designed by Inigo Jones for James I in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London.

 

The death of Henry VIII

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On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

There is an extraordinary at least broadly contemporary anonymous painting of the scene in the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  It is entitled “An Allegory of Reformation”, and depicts  on the left Henry on his death-bed handing his kingly power, and with it the responsibility for the defence of the Protestant faith, to the central figure of his young son, the future Edward VI – with a defeated Catholic Pope at his feet!  Standing to Edward’s left is  his  uncle, Edward Seymour, First Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector.  Seated round a table, under a painting of image-breaking, are: in white vestments, Thomas  Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; with a grey beard, John Russell, First Earl of Bedford and Lord Privy Seal; and five further gentlemen whose identities are either disputed or altogether unknown.