One of my most memorable experiences at the NAO so far was the audit of Historic Royal Palaces in 2015.
Historic Royal Palaces are responsible for opening unoccupied palaces to the public as tourist attractions. Their sites include Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
The audit visit was spent largely at Hampton Court, best known for being the home of Henry VIII. During the summer, the courtyards were full of performers in period dress, including a man who would “die” outside the audit room window every afternoon and have to be carried off by a young Henry VIII. There was also a wine fountain which flowed every day at around 4pm – sadly too early for the audit team to be able to partake!
As part of the audit of their heritage assets, I went to three of the London-based palaces and was treated to a personal tour of the Crown Jewels by one of the curators at the Tower. I also met the Constable of the Tower, who is an ex-head of the army. He shook my hand and, when he asked me not to take away the painting I had come to view, I was able to assure him that I was actually there to check that it hadn’t gone anywhere. I then went into his private on-site residence, known as the Queen’s House, and saw the painting. It was of Thomas More being taken for execution and definitely looked more impressive in his dining room than in the prints I’d viewed before the visit.