She settled into a seat on the train at Clapham Junction and sighed with contentment – blue cloudless sky, the morning to herself and a trip to Hampton Court. Glancing round the carriage, Emma saw a group of German ladies kitted out in a variety of comfy shoes. Listening to their animated chatter, she assumed they too were looking forward to some quality time with the Tudors. ‘Glad to see the Hamburg branch of the Tudor Appreciation Society is going well – #henry8rocks!’ She thought to herself, laughing.
Stepping down from the train she left the little station and was half way across the bridge before she heard excited voices behind her, presumably her German friends had just caught their first glimpse of the famous chimneys.
Walking straight up to the main entrance and turning left she trotted up the large staircase and entered the Great Hall. Quickening her pace she made her way past a group staring up at the ceiling and listening to a talk about the eavesdroppers, turning left, then right she hurried past the antlers and the man with the enormous trousers.
She loved the long gallery – it was reputed to be haunted. Two people with their audio-guides were almost at the end of the corridor so she stayed at the corner until they had moved on, then she could have the place to herself. She found herself looking at one of her favourite portraits – it was a little boy with such a cheeky face, painted to look like he was grinning at you through the window.
‘Small boys never change do they?’ she said to herself. ‘Bet he was a right little imp!’
‘I see you are observing my monstrous younger brother Madam’ said an elegant voice beside her.
She jumped slightly as she looked up and saw one of the historical reenactors standing next to her, dressed in a doublet and a fine pair of hose. She smiled politely, then looked back down, hoping he might move on. It was a bit embarrassing; she’d normally only seen them addressing children and groups of tourists, it was strange to be spoken to on her own. Good job no one was around or they’d have soon had an audience.
‘He works in the kitchens but requires regular beatings to remind him to stay and work in the kitchens. Always lurking where he should not be, the imp!’
‘That was just what I was thinking,’ she grinned. ‘Um … I mean … Ay verily gadzooks Sir!’ She ventured. When he didn’t answer, Emma looked up at him for the first time. She encountered a handsome young face with cheek-bones so sharp you could cut yourself. He was looking at her strangely; then he relaxed and laughed, gazing at her with ice blue eyes; and she found she didn’t want to look away any more.
Glancing over his shoulder along the gallery he sighed. ‘Madam, it is with the greatest of regret that I must take my leave of you.’ Then clasping her hand, he raised it to his lips; quirked an eyebrow at her and then smiled, bowing his exit.
‘Hmm…not bad,’ she thought. ‘I’ve certainly had worse days. Must congratulate whoever hired him!’ Strolling along the gallery she admired the portraits of the royal family. t
‘Better get move on’ she thought to herself. ‘I’ll need to get to the coffee shop downstairs before it gets to packed out, then I have plenty of time to wander round the kitchens.’
She walked round to the left for a quick look down into the Chapel Royal and it was on her way back past the cordon that she glanced up at the large portrait of “Federico – Ruler of Urbino attending a lecture with his son”.
‘Got to love an Italian…’ she thought to herself. Then she stood still, rigid with shock. For there on the painting behind the Duke and his son were a row of courtiers. And at the far right, looking as though he was trying to stifle a yawn; was a young man with blue eyes – and cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself…