Friday, July 20, 2007

Question from Mike - Persons of color at the Tudor court?

While watching the Sho-Time series "The Tudors" I notice that there were a few (black) characters in a couple of the episodes. So, it made me wonder being a person of color myself.

Were there any persons of color in any of the courts leading up to the Tudor Dynasty? And if so what role(s) did they play?


Blogger Liam said...

I don't think there were any persons of colour at the Tudor court. I could be wrong, but I wouldn't take the Show-time series as an indication of what things were like at the Tudor court - by all accounts it's wildly inaccurate.

July 21, 2007 6:00 AM  
Anonymous Ph D Historian said...

As Liam correctly points out, Showtime's "The Tudors" is hugely inaccurate. In placing persons of African origin at the early Tudor court of Henry VIII, Showtime is playing to a viewer demographic and "political correctness," not historical accuracy. There were "persons of color" in London during the later Tudor era, but in very small numbers. They appear in the plays of Shakespeare, itself an indication of their presence. They were largely limited to the lower economic classes, however. As such, it is very unlikely that they would have been attending the court of Henry VIII dressed in silks and jewels as depicted in "The Tudors." Migration into England of persons from different continents (i.e., beyond Europe)became possible only after England began extensive seafaring exploration and colonization, beginning with explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh in the late Elizabethan period. Thus persons of African descent do begin appearing in small numbers in art from the Stuart court of the 17th century, for example, but as servants rather than courtiers.

July 21, 2007 6:43 PM  
Anonymous GarethR said...

To be fair to Showtime, however, the scenes in question were (I think) set in France and there were several black diplomats briefly in service in Paris, as ambassadors for the Islamic Ottoman Empire, which still ruled over parts of Africa in the 1500's. So, it's not absolutely inaccurate. Similar questions were raised by the inclusion of a black music teacher in Sofia Coppola's "Marie-Antoinette;" but that too has a root in historical fact, again via the Ottoman Empire. Hope this helps!

July 25, 2007 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a famous diplomatic visit of Moroccans to Elizabeth's court in the 1590s, but I do think that the time of The Tudors is too early for non-European visitors. A great book that discusses the presence of persons of color in early modern literature, art, etc. is Things of Darkness by, I believe, Kim Walker. A very good and informative read. ---kate in miami

July 28, 2007 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was no people of colour in England or any other country during tudor times.
I think this has just been added to the series to alter it and make it diffent and also it makes someone who does not know much on Tudor history who is the viewer beleive it.

July 28, 2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There may have been a person of color at the court of King James IV of Scotland, who was married to Margaret Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII and the sister of Henry VIII. Maria Perry provides some information about "Black Ellen," for so the sixteenth-century Scots referred to her, in her book "The Sisters of Henry VIII (DaCapo Press, 2000) on pages 50-51.


July 30, 2007 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Prisca said...

I have read that one member of Henry VIII's household was named 'John Black' - at least one historian has identified him as a person of colour (I'm afraid I can't remember where I read this). As a trumpeter this John Black would have been a servant, but probably dressed in royal livery. However, he would have no significant part to play in the life of Court, except, i'm sorry to say, as a curiosity. (Remember that this was a time when 'dwarves' were regularly employed by monarchs for their perceived entertainment value).

August 01, 2007 5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look up John Blanke (Yes Blanke) on Google.
Black Trumpeter in the reign of Henry viii.
His pay records are available and he is shown in two tapestries of the time.

December 04, 2007 7:39 AM  

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