Sunday Short Takes

Good grief, I didn’t expect a month to go by before I got a chance to do one of these again… To say that things have been busy lately would be a wild understatement. The good news is that I’ve earned a fair amount of comp time but the bad news is that I have no idea when I will ever be able to use it!

But enough whinging from me – on to the news round-up!

* The Tudor London Tube Map – This one has already been going around social media for a while now, but it was so clever (and useful for planning a Tudor-themed trip to London) that I had to post it.

* Lost in the Great Fire: which London buildings disappeared in the 1666 blaze? – A look at some of the reasons that many Tudor (and earlier) buildings of London aren’t around to see anymore.

* Bosworth: the dawn of the TudorsFrom childhood imprisonment in Brittany to the violent execution of Richard III in a Leicestershire field, Henry Tudor’s passage to the throne was lengthy and labyrinthine. Chris Skidmore charts the origins of the Tudor dynasty…

* Cleaning This Portrait Could Change the Way Historians See ShakespeareThe only portrait of the Bard made while he was alive might be getting touch-ups

* Revealed: 500-year-old kiln could shed light on the construction of Henry VIII’s Tudor palace in EssexResearchers believe kiln was used when building Palace of Beaulieu

* Virtual Tudors – New website with 3D models of artifacts and more from the wreck of the Mary Rose

Upcoming Tudor History event in Bath

It’s been ages since I’ve done a standalone post about an upcoming event after I started doing the monthly round-ups, but I wanted to get this one that takes place at the end of September out there in time for anyone in the area to have a chance to attend. (Updated to add – big thanks to J. Stephan Edwards of Some Grey Matter for the info on this talk!)


TWILIGHT TALK: Tudor Shirts and Blackwork Decoration

29th September 2016 at 6:00pm at the Fashion Museum, Bath

From the website:

Beneath their ornate doublets and richly decorated robes Tudor men and women of fashion chose to wear fine linen shirts, shifts, and smocks, frequently decorated with beautiful blackwork embroidery. Dr Susan North of the Victoria and Albert Museum will explore this hidden area of dress history, drawing on portraits of the time, as well as rare surviving garments from the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

Dr Susan North, Victoria and Albert Museum is senior curator in the Furniture, Fashion and Textiles Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and a leading expert on dress of the 16th century.

Click the link above for information on tickets!

Picture of the Week #408

Entrance to Hall’s Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo May 2015.

This month we’re going back to Stratford and featuring Hall’s Croft, one of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties. Since this property is set a little away from the busiest tourist area of the town, it’s a little quieter and for that reason alone worth seeking out! But it’s also a great place to visit, with period furniture throughout and a lovely back garden.

Hall’s Croft was the first home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah and her husband Dr. John Hall after they were married, but they later moved to New Place after her father’s death.

Upcoming Books, Exhibitions, and Events for September 2016

New books

One book I missed from last month is Wendy J. Dunn’s Falling Pomegranate Seeds, a novel about Katherine of Aragon:

And out at the end of this month in the UK is Anne Boleyn in London by Lissa Chapman, which will be out early next year in the US:

Events

The BBC History Magazine’s History Weekends return this fall with one in Winchester from October 7th to 9th and another in York from November 18th to 20th.

Exhibitions Ending This Month

Oxford’s Bodleian Library will run Shakespeare’s Dead from April 22 to September 4. This exhibition will examine the theme of Death in Shakespeare’s works. It “provides a unique take on the subject by exploring how Shakespeare used the anticipation of death, the moment of death and mourning the dead as contexts to bring characters to life. … Shakespeare’s Dead also looks at last words spoken, funerals and mourning as well as life after death, including ghosts and characters who come back to life.”

The British Library’s Shakespeare in Ten Acts opened April 15 and will run through September 6. The exhibition is a “Journey through 400 years of history – from the first productions of Hamlet and The Tempest – to understand how Shakespeare’s plays have been transformed for new generations of theatre-goers.”

The Visions of Utopia display opened in June in the Treasures of the British Library and will run through September 18, 2016.

Continuing Exhibitions

Windsor Castle will host Shakespeare in the Royal Library from February 13 through January 1, 2017 and includes works of Shakespeare collected by the royal family, accounts of performances at Windsor Castle, and art by members of the royal family inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare Documented – Celebrating 400 years of William Shakespeare with an online exhibition documenting Shakespeare in his own time. The partners in this exhibition include The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, The British Library, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and The National Archives. The exhibition will continue to expand throughout the year.

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The Battlefield in 1485. Photo May 2015.

The text on the sign reads:

The Battlefield in 1485

The trees in the modern landscape make the lie of the land quite hard to see. The medieval landscape was more or less devoid of trees as a system of open field farming prevailed. This method was widespread and created a rather barren landscape. From this point in 1485 you would be able to see Dadlington windmill and most of Norfolk’s army throughout the battle. You would also be able to hear the roar of the guns and the screams of the dying.

Sunday Short Takes

Big story from a couple of weeks ago!

* Elizabeth I Armada portrait saved with help of 8,000 donorsA portrait of Elizabeth I has become public property, after an appeal helped raise £10.3m to buy it.

And a few other articles of interest:

* In Praise of the Go-BetweenArchives are one thing, the public another and connecting the two is one of a historian’s hardest challenges, as Suzannah Lipscomb knows from experience.

* ‘Irreplaceable’ Tudor window ‘stolen to order’ from chapelA stained glass window taken from a Tudor church was “stolen to order”, experts believe.

* Dundee student solves historic mystery of Lord DarnleyEmma Price, 23, has recreated the face of Henry Stuart, a.k.a. Lord Darnley, who was the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, as part of her MSc Forensic Art and Facial Identification course at DJCAD.

* Shakespeare’s New Place to re-open in Stratford-on-AvonA splendid new oak and bronze gateway will open on the original threshold of Shakespeare’s New Place, inviting visitors to walk in the playwright’s footsteps, explore a dramatic new landscape and exhibition, and meet the man behind the famous works this weekend.

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Display of the ‘Crown in the Hawthorn Bush’ story from the end of the battle, at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.

Legend has it that Lord Stanley found the circlet that Richard III had worn into battle in a hawthorn bush and presented it to Henry at the end of the battle.

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Inscription on the Bosworth Battlefield memorial sundial. Photo May 2015.

On to August and a new theme for this month’s pictures – the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park, in honor of the anniversary of the battle on August 22nd.

Upcoming Books, Exhibitions, and Events for August 2016

New Books

One new release this month – Scourge of Henry VIII: The Life of Marie de Guise by Melanie Clegg is out August 30 in the UK and later in the fall in the US. It’s great to see work on Marie de Guise, someone I’ve been intrigued by for a while now.

And a few books already out in the UK that will be out at the end of the month in the US (or possibly mid-September – I have conflicting info, but I decided to go ahead and include them in this month’s round-up)

New Event

Tudor Ambition – Talk and book signing with Lauren Mackay and Elizabeth Norton at Sudeley Castle on September 4 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets available at the link. (Yes, it’s actually in September, but I wanted to get it in earlier to give people a chance to plan.)

New Exhibitions

Will & Jane will open on August 6 and run through November 6 and is the final of three exhibitions they put on, in addition to other events, during their year-long Wonder of Will celebrations.

Continuing Exhibitions

Oxford’s Bodleian Library will run Shakespeare’s Dead from April 22 to September 4. This exhibition will examine the theme of Death in Shakespeare’s works. It “provides a unique take on the subject by exploring how Shakespeare used the anticipation of death, the moment of death and mourning the dead as contexts to bring characters to life. … Shakespeare’s Dead also looks at last words spoken, funerals and mourning as well as life after death, including ghosts and characters who come back to life.”

The British Library’s Shakespeare in Ten Acts opened April 15 and will run through September 6. The exhibition is a “Journey through 400 years of history – from the first productions of Hamlet and The Tempest – to understand how Shakespeare’s plays have been transformed for new generations of theatre-goers.”

The Visions of Utopia display opened in June in the Treasures of the British Library and will run through September 18, 2016.

Windsor Castle will host Shakespeare in the Royal Library from February 13 through January 1, 2017 and includes works of Shakespeare collected by the royal family, accounts of performances at Windsor Castle, and art by members of the royal family inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare Documented – Celebrating 400 years of William Shakespeare with an online exhibition documenting Shakespeare in his own time. The partners in this exhibition include The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, The British Library, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and The National Archives. The exhibition will continue to expand throughout the year.

Guest Post: The Death of Prince Arthur

I’m happy to be the next stop on the blog tour for Sean Cunningham’s Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was, released earlier this month in the UK and coming in the next few months in the US.

Over to Sean:

The Tudor Regime Crashes Off Course: The Cause and Consequences of Prince Arthur’s Death

In the early morning of 5 April 1502, a messenger disturbed the pre-dawn routine at Greenwich Palace with the dreadful news that Arthur, Prince of Wales had died. This man had ridden across country from Ludlow after the prince had drawn his last breath just before 7pm on Saturday 2 April; an amazing feat of horsemanship at odds with the shattering news he carried in a journey he surely had not wanted to make.

Henry VII’s counsellors sent for the king’s confessor, whose task it was to pass on the dreadful fact that his eldest son was dead. The queen was awoken immediately. Together, Henry and his wife took the first steps in dealing with their loss. A herald was on hand to record their words of consolation to each other and the beginning of a response built on their faith in God. This was a deeply emotional and poignant moment, but there was little relief available as they ‘took their painful sorrows together’.

The detail captured by the herald at that time seems almost like an accidental and highly personal inclusion in a larger record of the state’s major ceremonies – christenings, weddings, investitures and funerals. It offers a rare glimpse of Henry VII as a man almost out of control with grief, who needs the presence and strength of his equally-devastated wife to be able to start the process of coming to terms with what had happened. The news must have triggered horrible feelings of despair that they had not been able to see their dying son; guilt at having sent him to be trained far beyond the regular destinations of the travelling royal household; and uncertainty about what their future without him might hold.


Arthur’s chambers at Ludlow Castle, where he died on 2 April 1502

The prince had shown no signs of illness or debility as the centre of attention at his wedding five months previously. He performed traditional Maundy Thursday rituals at Ludlow on 24 March, nine days before his death. The account suggests a sickness came upon him very rapidly. Use of the words ‘driven in the singler parties of him inward’ has been taken by some writers to suggest the appearance of a tumour or a wasting disease; perhaps even of his genitals (which is also convenient as an explanation of the uncertainty over his performance in the marriage bed). Compared to Edward VI, whose decline in the summer of 1553 is recorded in harrowing detail, Prince Arthur was as healthy as normal ten days before his death.

There is no eyewitness account of Arthur’s final days. The herald’s record was written up after his funeral several weeks later. That makes it very difficult to make accurate assessment of what killed the prince. It does seem most likely, however, that Arthur was a victim of an outbreak of the sweating sickness in the Marches. Local mortality research indicates that Ludlow and Leominster were the centres of unusually high death rates by the end of 1502. At Arthur’s interment at Worcester, the herald’s account notes that many people were unable to attend because of the ‘siknes that then reigned emonges theym’.

This was a disease that spread very rapidly; sometimes in a matter of hours but often over a period of days. Symptoms moved through stages of coldness, shivering, headaches, limb and chest pains, fever, hot sweats, delirium and death. It was also very contagious.

If the English Sweat did kill Prince Arthur, then we might have expected more victims within the prince’s household. There is a suggestion that Princess Catherine was struck down at the same time. A chair was prepared for her at the funeral, but she did not attend the services at Ludlow or Worcester (it is unclear if this was protocol or evidence of her sickness). The remainder of Arthur’s household seems to have escaped infection. Catherine’s illness could be evidence that she had spent much time in close physical contact with her husband. Surely there should be no surprise that two teenage newlyweds spending winter on the Welsh Marches would have used the opportunity to get to know each other well? Discussion of that topic will have to continue elsewhere.

Why Arthur should have succumbed to infection in 1502 when he had been unaffected (as far as is known), over the previous nine years he had lived there might have been purely due to chance. The only significant difference within Arthur’s familiar community after November 1501 was arrival of the large group of Catherine’s Spanish courtiers and servants in Ludlow. Had they inadvertently carried infection from Spain then it is likely that it would have become apparent in London at the time of the wedding. Arthur seems to have been unlucky enough to be the most prominent victim of a violent outbreak of disease.


Arthur’s tomb at Worcester Cathedral

King Henry and Queen Elizabeth had already buried Princess Elizabeth, aged three, in 1495 and Prince Edmund, at the age of sixteen months, in June 1500. Premature death was a regular visitor to families at all levels of medieval society, but familiarity would not have lessened the pain. Arthur’s loss seems to have been felt more keenly because he had not been a constant presence in the day-to-day life of the royal family. The reality of Henry VII’s political survival meant that Arthur was far more valuable to the Tudor crown as a leader on the marches of Wales, learning how to rule in his own right, than he would have been as a resident at court.

In his reaction to Arthur’s death we can see, nevertheless, a little of the tension and frustration the king and queen must have experienced. Like all parents, they would have wanted to keep their son close. They also knew that his education in a region he dominated would be Arthur’s best possible preparation for kingship. It would have been difficult for the prince to absorb the weight of responsibility by watching the king’s court at play or observing civil servants at work without being able to take direct ownership of the interconnected strands of government, as he did at Ludlow. It was a risk that Henry had agonised over. It did isolate his son and placed his welfare and security in the hands of others. But it was a chance worth taking if it formed a strong ruler who would take forward Henry VII’s ideology of kingship.

At the end of 1501, that plan seemed to be working very well. Arthur was highly praised by foreign ambassadors, courtiers and other officials for his bearing, skill, intelligence and authority. His marriage in November 1501 was an acknowledgement that, at the age of fifteen, his training to be king was passing into a final stage of adult responsibility.


A near-contemporary image of Arthur from Great Malvern Priory, c.1501

There is no hint in evidence so far found that Arthur was sickly, inactive or uninvolved in life as a powerful marcher figure. He travelled widely, learned the techniques of lordship through hard work and open hospitality, made friendships, wrestled with his responsibilities in the law, and safeguarded his income from his lands. Arthur was on track to becoming a well-rounded and diligent king with very deep support in his own country.

What would be needed – and what might have been part of Henry VII’s plan after his son’s marriage – was to capitalise on the outpouring of goodwill and celebration associated with the royal wedding. It seems likely that Arthur would have been given a greater national profile as he entered his later teenage years. Ideally, Princess Catherine would soon become pregnant and the security of the succession would be even more firmly established (and it is possible that their return to Ludlow at the end of November 1501 was arranged with that purpose in mind).

More time at court could only have built Arthur’s growing confidence. It would have allowed for a transition between the king’s old allies and advisors, already beginning to die off, and the younger generation of Arthur’s friends and the senior officials who knew him well. At that stage of his development, the prince would have returned to the Westminster fold at exactly the time that his own experience was ready to be blended with the deeper knowledge possessed by the king’s most loyal followers, honed in keeping Henry VII on the throne since August 1485.

This sketch of possible plans is important because it shows what was totally undone by Arthur’s tragic death. Arthur’s status and position were based upon his development within a group that had grown and adapted with him. His brother Henry could not be inserted into this network in the expectation that it would continue as before. Henry was eleven years old and had not been brought up with the same urgent and precise need to build a broad range of kingly skills.


Would King Arthur have looked something like this? An image of Henry VIII from a Plea Roll in 1521

It almost goes without saying that Arthur’s death was a family tragedy for Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth. The life their son had led meant that they cannot have come to know him particularly well. The death of the king-in-waiting brought a halt to Henry VII’s programme to safeguard the realm as Arthur’s inheritance. His death left a vacuum. His brother Henry had to fill it, but it would take time before he was ready for the role of Prince of Wales.

The four-year age gap between the Tudor brothers made a big difference to the demands that could be placed on Prince Henry. Waiting for him to grow into a strong teenager only allowed further deaths – especially of Queen Elizabeth and Reginald Bray in 1503 – to bring disaster even nearer.

The Tudor regime had been resilient to conspiracy and rebellion for over fifteen years. It was strongly positioned to usher Prince Arthur into his role as king with a comprehensive plan that had been in development for the prince’s whole life. When Arthur died, there was no alternative in place. Henry VII had perhaps been so sure of God’s support that he had not yet looked at a role for his second son that mirrored some of the training Arthur had been given.

Some efforts to improve the regime’s strength were taken almost immediately. Queen Elizabeth became pregnant in the weeks after Arthur’s death. This was a risk and a reaction to the vulnerability that Henry VII then felt. But Elizabeth did not survive the birth of Princess Catherine in February 1503. The king was plunged into despair as a result. Without his queen Henry lost much of his former energy and focus. The power of government was put in the hands of cold-eyed professionals like Edmund Dudley. They used the force of the law to rule in a way that gave the regime a strong tint of tyranny by 1509.

The final five years of Henry VII’s reign became a ruthless exercise in survival as attempts were made to reinvent Prince Henry. The carefree lifestyle that Arthur’s brother had enjoyed was transformed. He was closeted, protected and placed on an accelerated and intensive programme to give him some of the expertise that Arthur had developed naturally in his council and household on the Marches of Wales.

The sophistication and luxury of a metropolitan royal lifestyle was not something his Prince Henry gave up willingly. His relationship with his father became strained as the king’s health also began to fail. At his death in April 1509, Henry VII’s regime was just-about able to pass the crown to Henry, Prince of Wales; but only with some sleight of hand from the king’s old counsellors to withhold news of the old king’s death.

Henry VIII therefore became king with an enormous opportunity in front of him, but without the comprehensive arsenal of skills that King Arthur would have possessed. That was not the only legacy that the new king inherited. When he eventually married Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, England was placed on an altogether different route through the sixteenth century than the one that King Arthur would have taken.


Henry VIII’s Tudor dragon about to devour Catherine of Aragon’s pomegranate symbol
from the King’s Bench Plea Roll, TNA KB 27/1003, 1512

About the Author
Dr Sean Cunningham is Head of Medieval Records at the UK National Archives. He main interest is in British history in the period c.1450-1558. Sean has published many studies of politics, society and warfare, especially in the early Tudor period, including Henry VII in the Routledge Historical Biographies series and his new book, Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was, for Amberley. Sean is about to start researching the private spending accounts of the royal chamber under Henry VII and Henry VIII for a new project with Winchester and Sheffield Universities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and co-convenor of the Late Medieval Seminar at London’s Institute of Historical Research.

Purchase and pre-order from Amazon:


Sunday Short Takes

The big story of the week was the re-opening of The Mary Rose Museum, which now gives visitors a full view of the dried remains of the ship. Here is a selection of stories about the event:

* Newly decked out Mary Rose reopens after £5m makeover
* Mary Rose warship: Full view revealed after museum revamp
* The long scientific voyage of Tudor warship the Mary Rose
* The real rose: Mary Rose ship emblem discovered, 500 years on

And a video about the recreation of the rose:

And a couple of other stories from the week:

* On the trail of the Yorks: 8 places associated with Richard III’s family

* York Early Music Festival – Alamire – Listen to Alamire performing Anne Boleyn’s Songbook (stream available for 18 more days so listen soon! – and big thanks to the reader who sent this in!)

Picture of the Week #401

Leicester’s Building at Kenilworth Castle. Photo 2015.

These buildings were built by Robert Dudley for Elizabeth I’s use on a couple of her visits, including the famous 1575 stay at the castle. The scaffolding that allows visitors to go up into the structure was completed by the time of my visit last year so I was able to take advantage of the new views!

Sunday Short Takes

Time for a Sunday Short Takes!

* Dynastic Rivalry and Digital Reconstruction at Bradgate House – Interesting work on the reconstruction of Bradgate House for a new visitors center at Bradgate Park.

* Tudor Calendar Photography CompetitionThe Anne Boleyn Files is hosting a calendar photo competition again this year, so pick out your best Tudor-related photos!

* Tudor women: what was life like? – Elizabeth Norton writes about the life of women in all levels of Tudor society

* Tour Westminster Abbey on Google Street View