Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop of York and chief minister to Henry VIII began building Hampton Court in 1514.
The splendid Tudor buildings included a range of apartments for the use of King Henry, Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary. In 1525 when Wolsey began to fall from power he handed Hampton Court to the King in the hope of retaining royal favour.
Henry VIII added the Great Hall with its magnificent hammer-beam ceiling and the immense kitchens to cater for his retinue of over 1,000.
Later monarchs also left their mark there.
Charles I lived at Hampton Court Palace as a prisoner and Charles II repaired the building. In 1690s the palace was was extended by William and Mary who employed Christopher Wren as their architect.
Queen Victoria opened the Palace to the public.
Today visitors can view the striking contrast between the Tudor gables, turrets and chimneys and the classical royal appartments designed by Wren. The building is so vast that six separate routes have been devised, each covering a different theme.
These are: the Wolsey Rooms which are the earliest of the Tudor Rooms, the Tudor kitchens, the finest of their date in the world and include over 50 rooms set up as if in preparation for a royal banquet, Henry VIII's splendid state apartments, the Queen's apartments designed for Queen Mary by Sir Christopher Wren, the Georgian rooms and the King's apartments built for William III and restored following the devastating fire of 1986.
Also to be seen are the Henry VIII's great astronomical clock in the Clock Courtyard and the enclosed Royal (or Real) Tennis Court. The Chapel Royal is an impressive example of the rich interiors of the Palace and the Great Hall is still decorated by Henry VIII's magnificent Flemish tapestries.
The Palace also houses Renaissance paintings from HM The Queen's collection.
Hampton Court Palace is set in 60 acres of beautiful gardens.
The inspiration for the gardens comes mainly from the time of William and Mary for whom Sir Christopher Wren designed a Baroque landscape with radiating avenues of limes and lakes.
Other features of the gardens include the Pond Garden which was part of Henry VIII's designs, the Fountain Garden with its clipped yews, the Victorian garden and the famous Maze.
The Great Vine, the oldest and largest grapevine in the world is thought to have been planted in 1768 by 'Capability' Brown.