Friday, September 18, 2009

Tudor Lion Statues Come Home to Hampton Court Palace

As noted in this interesting Telegraph article we came across, returning two handsome stone beasts to pride of place at Hampton Court Palace seems a fitting way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession in 2009. After sitting in a pub for who-knows-how-long, they were removed in the 1980's during a demolition job, where they were stored in a home until being taken by the owner to a campground in France.

Historians and antiquarians were aware of the statues' existance, and it was discovered that the the lions would have been known as "kyng's beestes" - heraldic animals that once been sprinkled generously around royal residences. Additionally, the pub where they had been originally rescued was on a direct path between two Tudor royal palaces - Hampton Court and the legendary Nonsuch Palace - so the theory that they might well have graced one of the royal palaces seemed to fit.

To celebrate Henry's 500th anniversary year, a new garden in Tudor style was commissioned from historian and garden designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. His design for what is now known as the Chapel Court Tudor Garden included a number of hand-carved and painted heraldic beasts standing post among the flowerbeds - traditional ornamentation that would have been familiar in Tudor times. Longstaffe-Gowan was thrilled to have the beasts returned to England as part of the display. He says historians "are agreed that these are early 16th century carving, undoubtedly royal, from which palace we don't know. They're made from Taynton stone - from Oxfordshire - which is very hard and was commonly used by all Henry VIII's stonemasons. They may have been polychromed originally."

To read the entire article and see more photos, go HERE.

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