Henry VIII often travelled in and around the Chilterns area, visiting his own royal homes and those of local noblemen.
Henry VIII was an active king and often travelled through southern England with his courtiers, visiting his own royal homes and those of local noblemen.
He hunted in the countryside around Hitchin in Hertfordshire. There is a story that he decided one day to pole vault over the River Hiz. However, he had grown fatter than he realised and the pole snapped under him, depositing him in the river in an undignified manner!
During Henry's reign he gave the royal castle at Berkhamsted, which was in a better state of repair than it is today, to three of his queens in turn: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. None of them actually lived there.
Henry made a number of visits to Chenies Manor near Amersham, a stunning Tudor house which can still be visited today. Henry was said to be so impressed with the house, especially its chimneys, that he commissioned the same builders to work on Hampton Court. In 1541 Henry visited Chenies with his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. She was carrying on an affair with Thomas Culpepper, a member of the court. It may have been evidence gathered at Chenies that ultimately led to Catherine's execution for treason a few months later.
In the medieval village of Ewelme in south Oxfordshire there was once a royal palace, which does not exist any more. It was created by Henry VIII's father Henry VII, who took over a manor house in the village. Some historians believe that Henry VIII was conceived here, as his parents visited it 9 months before he was born in 1491. In 1540 Henry claimed Ewelme Manor as a royal residence for himself, enlarging the hunting park to stretch all the way from Ewelme to Park Corner. He visited Ewelme on honeymoon with his new wife Catherine Howard - it is said that the village pond is named Kings Pool because she playfully pushed him in to it!
Read lots of detail on Henry's visits to the Chilterns, plus those of other kings and queens, on our Royal Connections page.
Berkhamsted Castle has been in ruins for a very long time but it is still an impressive and tranquil space in the centre of Berkhamsted.
Chenies Manor and gardens are open to the public every year - there are beautiful displays of tulips in the spring.
The village of Ewelme is well worth a visit with its medieval almshouses, historic church and the restored watercress beds.
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