Lost Royal Palaces of London

London is renowned for its many attractions that draw visitors from across the globe. There are countless attractions to visit, places to explore and events to be part of, when in the city. It is these factors that make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Probably one of the biggest draws is its magnificent royal palaces, which are iconic landmarks that are linked to the monarchy for over a thousand years. Frequently referred to as four cornerstones, the royal palaces of London are Kensington Palaces, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London and Banqueting House.

If you are staying at any of the Montcalm luxury hotels in Central London, you are conveniently located to visit and explore these iconic royal residences. A little known fact is that besides these well known royal abodes, there were a number of other royal palaces that existed in the City of London. They were either; demolished, lost to calamity (natural & man-made) or abandoned, with all traces of their existence having been wiped out (with the exception of a few).  A few of the lost palaces that once existed in London are:

Whitehall Palace: Another palace that served as a residence for Henry VIII. Henry was miffed with Cardinal Wolsey and deposed him for his failure in getting Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled. He then took possession of York Place, had the place redesigned, rebuilt and renamed it as Whitehall Palace. It was one of the largest palaces in Europe with a multi-sports recreation centre. Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour at Whitehall and it was where he died in 1547. James I had extensive refurbishment carried out along with adding the Banqueting House. It served as the venue   for the very first presentation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 1613. Later Charles I was executed here with later most of the palace being destroyed in successive fires in 1691 and 1698. All that remained is the Banqueting House, now a museum.

The Palace of Placentia:  It was built by the Duke of Gloucester Humphrey in 1433, who served as regent    to King Henry VI. Unfortunately, he later lost the favour of Margaret of Anjou in 1447, and was imprisoned for high treason. The Duke eventually died in prison and Margaret took possession of the palace.  She changed its name from Bella Court to Palace of Placentia, which literally meant a palace that pleases the senses. Later Henry VII got the place remodelled and rebuilt in 1498-1504. Henry VIII was born here and also Queen Elizabeth I. Later she and her sister, Queen Mary I stayed there for some time. During the rule of King James I the palace began to diminish in importance as a royal residence and by the time the English Civil War arrived, it fell into a state of disrepair. Later Charles II attempted to get the palace renovated but the plan fell though with the place eventually being demolished. It remained vacant for quite some time until later in 1694 Greenwich Hospital came up on the site. The hospital later became the Royal Naval College.

Westminster Palace: It is erroneously confused with where the British Parliament currently meets, the Palace of Westminster. The old Westminster Palace was located where the current parliamentary building resides, on what was known as an eyot (island) called Thorney Island. It was built by King Canute the Great, who lived there from 1016 to 1035. He was succeeded by Edward the Confessor its next resident with even King William I making it his royal residence. All but just a fraction of the original palace remains i.e. Westminster Hall which was built by William II. The building was no longer used a royal residence when Henry VIII bought York Palace in 1534 from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He then rechristened York Palace and gave it a new name Whitehall Palace. The original Westminster Palace was badly damaged by fire as a result of which the old structure was completely demolished, save for Westminster Hall. The place was remodelled and the current legislative chambers were built, which we now as the British Parliament or Westminster Palace.

Bridewell Palace: Henry VIII had a passion for palaces, with Bridewell Palace being one of the many he had built. It came up on the site of what used to be St. Bride’s Inn. Henry stayed there from 1515-1523. It was later used by a papal delegation to deliberate whether Henry could be granted permission to divorce Catherine of Aragon. It also served as a residence of the French ambassador, with the City of London Corporation in 1553, converting it for use as an orphanage. The Corporation later converted it to a prison with most of it being destroyed in the Great Fire. Finally it served as a school and was eventually   demolished in 1864.

Nonsuch Palace: It was the last palace to be built by Henry VIII during his reign as monarch. He ordered its creation in Surrey in 1538. Its construction was unusual in the way that it was built new from the ground up, instead of remodelling or making any extensions to a previously existing structure.  The purpose of having it built was for it to serve as a historical landmark of the Tudor dynasty. It was planned to be one the grandest building projects undertaken till then, with the cost eventually escalating to £24,000, a princely sum at that time. Henry died before its completion in 1547 and Queen Mary sold it to the 19th Earl of Arandel, Henry FitzAlan.  It eventually was repossessed in the 1590s by the royal family and later passed into the hands of the Countess of Castlemaine, Barbara mistress of Charles II. Being an inveterate gambler she had to have the place demolished and its material sold off to settle her debts.

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