With so many special events celebrating the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, there has never been a better time to visit one of Historic Royal Palaces’ unique attractions. There are great family days out—visit the Tower of London to be dazzled by Henry VIII’s original personal armour; join in the celebrations at Hampton Court Palace as Henry VIII marries his sixth wife, Kateryn Parr; or visit lovely Kew Palace, where your wallet can take a rest as kids go free this season.
    
‘Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill’
Tower of London
Until January 17, 2010
A major exhibition in partnership with the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London. This new exhibition, displayed across all three floors of the iconic White Tower, brings together at the Tower of London, for the first time since the reign of Elizabeth I, the largest number of objects and items known to have belonged to Henry VIII. Read a review of the exhibition
            
‘Henry VIII: Heads and hearts
Hampton Court Palace
2009 is a fantastic year to visit Hampton Court Palace, as Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence has been majestically transformed to mark his 500th anniversary, with new displays and presentations bringing the story of the King and his court to life. The Tudor palace and Henry VIII’s State Apartments have been lavishly re-presented, featuring magnificent new furnishings, important historic exhibits, and the King’s own Council Chamber is open to the public for the very first time.

Also at Hampton Court Palace, there is a live interpretation of the wedding party for Henry VIII’s marriage to his sixth wife Kateryn Parr. Every day, live historical interpreters, resplendent in Tudor costume, will re-create the wedding celebrations, with Tudor costumes also available for those who wish to fully immerse themselves in court life.
        
‘Henry’s Women
Hampton Court Palace     
Until August 3
A temporary exhibition about Henry VIII’s wives and his dynastic quest. Little-known 16th-century portraits of each of the wives, Henry VIII, and his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, are brought together, along with other items from a lock of Kateryn Parr’s hair, to the music book written for Anne Boleyn by one of her alleged lovers. The exhibition will be hosted in King Henry VIII’s Council Chamber, which will be open for the first time to the public.
    
‘The last debutantes 1958: season of change’
Kensington Palace
Daily until January 2010    
Discover the glamorous and alluring world of the debutante at Kensington Palace. See beautiful gowns, learn about what it meant to be a ‘deb’ and explore the spirit of a world in transition in this exciting new multimedia exhibition. To read a review of this exhibition, click here

‘Diana: fashion and style‘  
Kensington Palace    
A collection of exquisite dresses that once belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales, charting the development of her style and including seven dresses never displayed before at Kensington Palace.

Kew Palace        
A cosy royal retreat nestled in the heart of Kew Gardens, Kew Palace provides a day out for the whole family. Meet an ailing king, a lonely queen and experience authentically recreated Georgian rooms while enjoying a day of discovery at the quaint family home of King George III and his family. Children under 16, when accompanied by an adult, get in for free to Kew Palace and Kew Gardens (until September 26, 2009).  
            
Hampton Court Palace Festival
June 2–13
Now in its 17th year, the Hampton Court Palace Festival has grown into one of the UK’s most exciting music events. In a setting like no other, the newly presented Base Court plays host to an eclectic mix of concerts over 10 nights, featuring some of the biggest names from the world of music, such as Jose Carreras, Jools Holland, Beverley Knight, Lemar and James Morrison.
   
Henry VIII’s Coronation weekend
Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace
June 20–21
The spectacular highlight event of the anniversary celebrations. On June 20, a Tudor river pageant with a flotilla of traditional skiffs on the River Thames will mark the 500th anniversary weekend of Henry’s coronation. King Henry VIII and his Queen will depart the Tower of London accompanied by about 40 traditional oared craft destined for a party at Hampton Court Palace. Henry’s loyal subjects are invited to line the banks of the River Thames between central London through Richmond and down to Hampton Court, cheering the King and his entourage as they pass by on their journey.

Meanwhile, at the palace, preparations will be underway in anticipation of the arrival of the royal couple, who will be greeted by music, dancing, performances from the King’s fools and a picnic in the palace’s Privy Garden. The palace will remain open until 10pm on this special day, so get ready to party like its 1509!

The festivities continue at Hampton Court Palace on June 21, with river games and other court activities throughout the day. By late afternoon, the King and Queen’s flotilla will take leave of Henry’s famous palace to sail back upriver, marking the end of the historic weekend’s celebrations.
            
Tudor cookery
Hampton Court Palace
June 20–21, July 25–26, August 29–31
Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court Palace are the largest surviving Renaissance kitchens in Europe. Throughout the year, the kitchens are brought to life when the Tudor cooks experiment with traditional recipes, ingredients and cooking methods to prepare feasts fit for a king. The Tudor cooks will be working in the Great Kitchens on selected weekends to prepare the most magnificent food imaginable for King Henry’s court.

Henry VIII: music and monarchy
Tower of London    
June 23
A unique concert by the Choir of the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, exploring secular and sacred music of the reign of Henry VIII. The concert programme features some of the most iconic and innovative music of the Henrician period, including the ‘Western Wind Mass’ by Taverner, the
Coronation anthem ‘Te Deum’ by Shepherd, and ‘O Maria salvatoris Mater’ by Browne. Prior to the concert, ticket holders will also enjoy a private view with curator of the Tower’s new exhibition ‘Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill’. Tickets are £25.

How did you keep your head at Henry VIII’s court?
Hampton Court Palace
June 27
The second of the seven Henry VIII Talks being held this year in Henry’s Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace is chaired by Derek Wilson and features historians Jessie Childs, Steven Gunn, David Loades and Glenn Richardson as they discuss the world of the court and how one survived Henry VIII’s wrath. Tickets are £22.

Tudor Prisoners
Tower of London                
July 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
Take part in a fun game. Will you make it alive out of the reign of Henry VIII or will you, like so many of his friends, lose your head at the Tower? We bring to life some of the actual stories of our famous prisoners. Pick up tips on what not to do!

Rock around the Palace
Kensington Palace    
July 4
1950s dance festival, inspired by our exhibition ‘The last debutantes: 1958. Season of change’. Beginner-level dance classes in a variety of ballroom and rock and roll styles, plus professional dance demonstrations. All classes are for beginners, free and no pre-booking is needed.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Hampton Court Palace    
July 7–12    
Gardening’s best gets down to earth at this year’s show, so be ready to make the most of your garden. There’ll be ideas on how you can grow your own, enjoy healthy outdoor living and much, much more. Garden designers are invited to design a garden representing one of the six wives, all of whom will inspire very different garden designs.

Henry VIII: famous for 500 years
Hampton Court Palace    
July 14
The third of the seven Henry VIII Talks being held this year in Henry’s Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace is chaired by Eamon Duffy and features Dr David Starkey. Together they consider how the world’s most famous king has maintained his reputation for half a millennia. Tickets are £22.

Sport for kings (falconry, fencing and archery)
Hampton Court Palace    
July 25–26
As majestic falcons swoop overhead and gallant gentlemen take up their swords to show their skills, join King Henry VIII and his court at play. There is money to be won betting on the outrageous games of chance and skill which the Tudors loved. Pick up a tip or two on how to really impress your sweetheart. A great chance to get involved in the very sports that Henry VIII himself was passionate about.

Masters of the Sword
Tower of London      
August 1–31
Knights in shining armour bring a mixture of chivalry and bloodthirsty combat to the Tower. The year is 1467 and King Edward IV is trying to bring peace between rival factions in the wars of the roses. Will this work or will bloodshed follow? Cheer on your rival knights and their squires and ladies.

John Heywood’s The Play of the Weather
Hampton Court Palace
August 6 and 8
The Play of the Weather is an exemplary court drama from the reign of Henry VIII that will be performed in Hampton Court’s Great Hall. Although records don’t tell us where or when the play was performed, it was clearly written to be staged at court with the play commenting on Henry’s divorce and his infatuation with Anne Boleyn. In this satirical drama, Heywood makes fun of everyone, courtiers and lords, gentlewomen and laundresses, millers and merchants, depicting the entire Henrician court in a less-than-flattering light.

Beer and Jazz Festival
Hampton Court Palace
August 27–31
Music flows from 12.30pm until 10pm on the lazy lawns of Henry’s Tudor Palace, with established names including Courtney Pine, the James Taylor Quartet and Snake Davis alongside rising stars such as Jarmean and the sweet Bossa Nova tones of Jandira Silva. Traditional jazz, funk, Latin and
blues will be washed down with the latest summer brews, bottled beers and pub favourites. A new Hampton Court Palace beer will also debut at the Festival.

Tudor tournament
Hampton Court Palace    
August 29–31
For the first time in modern history, Hampton Court Palace plays host to a recreation of a Tudor jousting tournament. Gasp and cheer as knights in armour thunder onto the field on their magnificent chargers. England’s finest jousters compete to impress King Henry VIII and his bride, Queen Kateryn Parr. with a display of skill, strength and bravery. And who is the mysterious knight come to win all the prizes? Not to be missed.

Sunday evening tours
Kew Palace        
These exclusive tours offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience the magic of Kew Palace after hours. Explore the story of this royal palace, the setting for many personal family dramas and King George III’s sanctuary during his bouts of illness. A palace expert will also take visitors into Kew Palace’s fascinating attics, where the Royal Family’s servants lived amongst labyrinths of rafters. Not usually accessible to the general public, visitors will be able to see recently discovered, early-17th-century paint decorations and witches’ marks. Tickets cost £22 and include wine and nibbles. Tours start at 5pm and last approximately 90 minutes. Advance booking is essential.