Weren’t we just at the sites of her beheading and burial in the Tower of London? Ah yes, we have been thinking quite a bit about Anne Boleyn lately. So, how wonderful to be able to visit Hever Castle today, her family home in Kent.
The oldest part of the estate was built in 1270, with only the gatehouse remaining from that era, along with the oldest working original portcullis in England. Anne’s uncle undertook some updating in the mid-15th century, leaving it an amazing relic of Tudor life. Those remains required some upkeep along the way, and they found an angel in the shape of an American millionaire in 1903 – William Waldorf Astor. (In that era, millionaires were a big deal. Today they are just small change, of course.)
What is left is a wonderful home that is full of grace and reminders of the drama of its inhabitants – and visitors. Poor Anne grew up there, and then caught the eye of guest Henry VIII, who was at that time intimate with her sister. Oh dear. We all know where those attentions led.
The house stayed in Astor hands for 80 years. What one sees now is combination of Tudor formal rooms and comfy Astor living spaces. Somehow it all works together nicely.
Before we move on to our next site, some attention must be devoted to the wonders of the gardens here, and the lovely spring flowers we saw in great abundance. Oh, to be in England now that global warming’s here. No need to wait to till April to see magnificent floral exuberance!
Anne was not the only notable figure we celebrated today.
We also called in at Chartwell, the country home of Winston Churchill. The Churchills bought the property in 1922, but it was always a huge financial strain for them. Friends and supporters bought it from them in 1946, providing that they could live there for their lifetime. When Sir Winston died in 1965, Clementine Churchill presented Chartwell to the National Trust. It was a passion of Winston’s, not her.
The house is currently surrounded by scaffolding, and photography is not allowed inside, so you must trust me that this is a home one could easily see was a real refuge from the challenges that Churchill faced almost all his life. Oddly enough, Henry VIII reputedly stayed in the original building while “courting” Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle. It all fits together neatly.
We saw the studio where he painted, toured the home and then toasted the great man with a hearty tea at his conveniently located cafe. Another successful outing with the redoubtable Lambert Tours.