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Friday, June 20, 2014

King Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace

King Henry VIII's dysfunctional family life has gripped audiences from age to age. Prince Charles and Princess Diana's peccadillos can in no way compare. Court and country gossips back in the day of Henry VIII must have gone into paroxysms of pleasure as they bore witness to the King's insatiable appetite for wives and his predilection for beheading them. This was family violence done with the complicity of the nation's court of law.

It is shudder worthy.

It does seem that King Henry VIII was a very self-indulgent monarch in every way, from food to vanity to wives. He was the leader of a major European country and held absolute power. No one could gainsay him. Only he could set moral limits on himself. Alas! King though he might have been, he held within him precious little kingly fibre. He lived a life dedicated to sensual pleasures and unnecessary showing off. He spent his treasury on long banquets staged for the benefit of foreign powers. Of course, one can argue that it is necessary to maintain England's reputation. On a smaller scale, it is like saying that one must invest in branded bags and huge cars to look good. It is like saying that one must climb to top world rankings to be esteemed internationally. It is like saying that we need to build an iconic Marina Bay Sands or a Singapore flyer because one has to look good on the world stage.

Better it is to have healthy and happy family members than all the respect of those outside of the family. If you cannot accept that I wear $3 shorts and $5 slacks, it is really your problem. Why should I buy a Burberry's just to please you? If you cannot accept that my son failed Chinese or is attending Yishun New Town Secondary, then that's also your problem. The important thing is that my son knows that I love him. Within the family, relationships must be healthy, loving, trusting and respectful. On the basis of this strong family core, the family will prosper. If you have the substance, you don't need form.

I do admit that my disdain for "form" and impatience with social appearances can be carried too far, and there ARE definite downsides. Often, people don't like you for it.

However, if people in the family were unhappy, whatever we put on for show will eventually crumble away to reveal the worms beneath. Shakespeare said it best, "All that glitters is not gold... Gilded tombs do worms enfold."

King Henry VIII left a legacy of violence and strife. He focused too much on looking good, sweeping things under the carpet. His treasury was empty by the time he died. After his death, his nation plunged into bloody violence. Catholics killed Protestants and vice versa. One daughter (Queen Mary) locked up another daughter (Queen Elizabeth I) in the Tower of London, trying her for treason. It is a terrible legacy for a leader to leave behind...a country where people fight and hate.

In contrast, his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, spent her whole life building peace and strengthening her people. She managed international relationships by keeping as low a profile as she could. Indeed, she never even used her trump card in international diplomacy - her own hand in marriage. By focusing on first principles and commonsensical policies, Queen Elizabeth I has gone down in history as Good Queen Bess. She left a legacy of peace and wealth. It was SHE who positioned England as a European superpower, in the same way LKY's government positioned Singapore as a feisty little red dot without needing to show off the PISA rankings, the YOG, Marina Bay Sands and those awful fake trees.

We should stop showing off and start getting real. We should learn from Henry VIII's negative example. This said, The Husband, with sparkling eyes and gleeful smile, professes full of admiration for Henry VIII, chiefly because the man had 6 wives. Hmmmm...

King Henry VIII loved to eat. His palace kitchens served the best and most exotic foods. Here is the section of his kitchen that processes meat delivery.

Pastry section. It appears that they do not eat pie crusts. They only eat the meat inside. Pie crusts function like plates.

The vat for boiling meat.

Food preparation table.

Processing fish.

Cooked pastries assembly point.

Stoves for soups and gravies.


3 or 4 huge chimneys each one holding 10 spits. On each spit would be 10 roasts. That is for ONE meal.

Giant pewter plates.

Administration office.

Preparation of exotic foods such as peacock and beavers. Beavers were considered fish because they lived in water. Ducks were also considered fish. This was important because for religious reasons, some days were dedicated fish days.

All the food ended up here in the Great Hall.

Where the King and Queen sit. Visitors are allowed to sit there you know. So, The Husband and I sat there and got one of the museum wardens to take a picture of us. I should have taken a picture of the warden. He was an imposing figure in a red costume and a huge belly. Very handsome!

Dresses made of paper. Very innovative! A light projection provides the colors of the fabrics.

The chocolate kitchen is actually empty. A dynamic light projection fills it up with utensils and people. It was a beautiful display.

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