Palace of Placentia

Palace of Placentia

A sketch of Greenwich Palace in England, published in the Gentlemen's Magazine in 1840. earlier published by W Bristow in 1797.

The Palace of Placentia was an English Royal Palace built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1443,[1][2] in Greenwich, on the banks of the River Thames, downstream from London. It was demolished by Charles II in 1660, to make way for a new palace; nearly forty years later, the Greenwich Hospital (now The Old Royal Naval College) was built on the spot, instead.


  • History 1
  • Modern era 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


Humphrey was regent during the rule of Henry VI, and built the palace, in 1433,[2] under the name Bella Court.[3] In 1447, Humphrey fell out of favour with the new queen, Margaret of Anjou, and was arrested for high treason. He died in prison – Shakespeare says he was murdered – and Margaret took over Bella Court, renaming it the Palace of Placentia, sometimes written as the Palace of Pleasaunce.[3]

Historic marker on the site of the former palace.

Henry VII rebuilt the palace, with a design based around three large courtyards, between 1498 and 1504.[3]

The Palace remained the principal royal palace for the next two centuries. It was the birthplace of King Henry VIII in 1491, and figured heavily in his life.[4] Following his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Placentia was the birthplace of Mary I in February 1516.[5] After his marriage to Anne Boleyn, his daughter, later Queen Elizabeth I, was born at Placentia in 1533,[6] and he married Anne of Cleves there in 1540. A tree in Greenwich Park is known as Queen Elizabeth's Oak, in which she is reputed to have played as a child.[7]

Both Mary and Elizabeth lived at Placentia for some years during the sixteenth century, but during the reigns of James I and Charles I, the Queen's House was erected to the south of the Palace.[8] Placentia fell into disrepair during the English Civil War, serving time as a biscuit factory and a prisoner-of-war camp.[8][9] In 1660, Charles II decided to rebuild the Palace, engaging John Webb as the architect for a new King's House.[10] The only section of the Palace to be completed was the east range of the present King Charles Court, but this was never occupied as a royal residence.[10] Most of the rest of the palace was demolished, and the site remained empty until construction of the Greenwich Hospital began in 1694.[10]

Modern era

The Greenwich Hospital complex became the Greenwich Royal Naval College in 1873, when the naval college was moved from Portsmouth.[11] The buildings are today occupied by the University of Greenwich and the Music Faculty of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.[9][12]

Construction work for drains in late 2005 identified previously unknown Tudor remains. A full archaeological excavation completed in January 2006 found the Tudor Chapel and Vestry with its tiled floor in situ.[13] The Vestry of the old Palace was not demolished and later became the home of the Treasurer of Greenwich Hospital.[14]


  1. ^ John Bold. Greenwich: An Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen's House. Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with English Heritage. p. 7.  
  2. ^ a b John Richardson (2000). The Annals of London: A Year-by-year Record of a Thousand Years of History. University of California Press. p. 64.  
  3. ^ a b c Alison Weir (September 2008). Henry VIII: King and Court. Vintage. p. 10.  
  4. ^ James Panton (24 February 2011). Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy. Scarecrow Press. p. 247.  
  5. ^ James Panton (24 February 2011). Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy. Scarecrow Press. p. 326.  
  6. ^ James Panton (24 February 2011). Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy. Scarecrow Press. p. 178.  
  7. ^ Time Out Guides Ltd (7 February 2012). 1000 things to do in London for under £10. Ebury Publishing. p. 215.  
  8. ^ a b Michelin; Michelin Travel &. Lifestyle (1 March 2012). London Green Guide Michelin 2012-2013. MICHELIN. p. 410.  
  9. ^ a b Lewis Foreman; Susan Foreman (2005). London: A Musical Gazetteer. Yale University Press. p. 178.  
  10. ^ a b c Trudy Ring; Noelle Watson; Paul Schellinger (28 October 2013). Northern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Routledge. pp. 432–434.  
  11. ^ Mike Osborne (30 November 2011). Defending London: A Military History from Conquest to Cold War. History Press Limited. p. 158.  
  12. ^ The Guardian (1 July 2010). The Guardian University 2011. Random House. p. 378.  
  13. ^ Ravilious, Kate (2006-02-09). "Henry VIII's Lost Chapel Discovered Under Parking Lot". National Geographic. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  14. ^ "Major Archaeological Discovery at Greenwich: Henry VII’s Chapel & Vestry". Old Royal Naval College Greenwich. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 

Further reading

  • Charles Jennings, Greenwich: The Place Where Days Begin and End, London: Abacus, 2001. ISBN 0-349-11230-4.

External links

  • BBC London 'Inside Out' feature on Tudor chapel
  • A Short History of the Old Royal Naval College - Greenwich Palace