New page added – Memorials Map

Check out my new page with a map showing the location of memorials to Tudor noblemen – perfect for planning church crawls! I will be expanding the content to a wider time period and with more noblewomen & notable gentry.

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‘Tabulae’ or tables – the medieval precursors to heritage interpretation

Visit any historic site or town today and you can reasonably expect to find some form of heritage interpretation board. But you might not realise that visitors and pilgrims to the churches of medieval Europe would have found historical information displayed in a similar manner.

Interpretation boards inside Carfax Tower, Oxford

Normally referred to as tabulae or ‘tables’, these were texts written on parchment and attached to boards that were then placed around the church. They were intended to be read by literate visitors or used as an aide memoire by members of the religious community when showing people around the church. A popular topic for these boards was the history of the church or monastery – many of these were of course foundation myths! An example of this time of tabula is the Magna tabula Glastoniensis which is held in the collections of the Bodleian Library – catalogue entry here. It consists of six parchments leaves mounted on a wooden frame and recounts extracts of the history of Glastonbury and the saints said to be buried there.

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Tombs: Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk

Unlike some of the noblemen I have written about, we don’t actually have a surviving tomb for Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk. However, we know quite a bit about two tombs that were erected to him, and a third tomb that he designed before his death.

Who was Thomas Howard?

Thomas Howard was one of the leading political figures of late-15th and early-16th century England (with a slight hiatus when he was imprisoned after the Battle of Bosworth). He was born in 1443 and lived under the rule of six kings. The most notable single event in his career was probably the Battle of Flodden in 1513 when he led the English army that inflicted a crushing defeat on the Scots, killing King James IV and most of the leading Scottish nobility. He has tended to be overshadowed by his more famous son, Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk, and by his granddaughters – Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard. I recently wrote a biography of the 2nd duke which was published by Pen & Sword.

Tomb number 1

We know from Thomas Howard’s will (dated May 1520) that he had drawn up an indenture for a tomb on 31 August 1516. This was most likely him setting his affairs in order when he was suffering from a severe bout of illness in the summer of 1516. A letter written to the earl of Suffolk on 31 May had said that the Duke of Norfolk ‘was not likely to continue long.’ Norfolk set aside £133 6s 8d for the making of tomb which was to be placed before the high altar at Thetford Priory. Designs for the tomb, which was to include images of Norfolk and his second wife. Agnes Tilney, had been produced by the duke, Master Clerk (Larke) the master of the King’s works at Cambridge and, Wastell, a freemason of Bury, Norfolk. However, despite Norfolk’s carefully laid plans, this tomb was never erected.

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Review: Gold and Glory Exhibition, Hampton Court Palace

A wide open path leads towards the main entrance to Hampton Court Palace. In the distance, three people walk along the path.

Last Friday, I took the opportunity of being in the vicinity of Richmond to visit the Hampton Court Palace and, in particular, the Gold and Glory exhibition (running until 5 September 2021). Originally due to take place in 2020 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold, it was postponed to this year due to Covid.

The exhibition is divided across six rooms – those used by Cardinal Wolsey when he stayed at the palace – and takes the visitor from c. 1513 through the Treaty of Universal Peace, to the preparations for the meeting between Henry VIII and France I, and on to the Field of Cloth of Gold. In the first room are portraits of the key figures – Henry VIII and Francis I – alongside paintings of the Battle of the Spurs, and the meeting of Henry VIII and Maximilian I; and a small display about Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. I felt that this was the least successful of the rooms. Setting the international scene for the Field of Cloth of Gold in a concise and accessible fashion is always going to be difficult but the small number of items on display seemed to serve as interesting vignettes rather than hanging together to tell a coherent story of the 1510s. The second room was devoted to the display of a copy of the Treaty of Universal Peace (some of the most beautiful handwriting I have seen!) and a number of items relating to Cardinal Wolsey, including his hat and the early-15th century Book of Hours gifted to him by Cardinal Campeggio.

Above (L-R): Sign marking the Gold and Glory exhibition; portraits of Henry VIII and Francis I on display in the first room; interpretation banners

The third, and largest, of the rooms is devoted to the preparation for the meeting of the two king and includes administrative documents, more portraits, a piece of cloth of gold, builder’s tools from the Mary Rose and examples of accessories that would have been worn in 1520. With preparations complete, room four is dominated by the large painting of the Field of Cloth of Gold commissioned by Henry VIII. At three minute intervals, a projected display highlights key parts of the painting and explains what happens. Against such a large painting, the smaller display about feasting and the role of the French and English queens is somewhat lost. The small, fifth room is dominated by the fabulous Stonyhurst vestements used for the religious services near Calais. The sixth room is decked out with fabric strips to resemble a tent and has an audio track to evoke the sounds of a tournament. This room has one of my favourite documents – a tournament score sheet. It also has the large Tournai tapestry depicting wrestling at the Cloth of Gold which is being displayed in public for the first time. I would have liked this ‘first’ to have been more obviously noted in the exhibition itself not just in promotional material.

Overall, I thought the design of the exhibition was very effective. The use of wooden ‘spears’ and banners around the edges of the rooms gave the sense of a tournament, and printing the historical narrative on banners rather interpretation boards was a nice touch. Audio-visual technology was used sparingly and judiciously to add to the atmosphere of the exhibition and to aid interpretation. It serves as good introduction to the Field of Cloth of Gold, and to the events leading up to it. It also nicely demonstrates the range of sources that historian can draw on, making use of documents, paintings, and a wide range of objects. However, as it is pitched at a general audience, the more knowledgeable Tudor enthusiast is unlikely to learn anything groundbreaking from this exhibition. It is still worth visiting for the opportunity to see a wide range of items, usually dispersed across several collections (and not always on public display). Lenders to this particular exhibition include HM Queen Elizabeth, the British Library, the National Archives, the Bodleian Libraries, Christ Church College Oxford, the Mary Rose Trust, the V & A, the National Portrait Gallery, Stonyhurst College, and more. Personally, I thought it was worth visiting just to see, and to see the Tournai tapestry showing wrestling at the Field of Cloth of Gold, and to see the Field of Cloth of Gold painting in person.

On the negative side, the rooms are not of equal size which means the flow through the exhibition is not smooth – Covid precautions require the number of people in each room to be capped but the max capacity varies. This is obviously outside the palace’s control but it does mean queues at the entrance to the smaller rooms. I was also left feeling that I needed to keep moving fairly quickly otherwise other people would be blocked from moving through the exhibition rather than reading every word in the display cabinets. However, as the exhibition is included in the entrance ticket, it is always possible to go around a second time and, with the exception of the items relating to Mary Tudor, photography is permitted.


The exhibition is on the first floor; the entrance is via a small spiral staircase and the exit via a wider palace staircase. It is possible to speak to staff and get lift access, however, there are still four steps to negotiate. On the ground floor there is a video tour of the exhibition by Tracy Borman – this didn’t seem to be playing when I visited so it may be necessary to speak to staff if you want to watch the video. This space also has a number of replica items that can be handled (they have been given an antiviral treatment) including tools, hats, embroidery, and copies of documents. A braille book in this room gives information about the Field of Cloth of Gold painting and has reproduced parts of the painting itself as raised edge images.

Left: Spiral staircase access to the exhibition

What else is there to do?

When I visited, the main palace apartments were open to visitors as were the formal gardens towards the river, the wilderness and the Tiltyard café and gardens. Although the website implies the shops are only open at the weekend, the Undercroft shop was open the Friday I visited and had a range of Field of Cloth of Gold anniversary items for sale. I would recommend checking the website before you visit for the latest information about what is open.

Above: Haul from the Undercroft shop, including exhibition souvenirs

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Were French hood worn without veils?

Back in 2015, I wrote a blog post about the decision to depict the female characters in Wolf Hall wearing French hoods with gauze veils in a variety of colours (with their hair visible below). The new Channel 5 drama Anne Boleyn throws up a new take on the French hood – the hood worn on a bare head without veil or cap.

All the surviving evidence shows that French hoods were worn with white linen caps and with (black) veils. The costumes for this production have clearly been designed to be visually striking and are perhaps best described as interpretations of Tudor dress rather than replicas. The decision for Anne and the ladies of the court to wear their French hoods much like oversized headbands should be seen in this light rather than as historically accurate.

If you want to read more about dress at Henry VIII’s court, I recommend:

Maria Hayward, Dress at the Court of Henry VIII and Rich Apparel (the former is full of photographs which does make it expensive so worth looking for a library copy)

The publications produced by The Tudor Tailor which include patterns to make your own garments (they also make YouTube video tutorials)

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Tomb: Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond

The tomb of Henry Fitzroy in St Michael’s church, Framlingham

Who was Henry Fitzroy?

Henry Fitzroy was the second child, and eldest son, of Henry VIII – the result of the king’s affair with 18/19 year old Elizabeth Blount. Although illegitimate, Fitzroy was a person of importance at the royal court and received multiple titles and appointments. When he was 6 years old, he was made a Knight of the Garter; created earl of Nottingham, and duke of Richmond and Somerset; made Lord Admiral; and appointed as the warden-general of the Scottish marches. Between 1525 and 1529, he lived in Yorkshire – dividing his time between Sheriff Hutton and Pontefract – the traditional base of the royal representatives in the north. A number of potential foreign matches were suggested but came to nothing. In August 1529, he was summoned to parliament and, despite his young age, attended sessions where he was treated as an adult.

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What is the College of Arms, who is the Earl Marshal, and how are they connected to funerals?

What is the College of Arms and what do they do?

The College of Arms is the corporation of heralds for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (in Scotland, the Lord Lyon fulfills a similar role). There are thirteen ‘heralds in ordinary’/officers of arms in total – Garter King of Arms (the senior officer), the two provincial Kings of Arms (Clarenceux, and Norroy and Ulster), six heralds, and four pursuivants. They oversee the issue of coats of arms, and provide guidance on heraldic matters ie: orders of precedence, protocols around the use of arms/standards/banners/flags, correct usage of titles etc. The officers also play a ceremonial role in events such as the annual Garter Service and the State Opening of Parliament, they play a role in the organisation of coronations and royal funerals.

The officers of arms are all part of the Royal Household and receive a nominal (sub £50!) yearly salary from the Crown. Garter King of Arms is also paid for advising the government and Royal Household on heraldic matters, but the bulk of their income comes from private heraldic and genealogical work.

Where did heralds and the College of Arms come from?

In the medieval period, heralds were employed in the households of individual noblemen and the Royal household. They were used to carry messages, for example between armies – in the run-up to the battle of Flodden in 1513, heralds carried messages from James IV of Scotland to Thomas Howard and vice versa. At Flodden, there were concerns that the Scottish herald should be kept away from the main camp in case he reported back to his King on the English army, suggesting that heralds were expected to carry out some basic spying.

Another primary function of the heralds was promoting and organising tournaments – as a result they developed an in-depth knowledge of the coats of arms and crests borne by the knights participating in the tournaments. This expertise made it logical for them to become responsible for heraldic matters, a function that they retained as their other roles became redundant.

In 1484, Richard III granted the royal heralds a charter of incorporation and a property (though the house was taken away from them following the Battle of Bosworth) beginning the process of creating the College of Arms. Under Henry VIII heraldic visitations were introduced, whereby the heralds could investigate illegal uses of arms. Also during his reign, the dissolution of the monasteries, meant that the College of Arms increasingly held the genealogical records that had been kept by monasteries. A new charter was granted to the College of Arms in 1555 by Mary I. By the late-16th century, the heralds were under the supervision of the Earl Marshal and, in Elizabeth I’s reign, the then Earl Marshal, Thomas Howard 4th duke of Norfolk, was responsible for refining the structure and function of the College through a series of new ordinances.

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Tomb: Mary FitzAlan and Margaret Audley

The tomb commemorating Mary FitzAlan and Margaret Audley

Who were Mary and Margaret?

Mary FitzAlan was the third daughter of Henry FitzAlan, 12th earl of Arundel, and Katherine Grey (Lady Jane Grey’s aunt). She married Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk, c. 1554 and gave birth to their son, Philip Howard, in June 1557. Tragically, she never recovered from his birth and died on 25th August; she was just 17 years old. Mary is known for the quality of her classical education – some her translations from English and Greek into Latin are held in British Library. It is also through Mary that the later dukes of Norfolk inherited the earldom of Arundel and its associated lands, including Arundel Castle, home of the present day dukes.

Margaret Audley was the daughter of Thomas, Lord Audley (Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor) and Elizabeth Grey (another of Lady Jane Grey’s aunts!). She married Lord Henry Dudley in 1554, when she was 14 years old, shortly before the Dudleys attempted to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Although her husband was pardoned for his part in the plot, she was widowed when he was killed at the Battle of Saint-Quentin in August 1557. In 1559, she married Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk. Thomas and Margaret had applied for papal dispensation to marry in 1558 – dispensation was needed because she was May FitzAlan’s first cousin – and were still waiting when Mary I died in November 1558. With the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I taking the throne, they went ahead and married without the dispensation – parliament subsequently ratified the marriage. Margaret and Thomas had four children before her death on 10 January 1564, aged 23 – like her cousin, Mary, she also died of complications from childbirth.

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Who cares for our historic memorials and tomb monuments?

You don’t have to spend long in a Church of England parish church to see that the condition of many of the older memorial and monuments within them is deteriorating: cracks, spalling/flaked surface, loss of paint/gilding, lost elements. Some of this damage is the result of iconoclasm, the deliberate destruction of religious imagery, particularly during the 1540s and 1640s. Other damage is simply caused by the passage of time.

Empty niches on the tomb of Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland, Beverley Minster. The statues were most likely destroyed by iconoclasts

So, who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of memorials in our parish churches and churchyards? And what repair are they allowed to do?

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Tomb: Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland

The tomb of Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland in Beverley Minster

Who was Henry Percy?

The only son of Henry Percy, 3rd the earl of Northumberland and Eleanor Poynings, the 4th earl is (in)famous for not joining the battle of Bosworth – an act that many have credited with contributing to Richard III’s defeat.

Earlier in the Wars of the Roses, his father had died fighting for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton (1461). Initially imprisoned by Edward IV, the young Henry Percy did homage to the Yorkist king in 1469 and Edward restored him to the earldom of Northumberland in March 1470. He remained in England during Edward IV’s exile of 1470-1 and was crucial to Edward’s retaking of the throne – when Edward landed at Ravenspur to retake the throne, the 4th earl of Northumberland made no move to stop him, allowing Edward to recruit supporters and march south without major opposition.

During Edward IV’s reign of 1471-83, Northumberland’s power in the north of England was challenged by the influence of Richard, duke of Gloucester. The two men appear to have initially had a good relationship, and Northumberland’s army helped back Richard’s claim to the throne in 1483. However, rather than rewarding Northumberland with increased power in the north, Richard chose to retain direct control of the area and to continue to build his own following. This is generally believed to have motivated Northumberland’s decision to keep his army on the sidelines at Bosworth (though poor communication and positioning may also have made it difficult for him to join the battle!). In the immediate aftermath of the battle, he was imprisoned but was soon released to help control the north for Henry VII.

Why was his death controversial?

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