Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity that looks after six extraordinary palaces – The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.
1. Your main cause at Historic Royal Palaces is ‘to help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built’, how do you keep these stories alive today?
Well where do I start! We want to highlight the amazing and fascinating stories that these Palaces can tell – truly history where it happened! Anyone visiting our Palaces will find them to be vibrant places with a huge range of things to see and do – from digital missions (our new app featuring interactive adventures around the Tower or Hampton Court) to major events such as Tudors at the Tower or Horrible Histories and a rolling programme of exhibitions (currently the gorgeous Fashion Rules Restyled at Kensington Palace). At Hampton Court this year we are presenting Encounters with the Past where visitors can immerse themselves in the stories of Hampton Court with up-close encounters with real characters from the Palace’s past; so you might meet Henry VIII’s Tudor court or see Shakespeare rehearsing with his King’s Men Company. At Banqueting House we are working on an interactive walking tour that will bring the magnificence of the Lost Palace of Whitehall to life and there are always a wide range of talks and tours that take place at all of the Palaces throughout the year. There really is something for everyone!
2. Do you have a favourite story from one of the palaces?
The Tower was for a long time, home to a menagerie of wild animals that visiting dignitaries gave as gifts to the monarch. One of these was a polar bear, given by the King of Norway in 1215. The bear was muzzled and chained to the walls with a rope long enough to allow him to fish in the Thames! In 1830 on the orders of the Duke of Wellington who was Constable of the Tower, 150 animals (including leopards, a bear a tiger and lions) were shipped off to Regent’s Park and to what is now London Zoo. The rest (a larger consignment) were sent to the US in 1835.
3. What has been the highlight of your career at Historic Royal Palaces so far?
I have been at Historic Royal Palaces for just over two years and there have been so many highlights already! If really pushed though, for me, the Poppies installation in 2014 was such a fantastic project to be part of. We could never have imagined how much of an impact it would have.
4. You raise all of your own funds at Historic Royal Palaces. How can people support the charity?
Everyone who visits the palaces, paying for an entrance ticket or buying something in our shops or cafes is playing their part in supporting the work of Historic Royal Palaces. So thank you!
We also have membership and patron schemes for individuals to support us further together with opportunities for companies through Corporate Membership or sponsorship of certain projects. All of these unlock some fabulous behind the scenes activities and events which make partnering with us really special.
5. Can you tell us a bit more about the up coming fundraising event, the Royal Ramble: 5km Family Challenge?
This is a fun family fundraising event that we are running in partnership with London’s Air Ambulance and will see teams follow clues around the gardens of Hampton Court Palace and Home Park, discovering more about their 500 year history, as well as some of the wildlife and endangered species that now call the park home. It should be a really fun day and we are keeping our fingers crossed for dry weather! There is still time to enter and take part!
Find out more here.
And just for fun…
6. Have you ever seen a ghost in one of the palaces?
I haven’t but I have been on one of the absolutely brilliant ghost tours at Hampton Court – it spooked me out completely and I don’t particularly like walking through there in the dark anymore!
7. Can you tell us something that might surprise us?
I am addicted to Pointless – I absolutely love that programme. Sad isn’t it!
8. If you could meet any monarch from any period, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Henry VIII – I think he is a fascinating character and I would love to see just how charismatic he really was in his youth (and before the gout set in!).
9. Can you tell us something you have learned in the last week?
I have absolutely no interest in boiler systems. My husband and I have just bought a little place in Cornwall and we need a new heating system. I am trying to leave it to James to sort.…
10. What is your favourite quote?
“You can’t fight in here, this is the war room”. It’s from Dr Strangelove and although not advice for life, it does make me laugh every time.