Sunday, 10 February 2013

Nonsuch Palace

Nonsuch Palace was the invention of Henry VIII and was - were unusually - not based on an already existing palace. Where Henry's other palaces like Hampton Court Palace, Eltham and Whitehall was build to accommodate the entire court, Nonsuch Palace was only designed as a hunting-lodge. It was the grandest building project that the infamous King had ever undertaken but it only stood until 1683 and now only the ruins remains in Nonsuch Park.

Henry VIII chose Surrey as the location of his newest addition to his collection of royal houses. In fact, the King had had a church and a village removed to make room for his new playground. The work began on April 22nd 1538 only six months after the death of Jane Seymour and the birth of Prince Edward. The name "Nonsuch" already appears in the documents of the palace within two months of the start of the building process. It was chosen to give the impression that there was no other palace to rival its beauty and magnificence. Since the Royal Household had to be accommodated wherever the King was, it did not take long before major roads were being re-routed to make room for Nonsuch's Great Park.

It was intended that the castle should signal the grandeur of the Tudor-dynasty and it took a lot of money to complete it. 24.000 pounds were spent in ornamenting the palace - that would be 104 million pounds in 2009!

But King Henry never saw the palace he had spent so much time planning. He died before it was finished and his daughter Mary I had no particular desire to keep the palace. She sold it in 1559 to the Earl of Arundel who would eventually complete it. But it returned to the crown under the rule of Elizabeth I in the 1590's and remained so until 1670 when Charles II gave it to his mistress.
The wooden panelling is now at the Great Hall at Loseley Castle. Other remains are held by the British Museum but otherwise the palace of Henry's dream have disappeared mainly due to Barbara Villiers (Charles II's mistress) who dismantled the palace to pay for her gambling debts.

Map of Surrey from 1610 showing watercolours of
Nonsuch Palace
Depictions of brightly coloured canvas panels intended for the palace.

Drawing of the fountain at the Inner Court Yard

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