The White Tower was the original Tower of London. Begun by William the Conqueror around 1080, it would have made a safe and impressive home for the newly crowned Norman invader. During its long life - it is almost as old as the Millennium - it has served many purposes including Royal residence, Royal Observatory, Public Records Office, State Prison, gunpowder store and is still home to the Royal Armouries.

What’s happening at Historic Royal Palaces, April – June 2020?

What’s happening at Historic Royal Palaces, April – June 2020?

As the weather starts to brighten up, there are a wealth of exciting activities and events across the palaces to choose from…

2020 is a year of important anniversaries, and at Hampton Court Palace they will be marking the 500th anniversary of the legendary meeting between Henry VIII and François I, an event so opulent that it went down in history as the ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’. To celebrate, they are launching a new exhibition, Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King, which will showcase important objects from this significant moment in our history with Europe. To recreate the intensity and competition between the two monarchs, in May, Hampton Court Palace will play host to Henry VIII vs. François I: The Rematch, a nine-day festival which will see these two titans of history attempt to best each other in a host of activities including wrestling, jousting and courtly dance.​

At Kew Palace, the bicentenary of George III’s death will be marked with a new exhibition, George III: The Mind Behind the Myth, which aims to challenge the mythology surrounding this complex and brilliant monarch. The display will see examples of the exquisite artworks he acquired for his own collection contrasted with notes written by his doctors at Kew. 

Kensington Palace will be hosting its first-ever season of LGBT+ tours as part of Pride in London, offering the chance to discover some of the palace’s lesser-known stories and characters. The LGBT+ tour series will also return to Hampton Court Palace for Queer Lives at Court.

Highlights​

Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King 

10 April – 31 August

Hampton Court Palace

The summit which became known as the Field of Cloth of Gold was designed to improve international relations between England and France, but also gave Henry VIII and François I an opportunity to showcase their wealth and power, with awe-inspiring displays of athletic competition, mouth-watering feasts and lavish Tudor tents. In the very palace where this spectacular event was masterminded, a brand-new exhibition will showcase dazzling historic treasures, weapons, manuscripts and clothing, bringing the world of the Tudors to life. 

Included in palace admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members.

Hampton Court Palace

Henry VIII vs. François I: The Rematch

23 – 31 May

Hampton Court Palace

After 500 years, Henry VIII and François I will be returning to Hampton Court Palace to settle an old score, as their efforts to outdo each other at The Field of Cloth of Gold ended in a stalemate. This nine-day family festival will require visitors to select their champion in an array of dazzling events designed to showcase the prowess of the English and French courts, including jousting, wrestling and even courtly dance. Inspired by the greats, guests to the biggest festival of the year will be able to try their hand at dancing with courtiers, practising their combat skills and even exploring Henry VIII’s lavish Tudor tent, furnished for a king. 

Included in palace admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members.

George III: The Mind Behind the Myth

Opens 3 April 

Kew Palace

2020 marks the bicentenary of the death of George III, whose achievements as king have been somewhat overshadowed by his struggles with mental ill-health. To celebrate the life of this remarkable monarch, and to explore his treatment at Kew Palace, objects which reveal his personality and his wide variety of interests will be contrasted with notes written by his doctors, and instructions for his care written by his daughter, Princess Mary. To provide a forum for discussion of contemporary views on mental health, a publicly contributed display of objects on the second floor will consider lived experiences of mental ill-health today. 

Included in palace admission. 

Life through a Royal Lens

Opens 15 May

Kensington Palace

This major new photography exhibition will explore the British Royal Family’s relationship with the camera, starting with the advent of this exciting new invention during the Victorian era, right through to the present day. The display will feature examples of some of the earliest known photographs of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as celebrating and exploring the impact of photographer Cecil Beaton, who redefined modern royal portraiture. 

Included in palace admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Queer Lives at Court

19 and 26 April, 3 and 10 May

18:30, 19:30, 20:30

Hampton Court Palace

This spring, Hampton Court Palace throws open its doors for an all-new after-hours tour shining a spotlight on some of the palace’s lesser-known LGBT+ histories. From Queen Anne and her ‘favourite’ Sarah Churchill to the rumours that surrounded William III’s relationship with the Earl of Albemarle, this immersive evening will explore the stories of 500 years of kings, queens and in-betweens. 

Tickets: £20

Queer Lives at the Palace

28 June, 5, 12 and 26 July

18:30, 19:30, 20:30

Kensington Palace

As part of the Pride in London celebrations, Kensington Palace will be hosting its first-ever season of LGBT + tours. Home to monarchs, courtiers and aristocrats for over 300 years, it’s seen daring love stories, illicit affairs and centuries of queer lives played out within its walls, from monarchs and dignitaries such as Queen Mary II and Lord Hervey to the complex lives of courtiers such as Arabella Hunt.

Tickets: £20

Kensington Palace

Events

Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt

4 – 19 April

Hampton Court Palace

The history of chocolate at Hampton Court Palace goes back to 1690 when the royal chocolate kitchen was built so that William III and Queen Mary II could enjoy this luxurious and expensive delicacy. This Easter, Lindt Gold Bunnies have hopped into the palace and are waiting to be found. After claiming their prize, victors can visit the historic chocolate kitchen to see where it all began!  

Included in palace admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt

4 – 19 April

Kensington Palace

Back by popular demand, the Lindt Gold Bunnies are making a return to Kensington Palace this Easter. An excellent way to entertain the kids over Easter, sweet rewards are in store for those who are successful. Once the chocolate hunt is over, visitors can find out what it was really like to grow up in a palace by visiting the Victoria: A Royal Childhood display, complete with a dressing up box and the chance to spot Dash, Princess Victoria’s dog. 

Included in palace admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Colonel Blood and the Great Crown Jewels Robbery

5 April – 31 July

Tower of London

This April, one of the 17th century’s most notorious villains will be returning to the scene of his crime, as ‘Colonel’ Thomas Blood and his gang of crooks lay down a dastardly plot to steal the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, just like they did in 1671. 

Included in Tower admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Tower Of London

Great Rabbit Runaround 

9 – 19 April

Hillsborough Castle

​Hillsborough Castle’s gardens are overrun with rabbits! Can you help us find them?   There’s fun for all the family this Easter as you use your map to follow the bunny trail around the gardens, take part in fun themed activities and meet some of the Castle’s historical characters along the way. Don’t forget to claim your chocolate bunny prize!

The trail is designed for children aged 2-12 years old and their families. Allow 2 hours to complete it with ease.

All activities are included as part of garden admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Water City Music at the Tower

22 – 28 June

Tower of London

Water City Music returns to the Tower of London in June, treating visitors to live performances from budding musicians. Pupils from schools across the capital will be performing in one of the country’s most unique settings, entertaining visitors with some their own compositions inspired by the Tower’s 1000-year history, as well as some familiar favourites.

Included in Tower admission, and free for Historic Royal Palaces members. 

Hampton Court Palace Festival

Selected dates in June

Hampton Court Palace

This June, Henry VIII’s majestic former home will host the Hampton Court Palace Festival. With confirmed headliners like Bastille and Rick Astley taking to the stage in the spectacular setting of the Tudor Base Court, this is bound to be an unforgettable experience. 

For information on pricing and tickets, visit www.hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com

Celebrating 500 Years of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula

Selected dates until November

Tower of London

The celebration of the 500-year anniversary of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula continues with exciting commemorative events; from lectures exploring the fascinating history of the Chapel to intimate choral performances by one of the nation’s finest chapel choirs, the Choir of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London. Guest speakers will include actor David Suchet, who is reading St Marks Gospel on Good Friday, 10 April.

Visit www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/chapel-500 for more details on events and timings.

Poppy Watt

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