ALISON WEIR'S TUDOR TREASURES
THURSDAY, 9th June
Guests gather at 5.30pm for welcome drinks and introductions at the 4* Bloomsbury Hotel, one of the finest hotels in London (www.doylecollection.com).
Situated near Covent Garden, and not far from the West End, the Bloomsbury Hotel is a magnificent neo-Georgian listed building designed by the renowned British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lavishly refurbished, and recently restored to its original glory and grandeur, it blends the high end of contemporary design with traditional elegance. This is a classic location from which to explore the myriad of treasures of Bloomsbury, whether it's the British Museum which is literally around the corner, the shopping haven of Oxford Street, the West End theatres and night life, the bustle of Covent Garden or the magnificent Georgian terraces and tree-lined squares which makes The Bloomsbury Hotel the perfect London hotel.
The welcome reception will be followed by a short presentation by Alison Weir: An Introduction to the Tudors.
Afterwards, we gather for an included private welcome dinner at the hotel.
Overnight: The Bloomsbury Hotel
FRIDAY, 10th June
We travel by coach to Penshurst Place (www.penshurstplace.com).
On the coach, Alison Weir will speak about The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
Penshurst Place is one of England's finest historic houses, set in the Weald of Kent's peaceful rural landscape. The medieval house with its magnificent Baron's Hall dates from 1341 and is one of the finest examples of 14th century architecture. Later additions have seen Penshurst Place grow into an imposing fortified manor house containing state-rooms filled with a remarkable collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture, porcelain and armour. Penshurst has been the ancestral home of the Sidney family since 1552 and successive generations have shaped its development. Penshurst's most famous son, Sir Philip Sidney, the chivalrous soldier poet, was a symbol of loyalty and bravery in the Elizabethan era. We will enjoy a private guided tour of the house, and there will be time to visit the lovely gardens and toy museum.
We then take the coach to romantic thirteenth-century Hever Castle (www.hevercastle.co.uk), the family home of Anne Boleyn, later restored by William Waldorf Astor, where there will be time for an independent lunch.
In the afternoon, we will visit this lovely castle with its magnificent interiors, its fascinating collection of Tudor royal portraits and its beautiful Italianate award-winning gardens. Audio guides will be provided, and Alison Weir will accompany the group through the castle.
Guests will stay overnight at Hever Castle, where they will be accommodated in individually furnished, newly refurbished luxury rooms in the `Tudor Village` (below), the Astor Wing built in the early twentieth century as service quarters.
In the evening, there will be an elegant group dinner in the Tudor Suite Dining Hall.
After dinner, Alison Weir will give a talk on The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
SATURDAY, 11th June
We leave Hever after breakfast and return to London, where, after an independent lunch, we visit the Tower of London (www.hrp.org.uk). On the way, Alison Weir will speak about Traitors of the Tower.
At the Tower, we will be joined by guest historian, Dr Kate Williams, author of the best-selling England’s Mistress, a biography of Lady Hamilton, and Becoming Queen, about Queen Victoria.
Her Majesty`s Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London is Britain`s leading historic visitor attraction. This ancient fortress was founded by William the Conqueror and almost a thousand years of British history have been played out within its walls. Standing guard by the River Thames, The Tower is an impressive London landmark. Its stones are steeped in history, and its walls house many secrets, as well as the world-famous Crown Jewels. Several people lost their heads in the Tower, which held such famous prisoners as Anne Boleyn, Edward V, Guy Fawkes and Sir Thomas More. There is so much to see at the Tower including the Yeomen of the Guard (or `Beefeaters`), the Ravens, Henry VIII's armour, instruments of torture and the Traitors` Gate.
On arrival at the Tower of London, Alison Weir will give an orientation talk and an overview of the Tower`s often grim history. We are planning some privileged access to parts of the Tower not normally open to visitors, and there will be an opportunity to see the real scaffold site – not the supposed one on Tower Green – where three Tudor queens were beheaded, the Royal Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where they are buried, the massive White Tower, built in the eleventh century, and much more. Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke will guide you, and there will be free time to explore on your own.
On the way back to the hotel, Kate Williams will speak about England’s Mistress: Emma, Lady Hamilton. (A little off-period, but very entertaining!)
Dinner is independent tonight.
Overnight: The Bloomsbury Hotel.
SUNDAY, 12th June
We depart after breakfast by coach to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire.
Sarah Gristwood, author of the best-selling books Arbella: England`s Lost Queen and Elizabeth and Leicester, will accompany the tour from today until Friday
On the way, our historians will give a series of talks on Rivals for the Throne: Lady Jane Grey: The Nine-Days Queen (Alison Weir); : Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (Siobhan Clarke); Arbella, England`s Lost Queen (Sarah Gristwood)
Set in a beautiful, scenic, 840-acre country park, the ruins of Bradgate Park (below), former home of the Grey family, evoke haunting memories of the tragic Lady Jane Grey, who was born and grew up here. Here too once lived Elizabeth Wydeville, future queen of Edward IV, and the mother of the Princes in the Tower and of Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor.
After visiting the ruins, we will explore the Visitor Centre, which has information and displays on Lady Jane Grey and Bradgate's history.
After an independent lunch in the cafe, we drive north to Hardwick Hall (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hardwickhall) in Derbyshire, a region of England renowned for its beautiful scenery and the spectacular Peak District.
On the bus, Alison will speak about The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Tudor Queens and Commoners.
Hardwick Hall is one of the most splendid houses in England. It was built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s, and unaltered since, yet its huge windows and high ceilings make it feel strikingly modern. Outside, stone gleams and glass glitters in the light. Its six towers make a dramatic skyline. Climbing up through the house, from one spectacular floor to the next, is a thrilling architectural experience. Rich tapestries, plaster friezes and alabaster fireplaces colour the rooms, culminating in the hauntingly atmospheric Long Gallery.
Guests can also visit the nearby ruins of Hardwick Old Hall (www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/hardwick-old-hall).
Our hotel for the next two nights will be the Marriott Breadsall Priory Hotel and Spa at Morley, near the city of Derby
The allure of history meets modern comfort most elegantly than at Breadsall Priory. This is a magnificent stately residence dating back to 1260 and adorned by 300 acres of idyllic landscape and two golf courses.
You can swim in the indoor pool, exercise in the three fitness areas or luxuriate in the newly refurbished health spa. As the oldest of all Marriott hotels, near Derby on the edge of the spectacular Peak District, Breadsall Priory offers authentic charm and the finest amenities, including the award-winning Priory Restaurant, set in an ancient wine cellar.
Tonight we will enjoy an included dinner at the hotel.
Overnight: Breadsall Priory Hotel
MONDAY, 13th June
In the morning, we visit nearby Chatsworth House (www.chatsworth.org), the magnificent home of the Duke of Devonshire. On the coach, Sarah Gristwood will speak about that redoubtable Tudor builder, Bess of Hardwick.
Built originally by the legendary Bess of Hardwick, magnificent Chatsworth House offers visitors a treasure trove of modern and historic artefacts. Wandering around the three floors, the visitor can see magnificent displays of art, furniture, sculptures and paintings housed in ornately decorated rooms, from the grandeur of the first Duke's Painted Hall and State Apartments with their rich decoration and painted ceilings, to the 19th century Library, Great Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery. There is just as much to see outside with 1000 acres of gardens that have been described 'one of the best and most vibrant gardens in Britain'.
At Chatsworth, we will enjoy a 90-minute private tour, followed by an included buffet lunch with wine in the impressive 18th century Stables.
In the afternoon, we drive to romantic Haddon Hall (www.haddonhall.co.uk) for a private guided tour.
Haddon Hall, the Derbyshire home of the Manners family, is one of the finest medieval and Tudor houses in England. Steeped in history and romance, the battlemented house is trapped in time - it has hardly changed for over 400 years. Set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the River Wye, the Hall was the setting for Dorothy Vernon's elopement with John Manners, the son of the Earl of Rutland, in 1558, and today the door through which she escaped is still named after her. The house was eventually left to Dorothy on her father's death and has been in the Manners family ever since.
Dr Tracy Borman will join us for the visit, and will tell the romantic story of Dorothy Vernon.
Dinner is independent tonight. There is a wide range of local options available.
Overnight: Breadsall Priory Hotel.
TUESDAY, 14th June
In the morning we drive south to Harvington Hall (www.harvingtonhall.com) for coffee and a private tour. On the way, Siobhan Clarke will speak about The Elizabethan Recusants.
Harvington Hall (below) is a charming moated medieval and Elizabethan manor-house south-east of Kidderminster. Many of the rooms still have their original Elizabethan wall-paintings and the Hall contains the finest series of priest-holes anywhere in the country.
Afterwards, the coach will take us to Stratford-upon-Avon (www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk). On the way, Sarah Gristwood will give us an introduction to Shakespeare`s Stratford.
Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is steeped in culture and history. Set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside, on the banks of the river Avon, it is one of the most important tourist destinations in the UK, a market town with more than 800 years of history containing many ancient buildings that would have been familiar to Shakespeare himself.
After an independent lunch, there will be free time in Stratford, after which there will be free time to visit the various historic Shakespeare properties in the town (ticket included). Later in the afternoon, we will drive to Anne Hathaway`s Cottage (below, right), the home of Shakespeare`s wife, for a guided tour.
After leaving Stratford, we drive to luxurious, historic Coombe Abbey (www.coombeabbey.com), where we will stay for two nights.
Originally a twelfth-century Cistercian Abbey nestling in England's historic heartland in Warwickshire, Coombe Abbey has also been a moated Tudor prodigy house and a Gothick fantasy. It has now been restored to its former glory, and is set in glorious gardens within 500 acres of breathtaking parkland.
At Coombe Abbey, guests will be accommodated in individually styled feature rooms.
In the evening, there will be an included group dinner at the hotel, after which Alison Weir, Siobhan Clarke and Sarah Gristwood will host a debate: The Tudors in Film and Fiction.
Overnight: Coombe Abbey.
WEDNESDAY, 15th June
After breakfast, we visit Sudeley Castle (www.sudeleycastle.co.uk) in Gloucestershire. On the journey, Alison Weir will speak about The Lady Elizabeth: Elizabeth I`s Perilous Path to the Throne.
Sudeley Castle was the home of Katherine Parr, who died there in 1548, and whose tomb may be seen in the chapel. Henry VIII stayed here with Anne Boleyn in 1535.
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is steeped in history. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, it has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England's past. Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth I and Richard III have all played a part in Sudeley’s story.
On arrival, you will join an exclusive Connoisseur Tour of the castle, where you will see masterpieces by Rubens, Van Dyck and Claude Lorraine, as well as Tudor portraits and treasures, and relics of Katherine Parr.
There will also be time to see the fascinating exhibitions exploring the castle`s history, the award-winning gardens, the soaring medieval ruins, and St Mary’s Church, where Katherine Parr lies buried (below).
There will be time for an independent lunch in the Coffee Shop in the Banqueting Hall of the castle, which offers a wide selection of refreshments.
After lunch, we drive to Baddesley Clinton (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-baddesleyclinton).
On the coach, Alison Weir will speak about The Virgin Queen.
Baddesley Clinton is a medieval moated manor house with hidden secrets. Here, you will see priest holes that bear witness to the religious conflicts of the Tudor age. The house is much as its Elizabethan owner left it, and is set in pretty gardens and meadows.
We then drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, where there will be free time for an independent dinner before we gather for a private, candle-lit, guided tour of Shakespeare's Birthplace (below).
Overnight: Coombe Abbey
THURSDAY, 16th June
After breakfast, we driveinto Northamptonshire for a visit to Kirby Hall (www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kirby-hall). On the way, Alison Weir will talk about Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley.
On arrival at Kirby Hall, we will again be joined by Dr Tracy Borman, who will give us an introduction to the Hall and a brief talk on its former owner, Sir Christopher Hatton, the `Dancing Chancellor`, and the world of the Elizabethan court.
Kirby Hall is one of England’s greatest Elizabethan and 17th century houses, and was the home of Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. Although this vast mansion is partly roofless, the walls show the exceptionally rich decoration that shows how successive owners were always in the forefront of new ideas about architecture and design. The Great Hall and state rooms remain intact, refitted and redecorated to authentic 17th and 18th century specifications. There will be time to wander around the recently restored great gardens with their elaborate ‘cutwork’ design complete with statues and urns.
We then leave Kirby Hall for Hatfield House (www.hatfield-house.co.uk), for an independent lunch and guided tour.
On the coach, Sarah Gristwood will speak about Elizabeth and Leicester.
Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is a fine Jacobean mansion in a spectacular countryside setting. Built by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I from 1607 to 1611, it boasts a marvellous collection of pictures, furnishings and historic armour. The Estate has been owned by the Cecils, one of England’s foremost political families, for 400 years. In the Park, an oak tree marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth first heard of her accession to the throne in 1558. The Garden at Hatfield House dates from the early 17th century when Robert Cecil employed John Tradescant the Elder to collect plants for his new home. The West garden includes a scented garden, herb garden and knot garden. Those who appreciate modern art will be interested to know that, in 2011, there will be an exhibition of sculptures by Henry Moore in the gardens at Hatfield. Your ticket will include admission to this exhibition.
Visitors will also see the Royal Palace of Hatfield (built c. 1485) in the West Garden (below). Here, Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood.
As we return to London, Alison Weir will preview her forthcoming biography, The Great and Infamous Whore: The Truth about Mary Boleyn.
Dinner is independent tonight.
Overnight: London Hotel
FRIDAY, 17th June
After breakfast, we drive to Hampton Court Palace (www.hrp.org.uk), where we will spend the day.
On the coach Alison Weir will speak about Henry VIII: King and Court
Hampton Court is one of the finest palaces in the world. Over 500 years of history can be explored through this magnificent complex of state apartments, whose previous owners include Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. One of the most impressive sights is the Great Hall, England`s last and greatest medieval royal hall, decorated with priceless tapestries. Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal boasts a superb blue and gold ceiling. Hampton Court Palace also contains many important paintings and portraits from the Royal Collection. The palace is surrounded by sixty acres of glorious formal gardens.
In the gardens, where you will find the world`s most famous maze, where whispers of the past haunt every step, and William III`s Privy garden (below, left), now restored to its 1702 glory.
In the morning, Alison Weir will guide us around the Tudor kitchens, then Siobhan Clarke will lead a tour of the beautiful gardens, the Great Vine and the Royal Tennis Court. This will be followed by free time for an independent lunch, for which there are many options locally, and perhaps a horse-drawn carriage ride around the palace gardens.
After lunch, Siobhan, wearing authentic Tudor costume, will guide the group around Henry VIII`s state apartments. This will be followed by more free time to enable guests to explore other parts of the palace.
On the drive back to the hotel, Alison Weir will speak about Katherine of Aragon.
In the evening, there will be an included farewell dinner at Shakespeare`s Globe Theatre in London, followed by a light-hearted quiz, with prizes – and surprises!
Overnight: London Hotel.
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