Review: Becoming Elizabeth – Series

Season 1 of Becoming Elizabeth has ended and, whilst it did not leave us with a complete cliffhanger, the ground has clearly been laid for a season 2. At the time of writing this, there does not seem to be any concrete confirmation of a second season but fingers crossed!

I have been writing a series of blog posts looking at questions arising from the series but now it is time for a short review of the series – the good and the bad… (spoilers ahead!)

Continue reading “Review: Becoming Elizabeth – Series”

Becoming Elizabeth Explained: Did Mary consider fleeing England?

With episode 8 of Becoming Elizabeth airing on Starz, the series that began with the death of Henry VIII has come to an end. Before turning my attention to the events of the final episode, I wanted to return to one of the major plots of episode 7: the suggestion that Mary Tudor should escape to Spain. But did Mary really consider fleeing England?

The short answer is: yes. However, not exactly as depicted… (Spoilers ahead)

Continue reading “Becoming Elizabeth Explained: Did Mary consider fleeing England?”

Becoming Elizabeth Explained: Robert and Guildford Dudley

In episode 2 of Becoming Elizabeth, we were introduced to two young men – Robert Dudley (wearing a fetching pearl earring) and his brother, Guildford. Elizabeth is shown to already know the two brothers and she introduces them to Lady Jane Grey. Robert goes on to play an important role in episode 3 when he makes Elizabeth understand her own power as the daughter of a King, and shames her for humiliating Lady Jane. Both boys have an important role in episode 5 – they are with the King when Thomas Seymour comes to steal him away, culminating in Seymour attacking Robert – and, in episode 6, Robert goes with his father to deal with rebels in Norfolk. But who were Robert and Guildford?

*In addition to this post about Guildford and Robert, you can find my post about Robert and Elizabeth here!

Jamie Blackley and Alicia von Rittberg as Robert Dudley and Elizabeth (Starz, Becoming Elizabeth)
Continue reading “Becoming Elizabeth Explained: Robert and Guildford Dudley”

5 (Tudor) gift ideas

Image: Alhill42 CC BY-SA 4.0

It is the time of year when many people’s thoughts turn to buying Christmas gifts, but what would your shopping have looked like if you were buying in 1521? Here are some ideas for your perfect Tudor Christmas* gifts….

*Actually New Year, as the main day for exchanging gifts was 1st January not 25th December

5. Money

Ok, so some people may dismiss money as a Christmas gift lacking in imagination but gifting cash has a long history in many countries. In 1533, Sir Edward Don of Horsenden in Buckinghamshire gifted his wife, Anne, 15 shillings at New Year, and gave 6 shillings 8 pence to one of his senior retainers. Money was also a regular New Year’s gift for Henry VIII.

Continue reading “5 (Tudor) gift ideas”

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.

Continue reading “Tombs: Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk”

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

Continue reading “Review: Gold and Glory Exhibition, Hampton Court Palace”

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)

Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?

In the 4th episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell was shown discovering that Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and Henry Courtenay, marquis of Exeter, amongst the visitors to Elizabeth Barton (the nun who has been prophesying that Henry will not be King if he divorces Katherine of Aragon and marries Anne Boleyn). He is then shown questioning Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury and Gertrude, marchioness of Exeter. But why were the Pole and Courtenay families important? And why did it matter if they were meeting with the woman predicting doom for Henry and England? Continue reading “Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?”