Lavish banquet hall where Henry VIII entertained visiting royalty is discovered beneath playground
Archaeologists are excavating the ruins of a 480-year-old luxuriously decorated banquet house of King Henry VIII of England that was built next to a jousting field. Workers discovered the site of the long-lost building by accident when they were laying cables for a children’s playground in Surrey.
Archaeologists are discovering that the building’s decorations were as opulent as the palace, says IBTimes in an article about the find. The décor included lead leaves gilded with gold and green-glazed floor tiles, the article says.
"This is prime real estate in terms of Henry VIII's Hampton Court," Dan Jackson, the palace's curator of historic buildings, said.
The banquet hall was near one of the five royal Tiltyard Towers around a 6-acre site where jousting and pageants were held. The towers were built at what IBTimes calls lavish expense as a venue to entertain visiting royals, nobility and ambassadors. The towers, which date to 1534 - 1536, were among the first to be constructed in England. The towers were two to three stories high. From them guests watched mock battle scenes and jousting.
One of the Tiltyard Towers still stands at Hampton Court Palace. It was used for various purposes over the years, including as a herbarium and a guest house. English archaeologists undertook an examination and conservation program of the tower in 2006.
The remaining Tiltyard Tower at Hampton Court Palace, sitting behind what is now a café ( public domain )
As time passed in days of yore, people stopped enjoying the pageants, mock battles and jousting, and gardens were built over the grounds and most of the towers. The exact location of the banquet house had been lost for 300 years.
Henry VIII himself took to his horse for jousting. He came close to death at a tournament at Greenwich Palace in January 1536 when he was thrown from his horse, which fell on him. Henry was wearing full armor and was out cold for two hours.
Field armor of Henry VIII of England, Italian, Milan or Brescia, about 1544 (Photo by Matthew G. Bisanz/ Wikimedia Commons )
He recovered, but his jousting days ended. He had serious leg injuries in the form of ulcerations that plagued him for life, and the accident may have caused a brain injury that changed his personality, says a documentary produced by the History Channel.
The documentary says Henry, born in 1491, had been handsome and charming as a young man but changed and died in 1547 a “paranoid, sickly recluse.” Before he died, his eyesight was fading, he was unable to walk and he weighed nearly 400 pounds. Henry and his later wives were unable to conceive. One of the scholars in the documentary speculates that Henry may have had syphilis.
“Another mystery was, what kick-started those chronic personality changes he suffered in his 40s? Was this down to some rare hormonal disorder? Or was it his jousting injuries which were the cause of all his medical problems?” asks a Henry VIII biographer, Robert Hutchinson, in the video.
Henry VIII did have daughters, and a son and heir, Edward, with Jane Seymour. She died as a result of complications from childbirth. But he wanted to secure the succession by having more children, so he remarried. He went on to behead two of his wives and divorced others. A rhyme serves to help people remember these poor women’s fates:
King Henry VIII,
to six wives he was wedded.
one died, one survived,
two divorced, two beheaded.
A portrait of Henry VIII before he became fat, sick, paranoid and melancholy; during this period he was married to Catherine of Aragon for 24 years. He later divorced her, and she died under guard. ( Wikimedia Commons )
Featured image: Toasting the revels: The court of Henry VIII, as depicted by the Italian artist Fortunino Matania. Credit: The Bridgeman Art Library.
By: Mark Miller