In the face of history: from the Great Hall to the Great War, boys explore the rich story of Hampton Court Palace

In the face of history: from the Great Hall to the Great War, boys explore the rich story of Hampton Court Palace

Year 8 pupils who headed for Hampton Court Palace on the first whole-year History trip since the pandemic struck enjoyed the added bonus of a special exhibition about Indian soldiers in the First World War.

At the palace, the boys learned about Tudor life and saw at first-hand evidence of the School’s own links with the Tudor monarchy. They also had the opportunity to see a special exhibition and art installation – on for this month only – featuring silhouetted figures of Sikh soldiers from the British Empire’s Indian Army.

The display, entitled Standing with Giants at Hampton Court Palace, commemorates the soldiers from the Indian Army who camped in the palace gardens in the summer of 1919 following the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty, marking the formal end of the First World War, or ‘Great War’. Along with other troops from nations across the British Empire, they had sailed to the UK to march in the peace celebrations in London.

Helen MacGregor, Head of History and Politics, said: “The silhouetted figures made for a moving display, while the accompanying original letters from soldiers displayed next to them really brought home the fear, danger and reality of life in the trenches.

“Our pupils were fascinated, too, by the carved wooden ceilings in the Great Hall, picturing to themselves Henry VIII sitting under them and also, a few decades later, performances there by Shakespeare’s own theatre company.

“Another point of interest was the beautiful starred ceiling of the Chapel – where the boys were intrigued to find the School motto written some 32 times.” The explanation is that the motto, Dieu et mon droit (God and my right), has been the motto of the UK monarch outside Scotland since the 12th century and was, therefore, the motto of Queen Elizabeth I, in whose reign the School was founded and after whom it is named.

The year group visited Hampton Court over the course of two days.

As well as the grander areas of the buildings, the boys had an opportunity to inspect the huge kitchens that Henry VIII had constructed to feed his 1,000-strong court.

They also saw the Great Vine – the largest grape vine in the world.

Braving the chilly weather, the QE groups enjoyed a walk around the park and formal gardens, during which they spied a herd of deer across a water feature to the rear of the palace.

“The gift shop was another obvious highlight for the pupils – plenty of catapult and cannon pencil sharpeners were purchased!” added Miss MacGregor.