Henry VIII was not born to be King yet he acceded to the throne before his 18th birthday. Married six times: four times for love, once for affection and once for duty, he had three legitimate children. A Renaissance Prince when young, his divorces and subsequent order to send two of his wives to the executioner's block made him the most notorious King England has ever witnessed.
History sees Henry as a tyrant and a bully but Henry was also a builder, philosopher, musician, accomplished linguist, Defender of the Faith and international sports superstar of his age. Journey with us to find Henry on our Grand Progress of Southern England as we visit his palaces, castles and inns, sampling the life in Tudor times on the way.
All the hotels are specially chosen for their historic importance and character. They are mostly old Coaching Inns that have retained their historic character with low oak beams, uneven floors and some still have their big fireplaces. All rooms have en-suite facilities.
Costs include transport during the tour, entrance fees to heritage sites, attractions and activities, bed and breakfast at the hotels and a sumptuous Tudor banquet held at a venue in London on the last night of the tour.
Please note that centuries old castles and houses were not built with lifts and escalators. Some have many steps and restricted access points. Some of the old inns at which we stay do not have lifts either. Please ask us about any mobility issues, if you have any of these considerations as we can provide an honest assessment of all of the places we visit and hotels we use.
We meet at mid- day before travelling through the English countryside to the beautiful home of the Boleyn family. Hever castle
The love story of the age which led to divorce, excommunication and the threat of war is reflected in this moated manor house. Both of the Boleyn sisters were lovers of the King, with one laying with him whilst married to another, and the other, Anne, laying with Henry only when she became Queen.
It took Anne seven years to achieve her aim to become Queen and change forever Henry’s position and the course of English history.
Eltham Palace, Henry VIII’s boyhood home. Then we travel by Thames River boat to the Tower of London. We see Traitor’s Gate as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard would have done on their way to custody in the Tower.
The Tower of London is over 1,000 years old, steeped in the nation’s history and the scene of some of the bloodiest events during the Tudor period. It is the execution site of two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
We leave London to visit Henry’s premier fortress, Dover Castle in Kent situated high on the cliffs.
Here Henry left England for his glorious trip to France and the Field of Cloth of Gold, and later watched as construction of his coastal defences went apace following Henry’s excommunication. The magnificent Keep has been set out for the times of Henry II with state rooms, bedchamber, guest rooms and halls together with kitchen, bakery and brewery in the basement. With smoke from real log fires, you are easily transported back to the 1180's and the court of Henry II. We also visit Deal Castle where Anne of Cleves first set foot in England.
Penshurst in Kent is one of the important houses in Tudor times. It is used regularly as a film location as it is so evocative of the Tudor period.
The Sussex county town of Lewes is where we see for ourselves the havoc wrought by the dissolution. This medieval town is the location of Anne of Cleves House, Lewes Priory ruins and site of religious martyrdom. You should have time to stroll around the steep narrow streets and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient town.
Southsea Castle on the island city of Portsmouth in Hampshire, we stand in the same place where Henry stood, watching the battle as the Mary Rose, his flagship, foundered in the Solent with the loss of 800 lives. Only a mile distance away is the Historic Royal Naval Dockyard where we can relive that moment at the Mary Rose museum and handle artefacts brought up from the seabed. Centuries of Naval history are on display here with Nelson’s flagship Victory and other historic naval treasures.
We finish with a meal at an old tavern dating from 1700 overlooking the mouth of this busy harbour.
It’s an early start as we head off to see the largest and oldest occupied castle in Europe at Windsor. Still home to our present Sovereign we should arrive to see the Changing of the Guard and then spend time in the Glorious State Apartments. We can visit St George’s Chapel where we see Henry’s grave and that of his beloved wife Jane Seymour who gave him a male heir. You may attend evensong in the Chapel if you wish.
We spend the night in a wonderful hotel right opposite Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace, taken from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII. The Tudor building has been wonderfully conserved, a celebration of Henry’s accession to the throne over 500 years ago. Costumed actors perform little plays throughout the day and during the season there are special events. We may be fortunate to be there when they fire up the huge kitchens and recreate the meals that would have been served during the Tudor period or be guests at one of Henry’s wedding parties. We finish the evening at a character hotel in London and attend a sumptuous Tudor banquet complete with entertainment.
The previous evening was a fitting finale for our Grand Progress. After a leisurely breakfast we arrange transport back to a London mainline railway station or London airport if agreed when booking. For those who have later journeys, we can arrange additional trips to sites in London if these have been agreed prior to arrival
* All prices are per person, based on two people sharing a double, or twin room. A 20% supplement applies to all solo bookings.Free Brochure
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Visit 15 historic sites:
- Hever Castle, Tower of London, Eltham Palace, Dover Castle, Penshurst Place, Lewes Castle, The Mary Rose & Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, & Southsea Castle, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Anne of Cleves House, Deal Castle, Lewes Priory. Shakepeare's Globe
- All entry fees
- Bed & breakfast accommodation
- All tour transport
- A sumptuous Tudor banquet
Personalised History Tours
We can cater for small family groups or individuals and provide a unique Royal Progress Tour to suit any requirements, or design an independent itinerary. Our speciality is the Tudor period but we can organise any tour or even days out of London that will satisfy everyone in the family. We've mixed Henry VIII and Jane Austen, Roman Britain and Harry Potter. With Tudor History Tours you can sit back and enjoy and let us plan the details.Find out more >