Monday, 20 November 2017

Henry VIII's Clock of Doom

In 1529 Henry VIII removed Cardinal Wolsey from Hampton Court Palace and took over possession. In 1540 he installed the Astrological Clock which can still be seen to this day. I visited Hampton Court Palace in June 2012, to see John Barrowman perform a concert in the inner courtyard. I walked under the clock arch just as William Shakespeare did back in December 1603 when he visited the palace as part of the company of the Kingsmen who provided the Christmas and New Year's entertainment for King James I. 
The 3 metre diameter clock dials show; the hour of day, the month of the year, the number of days that have elapsed since the beginning of the year, the phase of the Moon, the position of the Sun in the zodiac, the time when the Moon was due South (gives the time of the high tide at London Bridge) and the smaller pointer shows the lunar month. Originally the clock had two faces and was lower down on the tower but the clock mechanism struggled to drive both faces so one was removed.  What is interesting about the clock is that the Earth is represented at the centre of the dial and the Sun rotates around it. The clock shows the Earth centered model of the cosmos
What I did not know and only learned this past weekend at the Lavenham Literary Festival was that this clock was known as the clock of doom, or the clock of death, as on the three occasions that it stopped in the past someone in the Royal household died. The clock and dials were recently restored and I am happy to report that they were working in perfect order when I walked underneath the clock in 2012.

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