Royal Greenwich

Members of the Royal family have been drawn to Greenwich as far back as the late middle ages, with the area being the site of numerous royal births, marriages and deaths.

Some of the most important kings and queens were have very close connections to Greenwich. 


Henry V, who created the manor, later granted to his half-brother Duke Humphrey of Gloucester. In about 1433 Humphrey enclosed what is now Greenwich Park, the oldest of all the Royal Parks. He also began what became the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich, which was fully developed under Henry VI.


Henry VII replaced the Palace of Placentia with the Tudor Palace of Greenwich, c. 1500-07.

Henry VIII was born at Placentia in 1491. Greenwich was his principal London seat from 1509 until Whitehall Palace was built in the 1530s. He married his first and fourth queens at Greenwich Palace (Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves) and his son Edward VI died at Greenwich.

Mary I was born in Greenwich in 1516.  and was the first surviving child of Henry and Catherine. When Catherine and Henry divorced in 1533, Mary was considered illegitimate. 

Mary's half sister, Elizabeth I was also born in Greenwich. Greenwich was where Elizabeth's Council planned the Armada campaign in 1588. Both sisters spent much of their youth in Greenwich. Visitors can still visit ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Oak’ a tree which Elizabeth reportedly played in.

Find out more about Elizabeth I

Find out more about the Tudors in Greenwich


James I carried out the final remodelling, granting the manor to his wife Queen Anne of Denmark. In 1616 she commissioned the surviving Queen's House from Inigo Jones as the Palace's last addition.

Charles I, who kept important parts of his art collection at Greenwich, granted the manor to his wife Queen Henrietta Maria. Inigo Jones completed the Queen's House for Henrietta Maria in about 1638.

Charles II, who began a new palace in 1664 (design by Denham and Webb, now incorporated as part of the Old Royal Naval College), redesigned and replanted the Park, and in 1675-76 founded and built the Royal Observatory (designed by Wren). the Royal Observatory is  Britain's oldest purpose-built scientific structure. 

James II, (as Duke of York and Lord Admiral to 1673) was often at Greenwich with his brother Charles. According to Samuel Pepys it was James who proposed of the idea of creating a Royal Naval Hospital. This was then established at Greenwich by his daughter, Mary II. 

Mary II, commissioned Wren to design the Royal Hospital for Seamen, now the Old Royal Naval College, in 1692-3. The work began in 1696 under her widower husband William III, who supported it in her memory.

Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark continued to patronise the project (of which George was Grand Committee chairman from the 1690s to his death in 1708).


George I landed at Greenwich from Hanover on his accession in 1714.

George II in 1735 granted the Hospital the forfeited Jacobite Earl of Derwentwater's estates (c. 80,000 acres mainly in Northumberland) allowing completion of the Hospital by 1751.

In 1805-06 George III granted the Queen's House to the Royal Naval Asylum, an orphanage school under Royal patronage. In 1821-25 this amalgamated with the pre-existing Greenwich Hospital School. Extended with the buildings which are now the National Maritime Museum, it was renamed the Royal Hospital School by Queen Victoria in 1892.

George IV, whose donation in 1824 of nearly 40 paintings (including Turner's only Royal commission) at a stroke created the Naval Gallery of Greenwich Hospital in the Painted Hall, Britain's first public national historical art collection. These now form the Greenwich Hospital Collection in the NMM.

William IV, the 'Sailor King' made further donations to the Gallery, as did Queen Adelaide in his memory, and was a regular and popular visitor.

Saxe-Coburg Gotha/ Windsor (from 1917)

Queen Victoria only occasionally visited Greenwich. When Nelson's Trafalgar coat appeared on the market in 1845 Prince Albert bought it for the Naval Gallery. He personally paid £150 for it.

George V and Queen Mary both privately supported creation of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (est. by Act of 1934). Mary presented many items to it, both from her own Nelson collection, and other royal items.

George VI, when Duke of York, laid the foundation stone of the new Royal Hospital School at Holbrook, Suffolk. In 1937, as his first major public act as King - three weeks before his Coronation - George opened the National Maritime Museum. 

In 1948, whilst still princess, Queen Elizabeth I and the Duke of Edinburgh made their first joint visit to Greenwich. This was also the year that the Duke of Edinburgh became a trustee of the National Maritime Museum. Both have opened or visited countless projects at Royal Museums Greenwich, including the opening of the Cutty Sark in 1957.