As I wander through the empty King’s State Apartments in Hampton Court Palace, my eyes glaze over. I am no longer myself – perhaps I am a queen, a gentlewoman or a servant. I make my way from drawing room to dressing room, opening the shutters and lifting the blinds.
The view of the beautiful gardens and deer park beyond make my daydream all the more real and I stand there staring, transfixed, until I’m brought back to my senses by a conservator who asks which angles the photographer would like to use for an image of Queen Charlotte’s bed.
Working as a PR intern for six months with Historic Royal Palaces truly was the best experience of my life so far. Fresh out of university, I trailed job sites and dreamed of working in a museum or a place where I could pursue my love of history.
I came across the job advert quite by accident. I applied trying (and failing) not to get my hopes up. But…they must have liked me. I had my interview at the Tower of London (of all places!). I can safely say that was an incredibly surreal experience – I even popped in to see the Crown Jewels on my way out. You know, as you do.
Somehow, I got the job and thank goodness! I would have been heartbroken otherwise. During my time with the charity, I had some truly amazing experiences. For example, walking through the Tower of London gates every morning! Waving hello to the Yeoman Warders as I walked past the ravens…just on my way to work. It strikes me as being very strange now when I look back on it!
Not only have I worked with so many lovely people, but I have also seen some amazing things. I’ve stood inches away from George III’s terribly sad, drool-covered waistcoat at Kew Palace, gone behind a secret door at Kensington Palace to peer at Queen Victoria’s baby shoes and even helped Lucy Worsley film countless episodes of the Fit to Rule series! Believe it or not, I have even sung Christmas carols in the chapel at the Tower and warmed my freezing hands in front of the great fire in the Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court.
I was there when Dr Who fans swamped the Tower as they filmed their anniversary special, I’ve met Nicholas Hoult and Ewan McGregor at Hampton Court for the press junket of Jack the Giant Slayer, and I’ve even had the joy of meeting some famous actors when I assisted with two major feature films.
However, the highlight of my whole experience has got to be simply standing in a room, in any of the palaces, completely alone and lost in my own imagination. I’ve run my fingers along the walls in the Beauchamp Tower and read the inscriptions carved into the walls by prisoners and the condemned Lady Jane Grey.
I’ve stood in the room where Jane Seymour gave birth to Henry VIII’s only male heir, Edward VI, and I’ve seen the room where Victoria addressed the Privy Council for the first time as Queen. These were real people and I’ve walked in their footsteps. Perhaps in a few hundred years, when we’re dead and buried, someone will stand in an empty room, and walk in ours.
All images courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces