Hampton Court Palace Story
When most people think about the residents of Hampton Court Palace, the first name that comes in place is King Henry VIII, the first monarch to live in the palace. Many visitors to the palace are surprised to discover that few other Monarchs lived in the Palace, like William and Mary, George the first and George the second but I am almost positive that no one knew that Mrs Marjorie Brereton or Mrs Henrietta Gardiner lived in it, right?
King George II was the last monarch who used Hampton Court as his main residence. After his death, his grandson, George III decided to turn the massive building into a series of apartments in different sizes and shapes and to hand them to whoever the monarch wants to reward. This system became to be known as the “Grace and Favour” system, and it brought hundreds of residents mostly ladies to live in the old palace.
Some of the apartments were grand suites, while others were a bit more modest which made residents fight between them, making Charles Dickens famously saying that the residents behaved as ‘civilised Gypsies with a dissatisfied air about themselves’.
69 flats were built inside the palace, and flat 48 was the home of the most famous resident of the palace in the 20th century, Princess Xenia Alexandra, the sister of the last Russian Tzar who fled the country after the Bolshevik revolution. Some may say she was not even the most famous resident of this apartment which was originally offered to Lancelot “Capability” Brown, after he became the Master Gardener at Hampton Court in 1764, a role that granted him an annual salary worth more than 250,000 pounds in today’s money, and a “humble lodging in the palace”.
While the original idea behind the Grace and Favour system was to award people “who earned the respect” of the monarch with free accommodation, eventually many of the flats were lived in by their descendants. One of them became the person who lived in the palace longer than any other of its residents! Her name was Miss Millicent Gordon. She was the daughter of a well-connected army officer, and she lived with her parents in flat 20 at the palace. she managed to live rent-free in the same flat until her death in 1949, 104 years later! It was not an “easy” life as some of her flat was open to the public. in 1929 she broke her ankle and was told to rest by her doctor so the parts of her flat that were open to the public were closed for a few months.
As Miss Gordon flat was built in the 19th century it did not have a bath and was not connected to gas supply, in 1917 when she offered to pay herself to connect her apartment to the gas supply she was turned down. In 1942 when she was 97 she applied to have a bath installed, her request was approved, but only after her death.
The “Grace and Favour” system ran for more than 200 years. During the 20th century, many of the flats were remodelled and became part of the palace display to the public, but during the 80s fifteen of them, were still occupied. Today only two ladies can still call this palace their home. They are the last residents of Hampton Court Palace.
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