“Queen Mary’s Steps and Fragment of Whitehall Palace”

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London SW1


From: Vic Keegan’s Lost London 85: Queen Mary’s steps:

“Whitehall Palace has effected one of the great disappearing acts of English history. It was built by Henry VIII, starting from 1530, by means of expanding York Place, which he confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey. It became the biggest – and ugliest – palace in Europe, with over 1500 rooms rampaging down Whitehall from today’s Trafalgar Square almost to Parliament Square. Henry married Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour there and, in 1547, died there too.

Today, nothing is left of it in public view except the steps…,with the accompanying river wall at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue and the Victoria Embankment. The steps were reconstructed by Christopher Wren to enable Queen Mary (she of William and Mary) to descend from her private quarters to her carriage on the river. The Thames in those days, before Joseph Bazalgette built the Embankment, was much wider.

Surprisingly, the earlier and much more ancient original Palace of Westminster, an 11th century royal dwelling which occupied the area around Westminster Abbey and where its successor of the same name hosts parliament today, still boasts two brilliantly preserved historic buildings: Westminster Hall, with the biggest hammer beam roof in the world, and the boutique Jewel Tower of Edward III. Henry abandoned that residence in 1512 after most of it was destroyed by a fire.

There are remnants of Whitehall Palace off limits to the public, such as Cardinal Wolsey’s wine cellar and bits of its former “real tennis” courts and occasionally, if workmen dig deep when laying cables, you can see the remains of Tudor brickwork underneath. Otherwise, Britain’s largest ever palace has been erased from history.


Malcolm Redfellow says:
5th April 2019 at 10:50 am
‘Britain’s largest ever palace has been erased from history.’

Apart from readers of C.J.Sansom and Hilary Mantel,

Vic Keegan’s Lost London 87: The Royal United Services Museum – OnLondon says:
21st April 2019 at 11:00 pm
[…] RUSI remains home to some of the busts and paintings from the museum and also boasts a Grade I listed window on a shared wall with the Banqueting House, on which can still be seen blackened scars caused by the fire of 1698, which destroyed Henry Vlll’s Whitehall Palace. […]”

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