Doing some updates

Depending on when you see this post, things might look a little – or a lot – different than normal. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been having some big problems behind the scenes with the blog and today it was so totally hosed I had to nuke everything and start fresh from a back-up file. However, the only back-up I could get to work is the one that preserved all the text, but not the theme design and layout. So I’m going to have to piece that back together. It might not end up looking exactly the same as before, but it should be close enough to be recognizable.

And if I can get that back to (mostly) normal, there will be a Sunday Short Takes later. And then a few glasses of wine… :)

Sunday Short Takes

I only had one news story this week but it’s a pretty important one so I wanted to mention it:

* King Richard lll to be reinterred in March 2015The date of the service in which Richard lll will be finally laid to rest will be Thursday 26th March 2015. This is one of three services which will remember the life and death of the only Monarch of England without a marked grave. The mortal remains of Richard lll will be received into the care of the Cathedral on the evening of 22nd March, will lie in repose for 3 days and will be reburied on the morning of Thursday 26th. The following days, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th March, will mark the end of the journey with the reveal of the tomb and a service to mark the completion of the reinterment, and events which will look to the future having laid the King to rest.

And I wanted to put up a note in case any of you have had trouble accessing the blog over the past week or so. WordPress is occasionally a little wonky on this site (which I’m pretty sure is an issue with my hosting provider and isn’t the fault of WordPress) and last week it was very slow or down completely on and off. My host did some upgrades too, which might have been part of that. I think everything is behaving normally again for site visitors but you may still experience some slowness or connection time outs. In those cases, just try again later and hopefully it will be back up. There seem to still be issues on the Dashboard site of things (where I write posts and approve comments, etc.) so I don’t think all of the bugs have been worked out yet. Fingers crossed that it gets sorted since it would be a bit of a pain to move the site!

Upcoming Books and Exhibitions for August 2014


James Evans’ Merchant Adventurers was released last year in the UK and the US version, with the slightly different title Tudor Adventurers, is due out on August 15.

And Terry Breverton’s Jasper Tudor: The Man Who Made the Tudor Dynasty will be out August 19 in the US and August 28 in the UK. (It won’t be a big surprise to anyone who has been around here for a while that I’m really looking forward to this one!)

Continuing events, exhibitions, and displays

* CLOSING AUGUST 1 – The Society of Antiquaries is holding a free exhibition of some of the Society’s paintings including rare 15th and 16th century portraits of medieval and Tudor monarchs. It opened June 30th and runs through August 1st.

* Hans Holbein Re-made: Copies and versions of portraits from the Tudor court, went on display at the National Portrait Gallery on March 4th and will be up through August 31.

* The Royal Shakespeare Company moved their plays of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies to London to run from May 1 to September 6.

* Treasures from the Royal Archives opened at Windsor Castle on May 17, 2014 and runs through January 25, 2015 and will feature some items from the Archives that have never been on display before.

Sunday Short Takes

Get ready for a bunch of links this week!

The King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester opened this weekend, so here are a few articles related to that:

* Richard III: A look inside Leicester’s new visitor centre – This link from the Leicester Mercury has a short video tour

* Richard III visitor centre in Leicester opens its doors to the public

And in more archaeology news:

* Archaeological dig uncovers Rufford medieval church thought to have been destroyed by Henry VIII

* Help find Tudor mansion in Markeaton Park

Some more interesting stories that came along:

* Henry VIII’s armour returns to Leeds Castle after 500 years

* How Does It Feel?Understanding the emotional lives of people in the past is one of the most difficult challenges facing the historian, argues Suzannah Lipscomb. – I thought this was interesting in light of the “feelings” questions I’ve gotten on the Q&A blog over the years.

* A Tudor-Stewart marriage: oak chest wedding gift for James IV and Margaret Tudor discovered

And some BBC History Extra Tudor podcast goodness:

* Richard III and dirty Tudors – The past week’s podcast

* Top 10 Tudor podcasts – and a round-up of past Tudor-related podcasts you might have missed

Just for fun:

* Could you become a citizen of Elizabethan England? – Another entertaining quiz from BBC History Extra (I always do their weekly quiz – to date I think I have gotten a perfect score on only one occasion)

And finally:

I only recently found the Society of Antiquaries You Tube channel and I’ve embedded one of their recent videos of a short informal gallery talk about Tudor portrait sets. There are more at the channel including a few about their portrait of Richard III.

Sunday Short Takes

Only a few stories this week, but I really felt I should get a post up since I haven’t had one in a few weeks and there won’t be one next weekend since I’ll be traveling for work!

* Petworth dig to uncover King Henry’s historyAn excavation to uncover a house used by King Henry VIII in Petworth is hoped to unearth some hidden mysteries this month.

* Sir Walter Raleigh’s country manor where Elizabeth I once stayed as his guest goes on the market for £1.35 million

* V&A Museum bids for Cardinal Wolsey angels – You can learn more, including how to make a contribution, at the V&A webpage for the appeal.

* Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I returns to Museum of ReadingThe painting recently returned to Reading after several years on display at Kenilworth Castle.

Upcoming Books and Exhibitions for July 2014


Linda Porter’s Crown of Thistles has been out in the UK for some time now (paperback link below) and will be released in the US as Tudors Versus Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots on July 1.

And in new books this month, John Edwards’ Archibishop Pole (part of the Archbishops of Canterbury series) is due out in both the US and UK on July 28. Unfortunately this book has “academic pricing” (i.e. is quite expensive!) but that’s one of the many reasons I love libraries!

New exhibit

Just one opening in July:

The new King Richard III Visitor Centre opens on July 26 in Leicester and will feature the exhibition “King Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discovery”. The visitor centre is built where Richard III’s skeleton was discovered and you will have an opportunity to visit the preserved gravesite as part of the exhibition.

Continuing events, exhibitions, and displays

* If you missed out on In Fine Style when it was at Buckingham Palace, you can catch it now at the Palace of Holyroodhouse from March 14 to July 20.

* The Society of Antiquaries is holding a free exhibition of some of the Society’s paintings including rare 15th and 16th century portraits of medieval and Tudor monarchs. It opened June 30th and runs through August 1st.

* Hans Holbein Re-made: Copies and versions of portraits from the Tudor court, went on display at the National Portrait Gallery on March 4th and will be up through August 31.

* The Royal Shakespeare Company moved their plays of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies to London to run from May 1 to September 6.

* Treasures from the Royal Archives opened at Windsor Castle on May 17, 2014 and runs through January 25, 2015 and will feature some items from the Archives that have never been on display before.

Guest Post: Kyra Cornelius Kramer on Henry VIII myths

For Henry VIII’s birthday, I’m happy to welcome Kyra back for another guest post, this time doing a little Tudor mythbusting! – Lara

Happy Birthday to Henry VIII, who was born on this day 523 years ago!

As a gift to him, I have devoted this day to debunking a lot of bunk about his life that I had *assumed* was true until I delved deeper during researches for my own book about this infamous King. There is nothing like research to leave you both enlightened and appalled by your former state of unsuspecting belief. Of course, there are myriad myths about Henry and I cannot cover them all, so I’ll just pick one topic for this post.

To wit: Henry VIII split from Roman Catholicism and formed the English Church just to get a divorce from his first wife.

That is an oversimplification to the point of falsehood, that is.

Henry wed his brother’s widow, Katherina (that’s how she spelled it) of Aragon in 1509. To marry Katherina, who was both his distant cousin AND his sister-in-law, Henry had to get a dispensation from Rome which allowed the marriage despite the fact it was incest according to Church Law. Royal families had to spend a lot of time getting the Vatican to allow their marriages, in general, because the inbreeding between the European monarchies was extreme. Only when the Pope had granted the dispensation, could the union of Katherina and Henry be legally binding one in the eyes of the Church.

Over the next 15 years they had multiple children who were stillborn or died shortly after their birth, and one daughter who lived. By 1524 the King knew there was zero chance of a male heir with his wife because Katherina had gone into early menopause, so he physically separated from her and started making arrangements to get a Papal annulment. The fact he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn was not the main cause of the proceedings. At the time he was just planning on making Anne his “official” mistress. With or without Anne, he was going to end his marriage to Katherina no matter what. He was afraid that his lack of a male heir would make the Kingdom fall back into civil war and anarchy after his death, which certainly wasn’t a far-fetched scenario at the time.

At face value it seems ridiculous that Henry thought he could just snap his fingers and get his marriage declared null and void. He was a devout Catholic and Catholicism has never been reknown for its lax attitude toward the “til death do us part” clause in the wedding vows. Furthermore, Henry’s wife was more authentically connected to the English throne than he was. Her mother, Queen Isabella, was descended through the legitimate children of Edward III’s son John of Gaunt, whereas Henry VIII was descended from the children of John of Gaunt and his mistress Kathryn Swynford, who were only legitimized after John of Gaunt was able to marry their mother. Even then they were expressly forbidden as heirs to the throne, which means that Henry VIII didn’t have a leg to stand on vis-a-vis his claim to the throne, but his wife did. Katherina provided a much needed legitimacy to Henry’s crown. She was also the one with arguably the most political clout, since her nephew, Charles, was such a big deal that he was both the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Spain.

Nevertheless, Henry had good reason to think that his nullity suit would be resolved fairly quickly. Papal annulments, at least for the wealthy or royal, while not exactly a walk in the park were also not that hard to get.

For example, prior to Henry’s nullity suit in the 1520’s, Louis XII of France had pulled all kind of marital shenanigans. Louis wanted to marry Anne of Brittany, who was the widow of his cousin Charles VIII, for political and economic reasons. Thus Louis petitioned the Papacy to annul his marriage with Joan, who was the daughter of his cousin and predecessor, Louis XI. Louis XII, being something of an asshat, tried to annul the marriage based on Joan’s supposed physical deformities and the witchcraft that had been used to keep him from consummating the marriage. Although she didn’t like Louis in the slightest, Joan was understandably pissed off by his insults and fought the annulment. It was clear to everyone that Joan was in the right, but for political reasons the Pope granted Louis the annulment anyway, and allowed him to marry Anne, who was no fonder of him than Joan had been.

Also in the realm of “things you weren’t supposed to do but royalty got away with”, Henry’s long-standing rival Francis I was married to Louis’s eldest daughter, Claude, even though she was precontracted to Emperor Charles and therefore her marriage to Francis should have been disallowed on those grounds.

Even closer to home, Henry’s sister Margaret, the former Queen of Scotland, got an annulment from her second husband, the Earl of Angus, in 1527.

Unlike Henry, Margaret had grounds for her divorce that were commonly accepted as reasons to void a marriage; the Earl had been precontracted to marry another woman. Nevertheless, in an attempt to make sure her nullity suit was granted, Margaret dredged up rumors that her first husband might be alive, even though he was as really-most-sincerely-dead as the Wicked Witch of the East. The nullity suit was too important to not cover all the bases, no matter how ridiculous some of those bases were. Of course, the real reason she wanted shut of Angus (besides the fact he was on her last nerve) wasn’t that he had been precontracted or that her first husband was back from the dead; it was that Angus had kidnapped her son, who was now king James V, in order to usurp her regency and rule Scotland in her place.

It is clear that royal annulments were not exactly rare, and Henry had no idea just how hard it would be for him to obtain his own. What Henry hadn’t counted on was the fact that formerly compliant and mild-mannered Katherina would fight him, or that her nephew would soon have the Vatican by the short hairs.

In spite of Henry’s attempts to squash her rebellion against him, Katherina used friends to get messages out to her nephew, Charles V. She also got public opinion on her side, which kept Henry on the ropes. Additionally, she used every legal and theological argument she could to eviscerate Henry’s flimsy case against her and wiped the floor with him every time he challenged her in person. In the larger social and political arena, Katherina was often ahead of Henry because she had many, many loyal friends at court who reported Henry’s every plan to her so she could raise a counterattack. Plus, she had a bone-deep royal dignity that was hard to shake, and she was holding herself together so well that Henry actually sent her a petulant message that she must not love him because she was keeping her court cheerful and showed “no pensiveness in her countenance, nor in her apparel nor behavior”.

To make matters worse for Henry, the Vatican was soon put in a position that they couldn’t help him even if they wanted to. In 1527 the undisciplined troops of Katherina’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, sacked Rome and captured the Pope. Charles, who now de facto owned the Pope, wasn’t about to let the annulment go through for two reasons. 1) There was the honor of his aunt at stake and 2) he wanted to piss Henry off and show him that an European Emperor was a bigger deal than an English King.

Ironically, the biggest problem facing the annulment wasn’t Katherina or Imperial control of the Papacy; it was Henry himself. He was inadvertently hampering his own success by his pig-headed insistence that he was morally in the right. And it wasn’t just that Henry wanted everyone to say he was right, but he also wanted the Vatican to admit it had been wrong to have let him marry Katherine in the first place. He wanted the current Pope to say the last Pope had exceeded the authority granted to him by God. Henry actually thought the Papacy would throw the infallibility of the Pope into question, while the Reformation raged around them, just so Henry could marry again and have more kids.

Worse, all of Henry’s chest-beating wasn’t even necessary, since the King’s problems could have been resolved by other means than the papal dissolution of his first union. Before he was captured by Emperor Charles, the Pope was open to *ahem* alternative solutions, such as permitting royal bigamy or legitimizing the offspring of any royal adultery. But no, His Majesty had to be RIGHT in his insistence of the reason for dissolving his marriage. Henry was so concerned about the “discharge of our conscience” that he needed, fervently, to believe himself to be morally impregnable, especially since a king was considered a representative of God on earth. Henry wanted nothing less than an admission from everyone — including the Pope, Katherina, and all those on Team Katherina — that in nullifying his first marriage he was correctly and legitimately following God’s will based on the text from Leviticus.

All the Papal dawdling and Henry’s grandstanding gave Henry’s ladylove, Anne Boleyn, ample time and ammunition to convince him to consider breaking from Rome. Anne, who was an ardent and devoted religious reformist, was already upset by corruption within the Church hierarchy. She put on a steady campaign to get Henry more and more information assuring him that there was no reason for a King to be the servant of the Pope. Anne was hardly alone. Protestantism and the Reformation had already been spreading like wildfire throughout England.

By the time Henry declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England a decade had passed since he had first separated from Katherina. He and Anne Boleyn had already gotten married, and their daughter Elizabeth had been born the year before. He had already gotten a bill passed through Parliament declaring his daughter Mary illegitimate and Elizabeth as his heir. Katerina had been banished to a dank manor house in the middle of nowhere. The issue had long since moved away from the annulment of his marriage to Katherina and had become a matter of political autonomy. His attempt to dissolve his first marriage may have lit the fuse toward the creation of the Church of England, but it was certainly not the powder keg of religious and social revolution that blew Rome’s influence over English monarchical government to smithereens.

Happy Birthday, Henry.

Sunday Short Takes

* The July issue of History Today features an article by Janet Dickson on the The Final Years of Elizabeth I’s Reign (article preview at link)

* Richard III tomb design unveiled in LeicesterThe wooden coffin will be made by Michael Ibsen, a distant relative of Richard III, while the tomb will be made of Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in North Yorkshire.

And finally, a few more interesting historical houses up for sale for your “what would I do if a had a few quid to spare” dreaming…

* The Norfolk house fit for King Henry VIII – yours for just £2.75m

* 7 bedroom town house for sale in Much Wenlock, Shopshire

* 5 bedroom detached house for sale in Leicestershire

All three properties have some wonderful features, especially for someone who loves exposed beams and woodwork like I do. It would be a tough choice if I won the lottery this week!

Sunday Short Takes

* New dive to wreck of the Mary Rose allows archaeologists to find out more about ship siteExperts described the investigation – the first major dive to the underwater remains of the Mary Rose shipwreck in nine years – as “very successful”.

* The romantic roots of the Tudor dynastyThe beautiful Catherine De Valois, wife of Henry V, had a convention-defying affair with the little-known Welsh squire Owen Tudor

* Tudor monarchs’ treasured possessions to go on display at Portrait GalleryShow will include paintings, books and jewellery, including a ring of Elizabeth I’s containing a hidden picture of her dead mother (Oh how I wish I could see this exhibit!! At least I had a chance to see *the* ring at the 2003 Elizabeth I exhibition at Greenwich.)

And finally –

* Majesty and Mortar: Britain’s Great PalacesFrom the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, Dan Cruickshank tells the story of a thousand years of palace building, the mystery of why so many have vanished and the magic of the ones that survive. – A new documentary series on BBC 4, starting next week. Short preview embedded below.