Religious debate returns to Hampton Court Palace

 Tomorrow, a new exhibition and series of live events begin at Hampton Court Palace, on the river Thames west of London, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the events which lead to the printing of the King James Bible. Back in 1604, the New Year had begun at the Palace with dramatic performances in the Great Hall by William Shakespeare's company, the King's Men. It is believed the Bard himself played in The Fair Maid of Bristow on Boxing Day 1603 and the New Year's performance was A Midsummer Night's Dream. In January 1604, soon after the Christmas and New Years festivities, King James convened the Hampton Court Conference, which resulted in the commissioning of a new English translation of the Bible which would be used in every Anglican church around the world for the next 400 years. To celebrate these events, Hampton Court Palace is coming alive with exhibitions, dramatic presentations and tours reflecting the influence of drama and literature on the Jacobean court. Costumed guides representing court personalities of 1604, including actors in the King's Men troop, diplomats and ambassadors, Bishops, court gossips and King James himself, will interact with visitors, sharing their stories of court life and the events that took place here in 1604. From January 10 2004 - January 7 2005, the Tudor State Apartments, including the Great Hall and Watching Chamber, will be presented as the Stuart apartments at the start of the 1600s. Interpretation panels and a selection of exhibits will explain the 'drama' and 'debate' events of 1604 at Hampton Court. Exhibits will include manuscripts and documents relating to the history of Jacobean drama and court performances, and the Hampton Court Conference. The world of the Hampton Court Conference will be explored over the Easter period. James I found himself head of a Church of England wracked with controversy. One thing all sides could agree on was the need for a new and accurate translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into contemporary English. But how to balance the needs of beauty and accuracy, up-to-date language and familiar traditional phrases? Who would be responsible for such a task? Discover the secret story behind The King James Bible, with special presentations explaining the background to and lasting influence of the King James version. Around the palace, costumed interpreters representing the leading opinion formers of the day will be found in heated discussion, showing the strong passions this aroused at the court of King James. Each day will conclude with a debate between all parties in the Queen's Guard Chamber, where the public are invited to take sides and cast their votes. The first buildings at Hampton Court, belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a religious order founded in the early 12th century. In 1508 Cardinal Wolsey the Archbishop of York and Chief Minister to King Henry VIII, obtained a 99 year lease on the house and began an extravagant building programme. In 1528 he fell from favour with Henry over the issue of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII took over the Palace and continued the building programme. One of the most magnificent palaces in England it has belonged to the Kings and Queens of England ever since - each adding their own extensions and features to the palace and grounds. For more information visit:

Share this story