Archive for July, 2009

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I By Nicholas Hilliard 1586-1587 (V&A museum - click image)

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I By Nicholas Hilliard 1586-1587 (V&A museum - click image)

I was recently looking for a book about Tudor Portraits and came across this book by Maurice Howard. The book doesn’t just cover portraits, there are references to items such as engravings, tapestry and funeral monuments. The author points out that the Tudor period saw an explosion in the production and use of artistic imagery. Some things were designed for private contemplation, for example the portrait minature  (see this wonderful Blog for more about this).  However, many other items seem to have been designed to display wealth and power. Looking through collections of artwork one gets an idea of the competition to acquire the the most elaborate and decorative items.

Pair of Gloves 1603 -1625 Victoria & Albert Museum (click image)

Pair of Gloves 1603 -1625 Victoria & Albert Museum (click image)


It is suprising how many portraits include subjects wearing – or quite frequently just holding gloves. Many of these are very highly decorated and are elongated into lace and pearl covered gauntlets. It seems hard to imagine that it would have been practical (or even possible?) to wear some of these pairs of gloves.

In his biography of Shakespeare, Anthony Holden discusses the playwrights father John who was known to have been a glover. After soaking the hides of deer, goats and sheep he would make the leather into gloves as well as other items such as belts and purses.

Elizabethan glove: little miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Elizabethan glove: little miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Over elaborate & a bit odd?

Of course, Stratford was a rural provincial backwater and it seems unlikely that John Shakespeare would have been turning out anything as elaborate as items being produced for use in London. As well as gloves, there are over-decorated shoes, sleeves, hats and of course the ruff. Look at this image from 1613 of the 3rd Earl of Dorset, Richard Sackville. No doubt the Earl dressed in his very finest clothes for the portrait. Clearly, the fashion for elaboration had continued to develop long after John Shakespeares day.

Richard Sackville 3rd Earl of Dorset c1613 William Larkin

Richard Sackville 3rd Earl of Dorset c1613 William Larkin

Really quite odd?

The Saltonstall Family 1636-37. Odd and just a little disturbing - what was he thinking of?
The Saltonstall Family 1636-37. Odd and just a little disturbing – what was he thinking of?

Look at this picture by David des Granges of the Saltonstall family. This painting is a family record which shows Sir Richard Saltonstall with his new wife and baby (seated) as well as his two  children from his first marriage. It has been suggested that the children are painted as they were at the time of their mothers death. The dead mother is lying in bed behind them all – her husband is vaguely waving his gloves in her direction. Can you imagine how such a picture would be recieved today? – it would be quite easy to make this sort of thing in photoshop. Surely this is one of the oddest pictures ever? Would you want it on your wall?

Is it just me, but..

Not for the first time when looking at Tudor images I find myself thinking how, well – odd it all looks. The Tudors really had a very different idea about what looked good – to modern eyes it all looks a little strange. Don’t you think that the Earl above looks just a little ridiculous? For me, the best expression of this came in this episode of Blackadder – have a look at this and ask yourself what Blackadder would have said about the Earl.

What do you think? Comments as ever are really welcome.



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Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

This is a guest post from Robert Warwick who has written about an event that happened in his home town in Tudor times. We are delighted to have this post – partly because we have covered Catholic persecution quite often but as yet haven’t really said much about the dreadful religious persecutions that took place under the catholic rule of Queen Mary – hopefully this post will do a bit to redress the balance.

Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

On 18th July 1556 three people were burned to death in the small Sussex town of East Grinstead, between London and Brighton on the South Coast of the UK.  Their names were Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman.  To some they were witches, to others heretics, to many – martyrs for carrying their protestant beliefs to their deaths. Ordinary people caught up in the struggle between the protestant and catholic churches after the death of Henry VIII.

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

Remembered to this day

The five years of the reign of Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, from 1553 saw countless deaths, but even today these three martyrs are remembered by many who live in East Grinstead. In the churchyard of St Swithun’s, on the High Street, there are three slabs to commemorate them.  Even today it is not at all uncommon to see small posies of flowers laid underneath their inscribed names.  The actual resting place for their ashes remain unknown, but many think that they are somewhere in the graveyard, yards away from their memorial.  Just a few years ago over one hundred people turned up at a ceremony to commemorate the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their death.  The three of them were each tied to a stake and burned alive a few paces over the road from the church just outside the gentleman’s and lady’s outfitters, Broadley Brothers, a shop that has remained almost completely unchanged for the forty years or so I have known it.

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here in 1556

East Grinstead

Today East Grinstead is the home for 24,000 or so people, many of whom have a daily commute into London.  In Tudor times things were very different.  The population of the town itself was about 300, comprising of a windmill, slaughter house, a currying house for dressing leather and a blacksmith’s forge.  Politically there were forty eight houses (or burgages) that were eligible to vote for the town’s two Members of Parliament.

Travelling in Sussex was a hazardous business, with poor roads and the constant threat of robbery.  East Grinstead was a convenient stopping off point for travellers and was a favoured location for Assizes for those judges that were too timid to venture further south.  The picture this paints is of a vibrant close knit community, small by today’s standards and certainly not immune to the political and religious upheavals of the day.  They were not the only ones to suffer.

St Swithuns churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

St Swithun's churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

Executed for heresy

In the same year Thomas Hoath, a priest was also accused of heresy and executed at the hand of the state.  John Smyth was excommunicated, his fate unknown.  But it is the story of these three ordinary people, killed in extra-ordinary times, that still manages to capture the imagination of East Grinstead townsfolk.

Although I live within a five minute walk of where the martyrs died I find it almost impossible to compare my life, and the town where I have lived most of my life, with that of the martyrs and others who lived here at the time of Mary’s reign.

All pictures by Rob Warwick



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Anne Of Cleeves

Anne Of Cleves

‘Nothing so fair as she has been reported’

Anne was in many ways the luckiest of all Henry’s wives.  She outlived all of the others – and outlived Henry VIII himself by ten years.  Her more peaceful and fortunate life can be put down to the fact that she just wasn’t Henry’s type.  She was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim and ‘of middling beauty’; however when Henry rode out to meet his betrothed at Rochester he complained that ‘She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported’.

Despite these misgivings the couple were married at Greenwich in 1540 by Thomas Cranmer.  Their first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that the marriage had not been consummated, saying, ‘I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse’.

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage his relationship with the King was fatally damaged by this

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage: his relationship with the King was fatally damaged


Whereas Henry admired educated women, Anne could not play a musical instrument, nor was she very literary or cultured – preferring needlework and cards.  She had received no formal education as a child.  She could read and write, but only in German.  She is described as having a peaceable personality; and although it may not to have sparked passion in Henry it seems to have led to a lasting friendship.

Thomas Cromwell had brokered the marriage to try to form an alliance with Anne’s family against Emperor Charles V.  After first meeting Anne, Henry urged Cromwell to find a way of breaking off the arrangement without endangering the alliance – but at the time this seemed impossible.  When the marriage was not consummated on the wedding night Henry had cause to seek an annulment.  Anne did not contest it.

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

A Lasting Friendship

Henry was very grateful for Anne’s co-operation, and she received a generous settlement.  She was given Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, home of Henry’s former in-laws, the Boleyns.  Henry and Anne became good friends – she was referred to as ‘the King’s Beloved Sister’, and Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.

Better perhaps to be ‘not so fair’ and ‘of midding beauty’ after all!

See more about Anne of Cleves & her family in another post

PS Take a look at more of Sez D’s excellent photos here – it is well worth a look!




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Bedroom at Harvington - a hide is directly above this room

Bedroom at Harvington - a hide is directly above this room

Across the UK there are said to be around a hundred old houses which still have a Priest hole.  Harvington Hall is famous for it’s seven hides – more than any surviving house. Several of these hides can be seen by visitors to the Hall today. Visitors who don’t suffer from claustrophobia (and who are also fairly thin!) are allowed to enter one of the hides when accompanied by a guide.

You can see the entrance to the staircase hide in this post (well sort of, you have to come to the Hall to really see where it is!). This time I thought it would be good to let you see inside the biggest hide at the Hall, but I can’t show you the entrance – again, come to the Hall and someone will be happy to show you this.

Grafitti in the Attic - written 114 years & 8 days ago!

Grafitti in the Attic - 114 years & 3 days old!

A hide in the ceiling space.

In an earlier post I used this picture (very top of this post) of a bedroom at Harvington Hall. What I didn’t mention at the time was that anyone standing in this room would be very close to a hiding place – so close that they could be overheard by anyone in the hide. The room has an unusually high ceiling, and it may be that it’s height is intended to disguise the fact that just above is the largest hide in the house.

A disorientating jumble of beams

A disorientating jumble of beams

The attic, a disorientating place to be.

Entered through a secret passage in one of the bedrooms, the rooftop hide is by far the biggest hide at the Hall. As soon as you enter the attic space you are confronted by a jumble of beams – it is quite easy to become disorientated as to your whereabouts in relation to the Hall below. Of course, this confusion served the purpose of the hide builder perfectly.

The end of the roof space?

The end of the roof space?

The rooftop hide (in common with several other such hides at Harvington) is assumed to be the work of Nicholas Owen, the master builder of such places. At one point there is a false hide, intended to confuse searchers and recognised as a trademark of Owen’s. At the end of the building one comes to a wall, at about chest height there is an entrance to a large space beyond. At one time this entrance had hinges and a bolt, any searcher coming across this may well have assumed that they had reached the end of the building. In John Gerards autobiography he describes a similar hide in a house in London which was ‘built in a secret gable in the roof’ and that he had occasion to use during a search in July 1599.

Searchers gone & the hide opens to reveal a large space beyond

Searchers gone & the hide opens to reveal a large space beyond

A search at Harvington?

There is no record of Harvington ever having been searched – which is perhaps a little strange because the owner of the Hall, Humphrey Packington was known to the authorities as someone sympathetic to the outlawed catholic cause. Like a lot of the stories about Harvington Hall, the truth is only partly known and to a great extent the Hall keeps it’s secrets to itself – I feel quite sure that the original builders would be quite satisfied with this.

The Colditz connection.

One story about this hide is that the Hall was visited a few years back by people who had been held as prisoners of war at Colditz castle. There is a famous story that they built a glider in the attic of the castle, planning to use this in an escape attempt ( click here for more about this story). Apparently, these visitors were shocked to learn of the similarities between their hide and the one at Harvington. Many of the techniques developed to disguise the entrance to the Colditz hide had been thought up over 300 years earlier by whoever built the hide at Harvington.

Priests bedroom - imagine the ceiling has vanished & this is what you might see?

Priests bedroom - imagine the ceiling has vanished & this is what you might see?

(PS Important note – the panel shown on the picture above, entitled ‘the end of the roof space’ does not exist. I made this in Photoshop as a representation of how this may have looked.)



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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. National Gallery, London

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. National Gallery, London

As Edward VI lay on his deathbed in 1553 he wanted a protestant heir to the throne – (or at least his advisors did ). He was only 15 years of age. Rather than name his Catholic half-sister Mary as his successor, he left the throne to his aunt’s descendents, in the knowledge that Jane, a staunch protestant, would be next in line to the throne.

Mary I Declared Queen

However, within only a few days, Mary had gathered enough support to ride into London in a triumphal procession. Parliament declared Mary the rightful Queen – and Jane and her husband were imprisoned for treason. Jane’s husband Guilford was publicly beheaded at Tower Hill. A horse and cart brought his body back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane was held prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green for a private execution rather than a public one – this was expressly ordered by Queen Mary out of respect for her cousin.

Queen Mary

Queen Mary, allowed Jane a private execution

The Scaffold

On ascending the scaffold Jane gave her gloves and handkerchief to her maid, and then recited Psalm 51 in English. Tyndale had translated the Bible into English in 1525, but any editions before 1570 were very rare so it is possible that Jane translated this psalm herself, as she was a scholar of biblical languages. The Roman Catholic priest sent by Mary to try to convert Jane to Catholicism, stayed with her during the execution.

“What shall I do? Where is it?”

Jane is reported to have turned to the executioner saying, “I pray you dispatch me quickly”. Then, indicating her head, asked, “Will you take it off before I lay me down?” to which the executioner answered, “No, madam”. Jane put on her blindfold herself, wanting to go to her death with dignity – however once blindfolded, she could not find the executioner’s block, and began to panic, crying “What shall I do? Where is it?” (This is the moment depicted in the painting by Delaroche above) An unknown hand helped her, and with her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus from St Luke’s gospel, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” She was then beheaded.

Psalm 51

edge2Have mercy upon me, O God,

according to thy lovingkindness:

according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

edgeCreate in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.


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