After the Norman Conquest the area of Greenwich Park became a large manor. In 1427 the brother of Henry V, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, inherited the land, and in 1433 he created an enclosed park. Greenwich thus became the first enclosed royal park. It was later inherited by the mother of Henry VI, before becoming a favorite royal retreat for the Tudors. Henry VII built a palace at the bottom of the park, and it was here that Henry VIII was born. Henry VIII's daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born at the palace, and his son Edward VI died here. Tudor times are recalled in the grounds of Greenwich Park by the Elizabeth Oak. This huge old hollow oak tree was the focus of much attention. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are supposed to have danced around it, and Elizabeth I is said to have taken refreshment while sitting in its protective hollow trunk. Whether these stories are true is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the oak tree is symbolic of England. The navy which spread England's, and then Britain's, power around the world was made of oak. So it makes sense that the Elizabeth Oak became a kind of secular sacred symbol, around which monarchs dance, or which offer protection to picnicking queens. The ancient oak eventually blew down, and a new tree was planted beside the old one by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1992. The Elizabeth Oak can now take its place beside the Roman shrine and the Saxon Tumuli.
Records indicate religious buildings on the Greenwich site before the 15th century, but it first came to real prominence after the death of Henry V in 1422. His half-brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was acting as regent, built an imposing riverside house called Bella Court. A few years later Humphrey fell out with the new queen, Margaret of Anjou, and in 1447 was arrested for high treason. He died in prison and Margaret took over Bella Court, renaming it the Palace of Pleasaunce, or Placentia and it was rebuilt as the Tudor Palace of Greenwich under Henry VIII, beginning in the1490s.
After the English Civil War, Greenwich Palace was used as a biscuit factory and, between 1652 and 1654, for housing Dutch prisoners of war. By the 1660s it was in decay and was demolished by Charles II, over a period of years. From 1696 to 1751 Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen was built on the site – housing over 2500 veterans of the serving navy at its maximum occupation in 1814. The Hospital closed in 1869 and in 1873 the Royal Naval College took over the buildings, eventually training officers from all over the world.