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 Tudor kings and queens were born in Greenwich.
Royal babies born in Greenwich
- Henry VIII was born at Placentia in 1491 and eventually went on to extended his father's new palace. 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 also 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.
But many other kings and queens throughout history have had strong connections to Greenwich. The principal monarchs associated with Greenwich are:
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, and also began what became the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich, fully developed under Henry VI.
Henry VII replaced the Palace of Placentia with the Tudor Palace of Greenwich, c. 1500-07.
James I carried out the final remodelling, granting the manor to his wife Queen Anne of Denmark, who in 1616 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, for whom Jones completed the Queen's House 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) - Britain's oldest purpose-built scientific structure. This became part of the NMM from 1953.
James II, (as Duke of York and Lord Admiral to 1673) was often at Greenwich with his brother Charles and , according to Samuel Pepys, proposed of the idea of creating a Royal Naval Hospital, established at Greenwich by his daughter...
...Mary II, who in 1692-3 commissioned Wren to design the Royal Hospital for Seamen, now the Old Royal Naval College (begun 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.
George III in 1805-06 granted the Queen's House to the Royal Naval Asylum, an orphanage school under Royal patronage, which amalgamated in 1821-25 with the pre-existing Greenwich Hospital School. Extended with the buildings which are now the NMM, 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 though in 1845, when it appeared on the market, Prince Albert bought Nelson's Trafalgar coat for the Naval Gallery, as the relevant national collection of the time; 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), and she 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, and in 1937 his first major public act as King - three weeks before Coronation - was the opening of the NMM in its former Greenwich buildings, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and Princess Elizabeth.
As Princess, HM The Queen, and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (created Baron Greenwich on marriage in 1947) made their first joint visit to Greenwich in 1948 - the year he became Trustee of NMM - for him to receive the Freedom of the Borough. HM and/or the Duke, have subsequently opened or visited practically all major new NMM projects, including major national anniversary events (e.g. Royal Observatory tercentenary, Armada 400 etc). The Duke of Edinburgh was an active Trustee of NMM for 52 years (1948-2000), and since then its first Patron. The Duke of York was a Trustee of NMM, since 1995 and has been first Patron of Greenwich Hospital since its tercentenary in 1994.
To the Duke of Edinburgh, as highly supportive Patron from 1952, was largely due the original restoration and preservation of Cutty Sark at Greenwich, where HM The Queen first opened it in 1957. The Duke remains Patron and was supportive of the amazing restoration project which was completed in 2012.