Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Old Ladies and Chancers

Hampton Court Palace was taken over from The Order of St John by Cardinal Wolsey in 1514. Over the following seven years it was rebuilt to be the finest palace in England at a cost of two hundred thousand gold crowns.
King Henry VIII first stayed there in 1525 and by all accounts it was noted by him that the Palace and gardens on the bank of The River Thames was considerably grander than his residence in Whitehall, London.
By 1529 Wolsey had fallen from grace and the King took the palace for his own. Within six months he had started a rebuilding program which would see great expansion of the property, leaving almost no trace of the Cardinal's original building.

In 1838 Queen Victoria completed extensive renovation works and opened the Palace to the public. By this time it was no longer used as a Royal residence. In 1952 the building was granted Grade 1 listing. Throughout the Twentieth Century the Palace housed fifty "grace and favour" apartments and it was an elderly resident of one of these who caused a major fire in 1986. Subsequent restoration work was completed in 1990.

Sitting in front of this magnificent Tudor building, under a sky of bright blue with just a few clouds seemingly just added for interest, Grace looked every inch the grand dame that she is.

Grace is a 1957 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn. Only eighteen hundred of these cars were ever made. Twelve hundred of them were built as right hand drive variants for the American market, so that makes her just one of six hundred cars.

The bridal party had posed for all of their photographs and left for their reception in The Garden Room. Before I left I took the opportunity to take a couple of photos myself. After all it’s not often that one has an opportunity to capture two such majestic sights in one frame.

As I walked back to the car I was stopped by a gentleman with his wife and two daughters.

“How much for a lift home?” he asked.

Now I have to admit I was somewhat taken aback by his opening gambit.

“I’m sorry?”

“How much for a lift home to Walton from here?”

“Sir, this is not a taxi you know…”

“Everyone’s got a price.”

“Not I.”

Realising he was getting no where the gentleman changed his tack and started to ask questions about the car. Finally he brought the subject back around to money again.

“So how much is it worth? No, no don’t tell me let me guess…”

I have to admit that my patience was wearing a little thin by this time. It had been a reasonably long job and in my black suit, I was becoming uncomfortably warm. My downfall was that I simply cannot resist a verbal jousting match and he had just thrown down the gauntlet.

I let him continue.

“Six hundred.”

“Six hundred?” I repeated. “Six hundred thousand pounds. You are joking aren’t you?”

His face fell, his daughters looked uncomfortable. I had a lot of sympathy for them. Their father was beginning to make himself look a fool. The elder of the two asked if she may have a look inside. I opened the rear door for her, I couldn’t help but feel that she just wanted to hide.

“Do you really think that a car worth that much money would be put to work as a wedding car?”

“How much then?” He countered.

“I’m not going to be so vulgar and discuss the value of the car, let’s just say that you were out by a considerable margin.”

Briefly crestfallen he tried again, “So how much for a lift back to Walton?”

I took my leave…