When King Canute started to build a home for himself in Westminster back in 1016 I don’t suppose for one minute that he thought it would become a place known throughout the world a thousand years later, and in a way he would be right because there’s nothing left of what he, or his successor, Edward the Confessor, built.
Between them tough they built a palace fit for a king, and when the Normans took over, the tradition continued.
Even though the iconic building we see today is mostly Victorian, William II’s magnificent Westminster Hall has managed to survive to the modern day.
For 500 years the Palace of Westminster was the royal home for a succession of Kings, but in 1512 a devastating fire forced Henry VIII to move out to a nearby building that became known as Whitehall, and what was left of the Palace of Westminster eventually became home to Parliament.
‘The Mother of Parliaments’ as it’s been referred to, has experienced a catalogue of historical events from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, the trial of Charles I, the formation of the United Kingdom and a multitude of laws passed far too many to mention here.
On 16th October 1834 workmen caused another catastrophic fire which destroyed most of the Palace and just left Westminster Hall, the undercroft of St. Stephen’s Chapel, and The Jewel Tower intact.
The architect for the new building, and the one we see today, was Charles Barry with help from Augustus Pugin who made a flamboyant contribution to the interior with his ‘Gothic Revival’ style.
Since then, laws have been passed that have made our country a better place for ordinary people to live. Slavery was abolished and women given the right to vote for example.
I’d be the first to admit that even though it’s been 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta, that not everything is perfect, but the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament have come a long way since the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ was the law of the land.