Nonsuch palace, Surrey

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In 1538 Henry VIII bought the manor and estate of Cuddington and commenced construction of a showplace, demolishing both manor house and village. Basically a Gothic building with heavy Classical ornamentation, the square Inner Court was raised over the former parish church's burial yard, with the Outer Court sited on its northern side; walls, towers, a separate banqueting house, gardens, deerpark, and sumptuous decoration throughout entailed huge expenditure. Mary Tudor, having no use for it, contemplated demolition, but sold it in 1556 to the earl of Arundel, who completed the gardens and began to build up the library. The property passed to his son-in-law, John, Lord Lumley, but he surrendered it to the Crown in 1592 in settlement of a long-standing debt; Elizabeth so loved Nonsuch (cf. non pareil, without equal) that this was its ‘golden age’.

In 1603 palace and park were granted by James I to his wife, Anne of Denmark, and similarly bestowed by Charles I upon Henrietta Maria (1625), to whom it was restored in 1660 after the Restoration. Following her death (1669) Charles II granted it to his mistress, the duchess of Cleveland, but demolition was commenced in 1682. Full-scale excavations in the early 1960s finally confirmed the site of the palace, and revealed fragments of the lavish decoration.

Subjects: British History.

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