The hall was originally designed to be the dining room of the home for retired seaman founded on the site by Queen Mary in 1694, but soon became reserved as a place for ceremonial occasions. The painting took 19 years (1707 -1726) and was overseen by James Thornhill. The work includes pictures of the 3 monarchs: Queen Anne, who had built the Hospital; William and Mary, whose reign saw the beginning of the painted hall project and George I in whose reign it was completed. In fact, 2 other monarchs can also be seen as Princes George (later George II) and William (later William IV) are shown in the family group surrounding George I. It was likely with the political changes that the design was changed on a number of occasions during the painting. The theme is ‘Triumph of Peace and Liberty over tyranny’.
The hall was used for many important events including the lying-in-state of Nelson after the Battle of Trafalgar. The queues are reputed to have stretched for miles.
When the Hospital closed and the Royal Naval College took over, the hall was used as a dining room for the officer cadets until the college moved in 1997. It is now maintained by a charitable trust and the Hall reopened in 2017 following a two-year refurbishment project. During this remains of the old Tudor palace at Greenwich were discovered below the hall