The archetypal image of an unsmiling, bejewelled Henry VIII staring directly out of Hans Holbein’s famous painting with his legs spread wide apart was a mastermind of propaganda for the Tudor monarchy.
Even today, centuries after his death, coming face to face with a life size copy of the painting is intimidating. The image was designed to show the king’s power, his riches and his divine right to rule.
The original painting was part of a life size mural which included life size portraits his parents (Elizabeth of York and Henry VII) as well as his third wife Queen Jane Seymour. She was the mother of his heir Prince Edward, and she may have been pregnant with their son during the time that it was painted.
Portraits of Jane and Henry, some painted long after her death, helped to safeguard the future of their son’s throne by showing the kings approval of the marriage and acceptance of Prince Edward as his legitimate heir. Henry was buried with Jane at St. George’s chapel Windsor, possibly for the same reason.
The Whitehall Mural was painted during a time when Henry’s reign was in crisis. 1536 is sometimes called ‘the year of three queens.’ Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife had died in January 1536, Anne Boleyn, his second, was executed on 19th May and Jane Seymour, his third wife, married Henry on 30th May 1536. Jane died in child birth in October 1537 leaving the king with a legitimate but motherless prince.
On top of all this personal turmoil Henry then had a serious jousting accident at Greenwich Palace in January 1536. He never jousted again. Henry may have become aware of his own mortality at this point because aged forty five he was no longer considered a young man, he was without a son and his people were becoming restless.
It is never easy to emerge from the considerable shadow of Henry VIII, but it’s fair to say that during her brief life, the mighty king’s younger sister Mary tried her damndest to seize at least some of the attention. Unlike Elizabeth Woodville, as recent fiction work might have you believe, Mary Tudor truly was known as the White Queen during her lifetime, referred to by the French for the colour of her mourning clothes after the death of her husband Louis XII in 1515, and it is this particular Tudor queen that author Sarah Bryson chooses to explore in her latest work ‘La Reine Blanche; Mary Tudor, a Life in Letters’.
The author notes in her introduction that the Tudor age was a period dominated by men, but there were nonetheless many strong, independent and intellectually gifted women, one of which she asserts was…
Dr. William Butts – Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
Dr. Butts was the premier royal physician at the court of King Henry VIII. He was an intellectual and a supporter of the Protestant religion and appears to have been a kindly and urbane man. He treated many of the prominent members of the court and the king’s family and was one of the few men that King Henry VIII esteemed and trusted.
William was born c. 1485 in Norfolk, the son of John Butts, auditor of crown revenues and his wife Elizabeth. He received his education at Cambridge, achieving a Bachelor of Arts in 1507, a Masters of Arts in 1509 and became a medical doctor in 1518. Butts married Margaret Bacon of Cambridge about 1516. Together the couple had a daughter and three sons. Beginning in 1524, Butts took out a lease at St. Mary’s Hostel in Cambridge…
She detested Guilford – he was indeed a spoilt, conceited and disagreeable young man – and she told her father that she would not marry him. Her obedience was forced by a beating, and … Guilford made no secret of his dislike for his bride.1 Although expressing a widely held view, this description of the […]
Dr Steven Gunn has been trawling 16th Century coroners’ reports from 1551 to 1600 and researching accidental deaths in Tudor England. The results are both interesting and sad.
As far back as 1363 parliamentary laws insured that Englishmen spent their Sundays practicing archery with their Long bows. England had no standing army and archers could be needed at any time and come from all walks of life.
The coroners’ reports reveal that fifty six accidental deaths occurred by people standing too close to targets or by men collecting their fired arrows at the wrong time. Nicholas Wyborne was lying down near a target when he was hit by a falling arrow, which pierced him to a depth of six inches.
In 1552, Henry Pert, a gentleman of Welbeck in Nottinghamshire shot himself in the head with his own bow. Henry drew his bow to its full extent with the aim of shooting straight up into the air. The arrow lodged in the bow, and while he was leaning over to look at what had happened, the arrow was released. He died the next day.
Boil the eggs for five minutes. Meanwhile lightly brown the butter in a pan and allow it to cool. Then quickly stir in the other ingredients to the butter. When the eggs are ready peel them and quarter them. Arrange them on a dish. Reheat the sauce and pour it over the eggs before serving.