The UK is like one giant history lesson, waiting to be explored. Can you think of a better way to painlessly absorb some history than following in the path of some of King Henry VIII”S wives? I think history is best consumed with a dollop of gossip, don’t you? And the good king certainly gave us plenty to talk about.
Start by taking a day trip to Hever Castle, originally built by William de Hever, in 1270, it was later added onto by Sir Geoffrey Bullen (Boleyn in modern spelling in 1462. Hever castle would be the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife and mother of Elizabeth I.
Hever Castle is all that a castle should be with drawbridge, turrets, tall tower and a double moat. The castle is easily reached from London, only 30 miles away. To get there, take one of the hourly trains from London Bridge station to Hever or Edenbridge station. The cost is approximately 10 pounds round trip and takes about 45 minutes. The castle is one mile from the station and the path is well marked. You can arrange for a taxi to take you there, but you must do this in advance.
Hever castle is open every day of the year from 10:30 am to 4 pm, loner hours April to October. The admission fee is 14 pounds for adults, 12 for seniors and 8 for children.
The castle will give you a glimpse of the life of the privileged in Tudor Times, the grand dining room has been set as if for a feast worthy of Henry himself. The bedrooms are sumptuous, for the times, and even include the room where Henry stayed while courting Anne. Within the room hangs the famous portrait of Henry, said to have been painted by Hans Holbein.
The long gallery has been given over to the full story of Henry and his wives, all six of them, done with mannequins and artifacts to illuminate the juicy story. An odd twist to the tale is that Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was given Hever Castle as part of their divorce settlement. Anne of Cleves, not only did not lose her head, she gained the castle of her predecessor.
In modern times the castle was purchased by William Astor in 1903, and he and his wife, Mary devoted time and money to its restoration. It is possible to spend the night in the Astor wing, which has been turned into a bed and breakfast.
Hever Castle, a generous slice of Tudor history, just a day trip from London.