Meeting Henry VIII at Hever Castle, Kent
Temptress? Witch? The woman for whom a king abandoned his religion and transformed his country? Whatever side of the Anne Boleyn debate you’re on, the second wife of Henry VIII was certainly not dull.
I’m not convinced we’d have been bosom friends, were I transported back to Tudor times, but I’d love the chance to make up my own mind – from a safe distance. As it is, until that time machine is invented, the closest I can manage is Hever Castle, Kent, Anne’s childhood home.
Having driven past umpteen times on the way to Kent, I finally managed to buy tickets and set foot inside this summer – and found far more than just Queen Anne…
My etiquette guide to visiting Hever Castle with kids
1. Don’t mention Mary Boleyn…
If you’ve read The Other Boleyn Girl, you’ll know what I’m talking about – if not, off you go and check it out. Anne’s sister, Henry’s discarded mistress and a very immediate example of what happened if you played your cards wrong at the royal court.
Although unlike Anne and brother George, she did survive another seven years. Keep your eyes open to see her portrait too.
2. Do send your children on a quest
With a castle trail to help spot some less obvious details and learn more about Tudor life, it’s an entertaining way to explore inside. And occasionally taxing enough that adults will be kept on their toes too. Henry would have approved.
3. Don’t covet the furniture
Yes the huge wooden beds with their fur coverings and hangings are tempting – including part of Anne’s own bed. But remember that the only heating was a fire or warming pan. Brrrr.
4. Don’t compare wives
Well, not too loudly – with portraits of all six Queens on display in one room, it’s hard not to contrast the women who found themselves wedded to Henry VIII. And to feel faintly relieved that you’re not remembered purely as a Tudor artist saw you.
I don’t think Catherine Howard came off too well…
5. Get to the joust early
We watched the king and queen process to the tournament field for the jousting, joining knights and ladies to make an entrance. Except if you forget to send your servants (or spare family members) ahead, you’ll be sitting near the back.
Still pretty thrilling. Not least because Minnie was cheering loudly for the rebels.
6. Keep your feet dry in the water maze
There is a way to avoid all the water obstacles, unexpected fountains and sudden jets in the water maze – if you take it slowly. On a hot day, the trickiest bit is persuading small companions not to run headlong into the spray…
Or there’s always the hedge maze – if you make it out without getting lost…
7. Archery training starts young
You’re never too young to pick up a bow and arrow and take your turn at the butts. Well, five is certainly old enough – with a little assistance from the castle archers. The same goes for shield painting, although only the select few make it to knights and princess school.
The select few whose parents signed them up early and made sure they didn’t get distracted by all the other things to do.
8. Don’t pick the grapes
Green and luscious on their vines, these are the preserve of the aristocracy… Same goes for the roses in the formal gardens. But you can wander happily in the sunshine – fortified by food from the kitchens (aka the cafe) nearby.
9. Visit the villagers
Be entertained by the storyteller’s tales, taste food made from the fruits of the grounds and pay your respects to the knight, his lady and their gigantic English mastiff. You might even hear music floating through the air as you wander.
Which left just one question. Did we want to have our photo taken with the king?
Minnie, distinctly unimpressed with Henry VIII’s larger than life personality and string of wives was very definite – not a chance. Anne Boleyn, it seems, had won another fan.
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Images copyright MummyTravels