Hampton Court Palace wasn’t just home to kings and queens, but an entire court comprising courtiers and servants. Below are just a few of the people who served at Hampton Court Palace, including a gardener, a pudding maker and a wet nurse whose ghost, legend has it, haunts the palace to this day.
Bridget held the post of Necessary Woman to no less than four kings, including James II and William III. She had the all-important task of emptying the royal chamber pot and cleaning the most important room in the palace – the Royal Bedchamber. Bridget lived to the grand old age of 100.
On New Year’s Day 1511, Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a baby boy. Henry VIII held a lavish celebratory tournament at Westminster and employed six trumpeters to serenade the games. John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was paid 8d for the day. John was also a trumpeter for Henry VIII’s father, Henry VII.
Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth I, dry nurse to Edward VI and Hampton Court’s most famous ghost; ‘the grey lady’. Sybil contracted small pox at the same time as Elizabeth, but unlike the Queen, she did not survive. It is said that Sybil’s spinning wheel can still be heard within the walls of the palace.
Wise was the Royal Gardener at Hampton Court Palace for nearly 30 years, working for William III, Queen Anne and George I. He developed Hampton Court’s gardens to be amongst the finest Baroque gardens in the world.
Will was Henry VIII’s ‘Fool’ – or court jester – for twenty years. It was said that ‘few men were more beloved than this fool’. Sometimes his jokes went too far though; when he called Princess Elizabeth a bastard the King threatened to kill him with his own hands. He had to go into hiding for a short time.
Charles I’s wife Henrietta-Marie was given Jeffrey as a gift and she nicknamed him ‘Lord Minimus’. He was considered one of the ‘wonders of the age’ because of his extreme but well-proportioned smallness. He entertained the court with his sharp wit and was often cast in masques staged by Inigo Jones.
Pudding Maker to Henry VIII, Mrs Cornwallis was the only woman employed at the palace who did not work in the laundry department. Henry was so enamored of her puddings that he rewarded her with a fine house in Aldgate.