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TudorCast #2
June 2006


Welcome to Tudor Cast, a podcast dedicated to Tudor History.

Hello, and welcome to Tudor Cast for June 2006. I’m your host, Lara Eakins owner of tudorhistory.org and the TudorTalk email list at YahooGroups.

Let’s get started with a recap of some of the Tudor news in May.

Several articles appeared about a new exhibit on Hans Hobein that will run at the Tate Britain in London. One of the exciting things about this exhibit is that it will bring together the Holbein portraits of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and their son Edward VI for the first time since Henry himself owned them. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to see this exhibit in person, but I’m hoping they will publish a book or catalog with it, so at least I can buy that as a small consolation.

In more art news, Sotheby’s announced that it will be auctioning off a recently re-discovered Holbein portrait of Thomas Wyatt the Younger in July. They are estimating it will fetch between £2 and £3 million (about 3 and a half to 5.5 million US dollars). The portrait is a full-sized version of the round miniatures are known. I have a link to images on the news blog in case you aren’t familiar with them.

In DVD news, the BBC has re-issued the Six Wives of Henry VIII set in the US, and has included the TV movie of “The Other Boleyn Girl” as a bonus feature. If you already have the set like I do, but want to see The Other Boleyn Girl, which to the best of my knowledge has not run on television here in the US, it is available through Netflix. Netflix is a postal DVD rental service and The Other Boleyn Girl is available on the fourth disk if you look for the Six Wives set. Other movie rental chains may also carry the set, but I haven’t heard anything specific.

In news from Scotland, a descendent of James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell and third husband of Mary Queen of Scots, is looking for a return of Bothwell’s body to Scotland for re-burial. Bothwell died in jail in Denmark and was buried in a Danish church. There is some question of whether the remains are actually the Earl’s, so his descendent Sir Alastair Buchan-Hepburn has requested DNA testing. It will be interesting to see any follow-ups on this story.

For links to source articles and other past Tudor news, please see the archives of the news blog at tudorhistory.org/blog

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In this segment, I look at websites that explore aspects of Tudor, Elizabethan or Renaissance history in depth.

For this month I decided to feature a section from the website of the National Archives of the United Kingdom, which was formed in 2003 after bringing together the Public Records Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission. The section I’m going to focus on it their lessons in palaeography, or in other words, learning how to read the handwriting in original historical documents. The address is www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography. And palaeography is spelled P A L A E O G R A P H Y. I’ll also have a link in the show notes.

The tutorial has a tips section, and a reference section with information on dates,  numbers, money, abbreviations of counties and some other things that you might find useful if you start delving into primary source documents. The third section is a tutorial with ten actual documents of increasing levels of difficulty for you to practice transcribing. The first, and easiest, is a section from a letter written by Elizabeth I before she was queen and is often called “the Tide Letter”. It’s the one that is recognizable by the diagonal slash marks through the empty space of the second page to keep a forger from adding anything. If you’ve ever seen Elizabeth’s handwriting from when she was younger, it was very neat and even and doesn’t take a lot of effort to read 450 years later, except for the variations in spellings. One tip for dealing with those, which I learned myself and I know many others have discovered as well, is to try reading any problem words aloud with the surrounding sentence, and it will usually come to you. In addition to the 10 tutorial documents, they have a further practice section with several more documents for you to try your transcription skills on. And last but not least is the ducking stool game. The premise is that a woman has been accused of a crime and is facing the ducking stool, which they have a woodcut illustration of. It’s basically a woman tied to a chair and being lifted over a river, which they will dip her into repeatedly as part of her punishment. So, to save the woman from her cold, wet fate, you have to correctly transcribe words. Unfortunately, she got pretty wet on my first try at the game!

They also have a further reading section. I have one of the books they mention - “Reading Tudor and Stuart Handwriting” by Munby, Hobbs and Crosby, which I bought at the British Library in 2003, and I recommend it. It has some nice examples and a guide to the secretary hand, which I’ve come across in Tudor government documents. I’ll put links to Amazon for it in the show notes for anyone who is interested.

So, if you’ve thought you might like to take a stab at learning to read the documents and letters of the Tudors but have been intimidated by the old writing, this would be a good place to start learning how to read it.

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And now for This Month in Tudor History, where I feature some well known and maybe not as well known people and events that took place during this month.

For June, I’m going to look at a series of days in the same year, 1509. Henry VII died on April 24th of that year and Henry VIII succeeded him to the throne just shy of 18 years old. The young new king chose to take his late brother Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, as his wife and the two were married on the 11th of June 1509. The wedding took place in the oratory of the Franciscan Observants next to the Palace of Greenwich, where Henry VIII was born 18 years earlier. Catherine was 23, six years the senior of her new husband. Of course, this marriage and whether or not Catherine came to Henry’s bed a virgin would come under great scrutiny about twenty years later.

The two were crowned in a joint ceremony on the 24th of June at Westminster Abbey by William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The coronation was of course recorded by the chroniclers of the time. Here is an excerpt from John Hall:

The following day being a Sunday, and also Mid-summer’s Day. The noble prince with his queen left the palace for Westminster Abbey at the appointed hour. The barons of the Cinq Ports held canopies over the royal couple who trod on striped cloth of ray, which was immediately cut up by the crowd when they had entered the abbey. Inside, according to sacred tradition and ancient custom, his grace and his queen were anointed and crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of other prelates of the realm and the nobility and a large number of civic dignitaries. The people were asked if they would take this most noble prince as their king and obey him. With great reverence, love and willingness they responded with the cry “Yea, yea”.

Hall goes into detail of the banquet and the ceremony that continues through the feast. The chronicle continues:

After the second course had been served, a fully armed night entered the hall riding a huge horse decorated in tissue-cloth and embroidered with the arms of England and France. The knight himself wore a skirt to his armour made of richly embroidered tissue and a great plume of ostrich feathers stood out from his helmet. Preceded by a herald of arms, he presented himself to His Majesty with due ceremony, at which the garter herald of arms cried: “Sir knight, whence come you and what is your business?” The knight, who was none other than Sir Robert Dimmocke, the king’s hereditary champion, replied: “Sir, the place from which I come is of no consequence and the reason I come hither concerns no other place or country than this.” At that point he commanded his herald to declare “O yea”. He then addressed the garter herald of arms saying, “Now you shall hear the reason for my coming and my business here.”

He then commanded his own herald to make the following proclamation: “If there be any person here, of whatever estate or degree, who says or wishes to prove that King Henry VIII is not the rightful inheritor of the throne of this realm, I, Sir Robert Dimmocke his champion, hereby throw down the gauntlet and offer to fight such a person.” This proclamation was repeated in various parts of the hall and each time he cast down his gauntlet to prove his earnest. Having made several of these challenges the knight returned to the king’s presence and requested something to drink. At the king’s command he was give a golden cup filled with wine which he drank and then asked for the cup’s cover. This was also delivered to him, which done the knight left the hall, taking the cup and its over with him.

Hall goes on to explain that as part of this ritual, the king’s champion goes to the armoury and takes the second best of the king’s armour, harness and things for decorating his crest or helm and then takes the king’s second best charger horse. At the end of the ceremony, the champion gets to keep all the trappings, including the gold cup he drank from.

The celebrations continued, including jousts and tourneys in the grounds of the palace of Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament now stand, incorporating the great hall from the old Palace.

One other June 1509 event I would like to mention is sort of a bookend to the final entry in last month’s “This Month in Tudor History”. On June 29th, Margaret Beaufort died, having just passed her 66th birthday. I sort of take a sentimental view of Margaret’s death so close to that of her only child, Henry VII and within the week of seeing her grandson crowned as the second Tudor king, continuing the new dynasty of the English monarchy. With all of this accomplished, Margaret succumbed to what was probably a lingering illness since she had made a lengthy will in January of that year. Margaret is buried in Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel, built in the reign of her son, Henry VII, surrounded by her royal descendants.

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Now it’s time for a segment where I would normally feature a text from the Tudor period. Since I already read some chronicle excerpts in this podcast, I thought I would put in a Tudor song for this segment. The music that I’ve used between the segments are from a group called La Primavera, whose music can be heard and purchased at Magnatune.com. By the way, I’m going to throw a plug in here for Magnatune, because they are a wonderful antidote to the over reaching copyright restrictions preferred by the RIAA. You can listen to all the music and artists on the Magnatune website and choose how much you want to pay to buy downloads or CDs. They split all the proceeds 50/50 with the artists. They actually will supply music free to podcasters in exchange for mentioning Magnitune, but I decided to buy this particular CD anyway. I’ll put a link directly to it in the show notes.

So, the song I’ve chosen for this podcast is “Pastime With Good Company” and was written by Henry VIII. I’ll also post the lyrics in the show notes.

Pastime with good company I love, and shall until I die;
Grudge who lill but none deny so this live will I
For my pastance, hunt sing and dance; My heart is set,
All goodly sport, to my comfort, who shall me let?

Youth must have some dalliance, of good or ill some pastance;
Company me thinketh best allthoughts and fancies to digest;
For idleness is chief mistress of vices all:
Then who can say but mirth and play is best of all?

Company with honesty is virtue sure; and vice to flee,
Company is good or ill, but every man has his free will.
The best I sue, the worst eschew; My mind shall be
Virtue to use, vice to refuse, I shall use me.

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And now for some closing comments and some other extraneous things!

First off, I want to mention that the Tudor Ghost Story contest that I’ve mentioned on the website and email list over the past several years is back. Wendy Dunn, author of “Dear Heart, How Like You This?” started the contest in 2000 at the Tudor England pages at Suite 101. She has now moved on from that site, so I’ll be hosting the contest and winners at TudorHistory.org but Wendy is still the organizational force behind it all. She’s brought in Anne Easter Smith, author of Rose for a Crown, a novel on Richard III, as this year’s judge. The winning entry will be published on my website, but Wendy has also arranged to have it published in the Copperfield Review, a journal for readers and writers of historical fiction. The deadline for submissions is December 1st. This year there will be a $5 US entry fee to cover the costs of the prizes. Any left over money will be donated to charity. To find out more and read the past winners, go to tudorhistory.org/storycontest.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that I will be on vacation for three weeks in August, so I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to be able to get a podcast out that month. I’ll have internet access on and off and I’ll have my laptop, so I should be able to get it written, but recording might be another thing. We’ll see. I still haven’t managed to get back to the UK for a vacation, but I’ll be in Philadelphia for a few days, then New York City, where among other things, I’ll be attending a reading by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and John Iriving as part of a charity event. I’m really looking forward to it! After that, it is two weeks in Maine, where I’ve gone on vacation for the last two summers. It’s really lovely up there, and a wonderful place to escape August in Texas.

I can’t think of a whole lot else that I want to add this month. I think I’m slightly brain dead as I sit here in my office waiting to see if it is going to be clear enough to open the telescope for public viewing tonight. And since I’m recording this on the summer solstice, the sun is setting pretty late even down here in Texas, so it is a bit of a wait. For those of you who haven’t heard me talk about it on my website or the email list, my actual day job is in astronomy and one of the things that I do is run one of the open house nights on one of our campus telescopes. Sometimes it is a lot of fun, especially when Saturn is bright and there are people who have never seen the rings in a telescope before. The reaction is always wonderful. And to be honest, althought I’ve seen Saturn in a telescope literally hundreds of times, I don’t get tired of it.

Okay, so, until next month, fare the well!