The Tudor era was one of the wildest in English history, and a fascination with Henry VIII and his mistresses and wives lures many a visitor to London’s storied streets. To really immerse yourself in the time of the Tudors, a visit to Hampton Court Palace is a must. You can see the rich tapestries and paintings hung up by Henry himself, get lost in the palace’s maze, and picture what daily life was like for 16th-century queens and courtiers as you discover this extravagant site.
Speaking of daily life under Tudor reign, Henry’s wives didn’t really get a chance to do much, what with losing their heads and all. Which got us thinking—what things to do in London would appeal to those 6 unlucky ladies today? Here, our regal itinerary for the ill-fated royal women of the Tudor court.
- Catherine of Aragon: Deeply Catholic Catherine would love a visit to some of London’s holiest enclaves. While it’s Anglican (thanks to Henry), St. Paul’s Cathedral would surely inspire this most spiritual of queens. She could hop on a bus with Evans Evans Tours to scope out royal London landmarks like Westminster Abbey, which stood in her day, and Buckingham Palace, which did not. After admiring the grandeur of St. Paul’s dazzling interior, winding down the afternoon with a leisurely cruise down the Thames is the perfect way for Catherine to relax. She had a rough go of things. She deserves some time to just chill and take in the sights.
- Anne Boleyn: Get ye to Paris, girl! Henry’s most famous wife—and the first to hit the chopping block—was sent to court in France as a teen, where it’s said she picked up the fashion sense and witty demeanor that caught the king’s eye (for better or worse) in the first place. Today, we think she’d love a chance to browse the window displays of the haute-couture shops along the Rue St Honoré, roam the art-filled halls of the Louvre—which was the royal palace when she was there—and indulge in decadently rich hot chocolate at Angelina’s on the Rue de Rivoli. She could arrange to take the Eurostar train over with Golden Tours and then while away the day however she sees fit, enjoying the romance of the City of Love with nary a king in sight.
- Jane Seymour: Poor Jane Seymour survived giving birth to Henry’s only son, only to die of complications two weeks later. She’d probably appreciate learning about the advancement of modern medicine at the Old Operating Theatre, an 1822 emergency room located in the attic of a Baroque church. Here, under a skylight, apprentice apothecaries watched anesthetic-free amputations and surgeries performed by the medical experts at St. Thomas’ Hospital. With the London Pass, Jane could skip the lines into the museum to see the operating table and the seats where curious students once crowded, and then shake off the heebie jeebies at more than 60 other great London attractions.
- Anne of Cleves: According to Henry, Anne—while accomplished in the domestic arts—lacked the cultural wherewithal required of an English queen. She could have curried favor with the temperamental monarch by brushing up on her arts and literature knowledge with a scholar-led tour of the British Museum. With an expert guide from Context Walks leading the way, Anne could gain insight into the history of art and archaeology, picking up tidbits that would have given her plenty to chat about with her ladies in waiting.
- Kathryn Howard: Spirited young Kathryn, whose flirtatious demeanor ultimately brought about her untimely demise, married Henry when she was just 19. She never really got to have that youthful party phase, so we’re thinking we’d sign her up for a guided pub crawl in Camden with Undiscovered London. One of modern-day London’s liveliest nightlife hubs, this trendy neighborhood is home to plenty of live music venues, pubs, and clubs, making it perfect for the suitor-seeking young lady in waiting.
- Kathryn Parr: The only one of Henry’s wives to outlive the king, Kathryn Parr is arguably the luckiest widow in history. We’d take her on a Tower of London tour, to remind her of the fate she escaped by surviving her husband. Kathryn could learn about the British monarchs that came before and after her with a guided Beefeater tour at the tower, walking the ramparts and even crossing the Tower Green, where Henry’s earlier wives met their grisly end. She could see the crown jewels on shimmering display, and even picture her husband in person before displays of Henry VIII’s armor and garments.
Where would you take a Tudor in London?