Book review: Strange Tales of Hampton Court
By Sheila Dunn and Ken Wilson
Review by: Alexa Williamson
11 March 2012
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
For those who like light reading and stories and general folklore about a place, in this case, Hampton Court Palace (and to some extent the surrounding area), then look no further than this small square book (which is actually smaller than A5). Strange Tales of Hampton Court is a fantastic collection of 34 tales, compiled by Sheila Dunn, that can be read within 2 hours and has pen and ink illustrations by Ken Wilson.
The tales range from: what happened to Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard, to the legend of King Henry VIII’s astronomical clock to descriptions of the feasts and pagaentry that Elizabeth I had at the palace to how squatters managed to live there to how the ghost of Sibbell Penn, an old nurse who took care of Jane Seymor’s son Edward VI (who died as an infant) and Elizabeth I, has been seen at the palace many times and why.
Some of my favourite tales also include how Elizabeth Cromwell (the wife of Puritan Oliver Cromwell), who lived there and was born of wealthy land-owning parents hid treasures to preserve them from destruction by Puritans to how ladies took up a habit of “fainting” at church on Sunday so that they could be taken care of by Sir Horace Seymour, a knight of the Guelphic order, who would carry a lady out of the service and then have one of his maids tend to her at his apartment at Court. After this became a regular routine for several weeks, another lady, however, got sick of this “fashion of fainting” and had the chaplain write a note saying that any lady who fainted would now instead be carried out by the dustman. Of course, after this, the fainting stopped.
Such guiless historical stories written with humour and facts, told in an easy-to-understand, but mature style, make this a fun read – and very helpful if you are going to visit the palace any time soon. Worth getting. Retail price is low and you can probably get it for even less online and second-hand.
Hampton Court Palace (official site)