Part 8: France and England

This is part 2 of our adventures at Hampton Court, a Tudor palace. I was very keen on hearing some period music while we were there. Some of the historical reenactments mentioned musicians so I was bound and determined to listen to something medieval. I wanted to go medieval on that bass. (Sorry, I couldn’t help).

Some context: Back in graduate school, I belonged to an instrumental guild for the Society of Creative Anachronism who like to recreate the better parts of the Medieval Ages and the Renaissance. We played various types of recorders (soprano down to a bass) and performed a variety of medieval and Renaissance music. I loved it; it was the best thing I did in grad school. And there is nothing like playing music while people dance. Seriously. Best feeling in the world. I only wish there was something easily accessible in Chicago so I could continue it.

So I went to the courtyard to learn that the Master of Ceremonies was facing a quandary. He had two sets of musicians to choose from but could not decide what was appropriate. Should he hire a gentle and melancholy lute player to resonate with the king’s illness or should he hire boisterous and happy musicians to remind the king of the good times? We were to help him make his choice. So we wandered into the apartments to a small hall behind the Great Hall. This had a wonderful gold and white ceiling, beautiful stained glass, and additional tapestries.

The lutist played a slow sweet tune and then a trio of musicians played a lively tune that they recently learned in Spain. I was so happy to hear this music! The audience voted to determine which musician(s) should become the new court musicians. The trio of musicians won. However, the head of security, I think it was Thomas Seymour, had some questions for the musicians. He was suspicious about the musicians’ travels across Europe and decided to arrest them for further questioning. Alas! So the lutist won out. It was all very delightful to watch!

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After the drama of the court musicians, we decided to check out the fantastic gardens of Hampton Court. Directly behind the palace, there are perfectly manicured trees leading out (like spokes from a wheel) to a body of water. Each tree shaped a bit like a cone. The body of water had a gathering of geese, swans and ducks. Quite delightful. And then we decided to check out the full size hedge maze. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been to another maze like this. The hedge walls go up fairly high so you can’t see over them. When we got into it, it was clear that there were families who seemed genuinely lost. Some were bickering about whether they had taken the turn before! Of course, they may have been lost for the sake of the children. But we’ll never know. We managed our way through it quickly with a few wrong turns.
Those conical trees!
Those conical trees!
We then tried to get to the last set of gardens on the other side of the palace. There are several rectangular gardens right next to each other. One is quite open with some hedges, flowers, and a nice fountain. A few were only accessible by sticking your head through a fence (metal or leafy) to see the garden. It made those gardens seem secret. We did see the longest grape vine that had been planted in 18th century. It took up such a large plot of land! I’d love to come when they are harvesting the grapes.
More manicured gardens
More manicured gardens
Then it was sadly time for us to depart. I was quite pleased with our time at Hampton Court. But we wanted to be back for a wine and cheese shindig at the Middle Temple with the rest of the Loyola London program. We boarded our train and went back to London.
That’s all for now! Tomorrow we’ll talk about the Natural History Museum and Fortnum and Mason’s tea.
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