Finding Henry Tudor – Reformation Hero or Villain?

Henry VIII was not born to be King yet he acceded to the throne before his 18th birthday. Married six times: four times for love, once for affection and once for duty, he had three legitimate children. A Renaissance Prince when young, his divorces and subsequent order to send two of his wives to the executioner’s block made him the most notorious King England has ever witnessed.

History sees Henry as a tyrant and a bully but Henry was also a builder, philosopher, musician, accomplished linguist, Defender of the Faith and international sports superstar of his age. Journey with us to find Henry on our Grand Progress of Southern England as we visit his palaces, castles and inns, sampling the life in Tudor times on the way.

Care has been taken whilst constructing the tour so that the journey times between towns and attractions should be within an hour and a half.

All the hotels are specially chosen for their historic importance and character. They are mostly old Coaching Inns that have retained their historic character with low oak beams, uneven floors and some still have their big fireplaces. Most have significant feature rooms such as four poster beds which can be booked as an option. All rooms have en-suite facilities.

Costs include transport during the tour, entrance fees to heritage sites, attractions and activities. Bed and breakfast at the hotels and all evening meals are also included with the last night at a sumptuous Tudor banquet held at a venue in London.

Please note that centuries old castles and houses were not built with the disabled in mind. Some have many steps and restricted access points. Some of the places at which we stay do not have lifts. Any one with mobility issues should therefore be aware of these considerations when booking a tour. We can provide an honest assessment of all of the places we visit and hotels we use.

Day One

To begin the tour we visit the Tower of London which is nearly 1,000 years old and steeped in the nation’s history, scene of some of the bloodiest events during the Tudor period. Used by the Crown as a residence, fortress and prison, it is the execution site of two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Lady Jane Grey, usurper Queen for only 9 days was also held here before execution. Sir Walter Raleigh, Elizabeth’s Chief Privateer was also executed in the Tower.

A magnificent exhibition of Henry VIII’s suit of armour and horse armour are on display in the Tower, a breathtaking sight.

See the 23,578 gems that make up the Crown Jewels, one of the World’s premier tourist attractions. There are dozens of amazing sights and activities at the Tower of London. The Yeoman of the Guard (Beefeaters) were instigated by Henry’s father and they still wear the same Tudor uniform.

We travel to south-east London to explore Eltham Palace, the boyhood home of Henry VIII, and then return to our London hotel for a walk along the Thames to the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare’s theatre, rebuilt by American Actor Sam Wannamaker using traditional construction methods, close to the site of the original theatre. The season opens on Shakespeare’s birthday 23 April and runs until the end of September. There will be seasonal productions and there is no guarantee any particular play will be performed. It is a sheer delight to see one of Shakespeare’s plays performed in the setting for which it was written.


Day Two


We travel to Dover on the South coast where the tour will visit Dover Castle.

Dover Castle

Dover castle, set on the famous white cliffs, is one of the premier castles for the defence of the Realm and dates back to Roman times. Henry VIII stayed here regularly when supervising the construction of the coastal defences or when he was travelling to and from France. Here you will have some free time to also explore the other unique features of the castle which was used by military right up until the 1960’s. Imagine life as a medieval soldier under siege as you explore the atmospheric medieval underground tunnels, see one of Europe’s best-preserved Roman lighthouses and walk the extensive battlements. There is also a WWII underground hospital and tunnel complex where the Dunkerque evacuation of 330,000 British and French troops from Occupied France in 1940 was planned and carried out.

After Dover castle we travel to a picturesque village to stay in an old Coaching Inn built in 1602 situated in Kent . This Inn has a four poster feature bedroom that can be booked as an extra.

then onto Greenwich where we change to a River boat. The River Thames was the major Royal thoroughfare in Tudor times. See Traitor’s Gate from the river as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard would have done on their way to their cells in the Tower.


Day Three

We travel to visit Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, perhaps the most infamous woman in English history. It was she who changed the course of history, causing the split with the Roman Catholic Church by refusing to be the mistress of Henry VIII, only his wife.

From 1900 to 1960: Hever Castle was owned by the Astor family and is now owned by a Trust dedicated to preserving the historic castle and grounds. Jousting tournaments take place on most weekends during the summer.

We visit Penshurst Place which is close to Hever. Penshurst is also important in the Tudor story, it was part of the divorce settlement for Anne of Cleves. Many period flims have been made here and there are currently some costumes from The Other Boleyn Girl on Display.

Day Four

We journey to the picturesque County town of Lewes in East Sussex where we visit Anne of Cleves House, also a divorce settlement for Henry VIII’s fourth Wife in 1541. Set in the narrow roads of the County Town, the house also has charm and character of the period. Hands on History will give an exciting and interactive presentation of what it was like in Tudor times, with authentic weapons, armour, clothing and food preperation.

Anne of Cleves House is a 15th century timber-framed Wealden hall-house that formed part of Anne’s divorce settlement from Henry VIII in 1541. The house contains wide-ranging collections of Sussex interest, including Sussex pottery, and the bedroom and kitchen are furnished to reflect an earlier period. There is also a stone table with a strange tale to tell said to be used by the three knights who murdered Thomas a Becket in 1170.

There will be time to stroll around this historic county town with its own brewery, Crown Court (where you may be able to sit in the public gallery) and some wonderful old bookshops. Lewes has a monument to the 17 Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake during Queen Mary’s reign after Henry VIII’s death.

We stay in a delightful hotel right in the middle of Lewes.

Day Five

We travel to Portsmouth, Hampshire. the Home of the Royal Navy. Henry VIII is regarded as the father of the Royal Navy, building 100 ships during his reign.

Southsea Castle is the exact place where Henry stood as the Mary Rose foundered in the Solent. Stand in his footsteps and think of the scene that greeted his horrified eyes.

Included in the Tour is a visit to the Spinnaker Tower, an observation platform built in 2005 which is 170m (530ft) high. You can see for miles around the Solent, Portsmouth harbour and the surrounding countryside. You can see and learn more about the entire defence fortifications of the City and port built by Henry VIII.

Spinnaker Tower, Hampshire – A different view every day

The Spinnaker Tower is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben and has already established itself as a national icon for Britain.

View Deck 1 boasts Europe’s largest glass floor, where visitors of all ages can dare to ‘walk on air’! View Deck 2 has self-contained multimedia ‘Time Telescope’ stations showing the history of the harbour and View Deck 3 – The Crow’s Nest – is open to the elements, enabling visitors to feel the wind in their hair.

We enter the historic part of the Royal Navy Dockyard. Henry VIII’s Flagship built 1509 that sunk in the Solent in 1545 with the loss of about 800 lives. Raised in 1982 it rests inside a specially built environment to preserve it.

The museum holds more treasures taken from the ship from cannons right down to small personal objects such as lice combs. You can even handle original artifacts from the ship.

There will be time to visit HMS Victory, Nelson’s Flagship at the battle of Trafalgar. Also available in the Dockyard is HMS Warrior the First Iron Clad part steam ship and sail built in 1860. This ship was state of the art and technology at the time but was made obsolete three years later by the USS Monitor during the American Civil War. After we come back down to earth from the Spinnaker Tower we will retreat to the famous Still & West pub where you can watch the harbour life and partake of traditional English fare.

We stay the night in an elegant hotel in Portsmouth.

Day Six

We travel to Windsor to see the largest and oldest occupied castle in Europe and still home to the present Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. We should arrive in time to see the Changing of the Guard which happens every day except Sunday during the summer at 11am sharp.

St Georges chapel Windsor is the last resting place of 10 royal Sovereigns including Henry VIII and his favourite wife Jane Seymour. If you like you can go to evensong at the Chapel at 5.15 every evening.

We stay in a superb hotel on the river Thames very near to the castle; the hotel has featured bedrooms that can be booked as an option. There will be plenty of time to stroll around the Historic part of Windsor or take the long walk in Windsor Great Park.

Day Seven

We travel to Hampton Court palace, arguably one of the most famous palaces in the world. Henry confiscated the Palace from Cardinal Wolsey in 1529 when the Cardinal failed to get the divorce Henry wanted from his first wife Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. There are actors in costumes around the Palace and, who knows, you may even meet the King or one of his wives.

The Palace is vast and has been added to over the centuries. Many notable features include the maze, gardens, a Tudor real tennis court and the Chapel Royal used for Prayer for over 450 years. At 400 years the oldest known grapevine in the world is situated here, and still producing grapes every year.

For our last night of the tour we stay at an opulent Victorian boutique hotel in Central London. One of the beds was once owned by Judy Garland. It has themed and feature rooms including a Tudor room with a minstrel gallery. For the last night tour meal we go to a splendid location near to the Tower of London for a sumptuous Tudor banquet complete with entertainment. You can even hire costumes for the occasion.

Day 8

The tour finishes after breakfast and transport is arranged from the hotel to a London mainline railway station.

Special itinerary

Extra days can be added to the tour if you want to see some of the other Tudor sites either taken from our other tours portfolio or other Tudor sites. Extended itineraries can be arranged to suit your particular requirements or any special interests. Closed Alumni groups can be catered for. Please contact us for further information regarding special itineraries.


This tour is operated by Tudor History Tours sold by Special Group Tours with permission


BOOKING CONTACT: Special Group Tours


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