During the fifteenth century, London’s merchants and elites supported the Yorkists in the infamous Wars of the Roses. So, in 1485, it was somewhat ‘cap in hand’ they greeted the victor of the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Lancastrian Henry Tudor – soon to become King Henry VII. Henry settled in Greenwich and embellished an existing manor house to create the Palace of Placentia – the future place of birth of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
The palace has gone, but on its site Christopher Wren designed the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich opening in 1694 to house injured and aged sailors. The hospital remained for nearly two hundred years, until becoming the Royal Naval College in 1873 and then from 1998 Greenwich University. You may recognise its buildings from many films, most notably Les Misérables in 2012. Highlights include Thornhill’s Baroque Painted Hall (that hosted the lying-in-state of Lord Nelson in 1806) and the National Maritime Museum – an exposition of Britain’s seafaring past.
Greenwich is steeped in history. On the hill overlooking the Thames is the Royal Observatory, sponsored by King Charles II and the Meridian Line – the Prime Meridian of the world designated to be zero longitude. The Queens House (completed in 1636) is the first truly classical building in England. With its uninterrupted views of the river, Inigo Jones worked on the project for over twenty years, first for James I and then his son Charles I – each gifting the house to their queens.
Near Greenwich Market (an eclectic open-air market) the record-breaking 1869 tea clipper Cutty Sark can be visited in dry dock. Famed for its speed that enabled traders to secure top prices in London for the first crop of tea from China, or wool from Australia, it was the state-of-the art engineering that enjoyed a glittering career, before its sleek lines were made redundant by the opening of the Suez Canal and the arrival of steam-powered ships.