Power and Politics of Architecture in Tudor England

The Great Hall

As a result of this move away from the communal nature of court, the significance of the great hall began to decline in terms of functionality, but Henry VIII still built a few extravagant great halls during his time as King of England; the great hall would become the place that monarchs would use to show off lavish details and construction. A large extravagant hall was a great expression of power for a monarch because of the fact that this is where people would be impressed and entertained by the monarch:

The Great Hall at Hampton Court must have been the most splendid part of the palace. But although Henry VIII built it he never used it; he dined elsewhere and it served as the most glorious of works canteens… A Great Hall had always had a central place in the mystique of kingship. The preservation of what had become a redundant aspect of princely living was something which stemmed from a growing perception of precedent and history.[1]

Henry VIII still built a magnificent great hall when he acquired Hampton Court, but this was not so that he could use it and dine in a room crafted beautifully: he had his own private dining room. Much like anything else Henry VIII included in his palaces it was as an illustration of power. This magnificent hall was used to convey the power and wealth of the monarchy; everyone who visited the palace would spend time in this room and therefore they had to be impressed by it. During Henry VIII's reign the great hall became less of a functional part of the palace - at least for royals and nobles - and more of a symbolic one. "The great hall, although built to impress and sometimes used for large-scale entertainments, served first and foremost as a dining room for the household servants, who ate at trestle tables which were taken down after use."[2] This was the room where all the large entertaining would take place, so Henry VIII strived to convey his power as king by making the room as opulent as possible. The great hall, built by Henry VIII at Hampton Court, was one of the best examples of this.

As for the nobles and royals, the great watching chambers off of the great hall and outside of the royal apartments became the new functional room for eating and other daily life. These rooms were still extravagant in many ways and used to show off wealth and power to the courtiers. This room was another way for Henry VIII and other Tudor monarchs to remind courtiers of their place in English society: below the King. The royal arms and that of connected positions were displayed painted on the ceiling, along with intricate moulding, paneled walls, and stained glass windows with the royal arms. This was a method of reminding courtiers where they were and to whom the residence belonged. Only wealthy could afford all the details put into this room and subsequent rooms throughout the palace, and the constant heraldic reminders were a method of displaying omnipresent power; everywhere someone looked they would be reminded that they were in the service of the King and could be removed form their position or the Earth at the pleasure of the King. 
[1] Howarth, Images of Rule: Art and Politics in the English Renaissance, 1485-1649, 14
[2] Weir, Henry VIII, 7


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