Kings and Queens

Interview with Henry VIII at Eltham Palace

We sent young English Heritage Members Amelia and Damon to interview the Tudor king at his former home, Eltham Palace in London. Watch our video to find out how they got on when they took him on at his favourite sport – and learn all about Henry’s time at Eltham.

Watch The Video


Amelia: Can you tell us about your life? 

Ah, I grew up in this palace, in the court of my mother, Queen Elizabeth of York. The festivities, the feasts, the pageants this hall has seen!

Amelia: Do you live here now?

No, not now. Although I still visit. I do hold audience in this hall, for it is good for the people to see of their king.

Damon: Why so many wives?

Impudent boy! But I will forgive it. For I am in a generous mood. I did marry my first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to have a son. She did fail me. And then I did marry Anne Boleyn. Again, no son.

Amelia: Why did you behead Anne Boleyn?

For she was of the devil. And then I had two further unhappy marriages. But now, I am married to the kindly queen Catherine Parr. Indeed, she is most kindly and does care and tend to me.

Amelia: What’s wrong with your leg?

Ah, in 1536, whilst jousting, I did fall from my horse. My leg is most incommoded. It does cause me a great deal of pain.

Damon: When you’re not busy ruling the country, what do you do for fun?

Well, to answer that, I must show you… Let us to the butts!


Henry VIII (r.1509–47) grew up at Eltham Palace with his elder brother and two sisters. After he became king he extended the palace, building a new tiltyard for jousting, new rooms and a new chapel. The chapel was decorated in a lot of detail, with expensive gilt leaves and oak panelling. He also created a new garden with a bowling green and archery butts.


At the beginning of Henry’s reign, Eltham Palace was a very important place. Cardinal Wolsey took his oath to become Lord Chancellor there and later he wrote the Eltham Ordinances which were new rules for people in Henry VIII’s court.

Henry was the last monarch to spend significant time at Eltham Palace. From the 1530s, he began to improve Hampton Court Palace to the west of London and spend more time at Greenwich Palace from where it was easier to get to Westminster (by boat along the River Thames) to meet with Parliament.


First recorded in the Domesday book, Eltham estate was presented to King Edward II in 1305. It developed into one of the most favoured royal palaces with 1,000 acres of deer park on its doorstep.. 

During the 1930s Eltham Palace was transformed into a striking mansion by eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld so it’s very different to how it would have looked during Henry VIII’s time here. After exploring their amazing former home, it’s still possible to gaze out from the minstrels’ gallery across the magnificent great hall, where the kings and queens that called Eltham Palace home would have entertained visitors.

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