The Tudor Society
  • John Dudley Quiz

    John Dudley is a fascinating Tudor man, but how much do you know about him? Test your knowledge with this fun quiz. Good luck!

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  • January 2019 Tudor Life Taster

    Happy New Year! This month in Tudor Life Magazine, we have a bumper edition which is 94 pages long. It’s all about the Marys who made up the Tudor world…

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  • January 2019 – Tudor Life – Tudor Marys

    Happy New Year! This month in Tudor Life Magazine, we have a bumper edition which is 94 pages long. It’s all about the Marys who made up the Tudor world…

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  • Childermas or Holy Innocents’ Day

    Today is Childermas or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a day that is still important in the Catholic Church and which was one of the Twelve Days of Christmas in Tudor times. Let me tell you about it in today’s Claire Chats video talk.

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  • Throwback Thursday – Our Tudor People section

    If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of lots of archives to explore on the Tudor Society website as we have been adding content on a more than weekly basis since August 2014.

    One section that you might have missed is our Tudor People section.

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  • Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day

    In the UK today, 26th December is known as Boxing day and has become the day for spending your Christmas money at the post-Christmas sales or going for a bracing walk. We don’t think of it as the Feast of St Stephen.

    But in Tudor times, it commemorated the martyrdom of St Stephen, who was stoned to death for blasphemy.

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  • Merry Christmas to all Tudor Society members!

    Merry Christmas to all Tudor Society members!

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  • This week in history 24 – 30 December

    24th December:

    1545 – King Henry VIII made his final speech to Parliament. Historian Robert Hutchinson describes it as “both measured and compelling”, and writes of how Henry wanted “to impart a stern message” to all of his subjects.
    1604 – Death of Sir Thomas Cornwallis, Comptroller of the household of Mary I and member of Parliament, at the age of eighty-six. He was buried at Brome in Suffolk. Cornwallis was active in putting down Kett’s Rebellion in 1549 and in 1553, after originally proclaiming Lady Jane Grey as Queen in Ipswich, he swapped sides and swore allegiance to Mary I.

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  • Christmas Quiz 2018

    As this is our last quiz before Christmas, I thought I’d include some Christmas trivia questions and also some questions about Tudor events that happened around Christmas. So, grab your favourite Christmas tipple and a mince pie (or a slice of Christmas cake) and have a bit of fun with this quiz. Good luck!

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  • Christmas Carols

    Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me without listening to traditional Christmas carols, although I do like a bit of Michael Bublé! In today’s Claire Chats I talk about Christmas carols and their history.

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  • 21 December – A marriage and a death

    I just thought I’d highlight two “on this day in history” events for you today and give you links to read more about them:

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  • Throwback Thursday – Christmas Fun

    As it’s nearly Christmas (if you hadn’t noticed!), I thought I’d make today’s Throwback Thursday treat from the archives as Christmassy one.

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  • Catherine of Aragon’s halo?

    Thank you to Lynne for asking this question about Michael (Michel) Sittow’s portrait of a woman said to be Catherine of Aragon. The portrait of Katherine of Aragon painted by Michael Sittow on her marriage to Arthur shows Katherine with a halo around her headdress, and I read that the halo was painted on at a later date. I always thought that it was part of Katherine’s headdress, am I wrong?”

    The painting by Michael Sittow, shown here, is beautiful. We don’t actually know for certain who it is and there has been controversy surrounding it in recent years because the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna relabelled the portrait as being of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, based on “Henry VIII’s Favourite Sister? Michel Sittow’s Portrait of a Lady in Vienna”, an article by Paul G. Matthews. You can read more about this in Katherine of Aragon or Mary Tudor? – The Re-identification of Michel Sittow’s Portrait of a Young Woman by Nasim Tadghighi. For me, it makes more sense that it is Catherine.

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  • The survival of the Bridgettine Order of Syon Abbey

    Engraving of original seal of the Abbess and Convent of Syon, Isleworth

    On this day in history, 19th December 1576, Katherine Palmer, Abbess of Syon, died in Mechelen. Katherine and her nuns had fled from England to the Low Countries in 1559, following the accession of the Protestant queen, Elizabeth I, and had finally settled at Mechelen. There, on 8th November 1576, a mob of Calvinists broke into the monastery and the courageous abbess confronted them. It is thought that confronting the mob, a traumatic response, led to her death just over a month later, on 19th December. She was laid to rest at Mechelen in the Church of the Augustinians.

    I dug a little into Katherine Palmer and her order. I found that she was of a gentry background and had given up that life to join the Bridgettine Order at Syon Monastery, in the parish of Isleworth, which had been founded by Henry V in 1415 and that had a reputation for its pious monastic life. Unfortunately, the abbey was dissolved in 1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, the sisters kept their monastic life in small groups, one of which was led by Katherine.

    In 1551, Katherine and six nuns and four brothers relocated to Termonde in the Low Countries. They returned to England in 1555, in the reign of the Catholic queen, Mary I, at Cardinal Pole's urging, and refounded Syon. Katherine was elected as abbess. As I said earlier, they fled England in 1559, moving to Termonde and then Antwerp and on to Mechelen, where Katherine died in 1576.

    In his article for the Telegraph, Christopher Howse writes of how the order "went through astonishing sufferings from poverty and war, seeking refuge in France and Portugal" before finally settling back in England in 1861. In 1925, the order settled at South Brent, in Devon.

    What is amazing is that they are the only surviving pre-Reformation religious community in England - wonderful!

    Notes and Sources

    • Ridgway, Claire (2012) On This Day in Tudor History, MadeGlobal Publishing.
    • The survival of England's Syon, Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, 18 Oct 2008.
  • This week in history 17 – 23 December

    17th December:

    1538 – Pope Paul III announced the excommunication of Henry VIII.
    1550 – Birth of Henry Cavendish, soldier, traveller and son of Bess of Hardwick and Sir William Cavendish. He was married to Grace Talbot, daughter of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. This match was arranged by his mother who had married the Earl of Shrewsbury.
    1559 – Matthew Parker was consecrated as Elizabeth I’s Archbishop of Canterbury. According to “The Correspondence of Matthew Parker”, Anne Boleyn charged him with the care of Elizabeth when she saw him in April 1536, “not six days before her apprehension”. Historian Eric Ives writes that this was a request that Parker never forgot, and something which stayed with him for ever. Parker obviously came to be important to Elizabeth, because she made him her Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559. It was a post which Parker admitted to Lord Burghley, he would not have accepted if he “had not been so much bound to the mother”. Parker was Archbishop until his death in 1575.

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  • Christmas Wordsearch

    Our Sunday puzzler this week is a fun wordsearch. How much do you know about British Christmas traditions? Lots, if you listened to Claire’s talk on Friday! Test yourself with this wordsearch. Be warned, the words can go in any direction!

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  • Christmas Party reminder (15th December!) and January live chats

    Tomorrow, Saturday 15th December, is time for the party of all parties, the Tudor Society Christmas party! Yay! I can't promise you bad Christmas music, or lots of food and drink, but I can promise you an hour of lovely socialising with some very friendly like-minded people.

    How does our Christmas party work?

    Well, we all pile into the Tudor Society chatroom and chat. You can dress up for it if you like (I might wear my Christmas jumper!) and why don't you bring along your favourite Christmas tipple and snack? It's always fun to share what we're eating and drinking. Then we just chat. You can talk Tudor if you like, ask other members how they celebrate Christmas, anything really! They're always good fun. The party is open to all Tudor Society full access members plus our magazine subscribers.

    Here are the times in different time zones:

    • London, UK - Saturday 15th December at 11pm
    • Madrid, Spain - Sunday 16th December at 12am
    • New York, USA - Saturday 15th December at 6pm
    • Los Angeles, USA - Saturday 15th December at 3pm
    • Sydney, Australia - Sunday 16th December at 10am
    • Adelaide, Australia - Sunday 16th December at 9.30am

    You can find the chatroom at

    I have some other dates for your diaries too!

    As you know, our expert speaker for December is historian Kate Cole. Her talk is about witches in Elizabethan and Stuart Essex, a fascinating topic. Kate will be joining us in the chatroom to answer your questions in a live chat session on 4th January 2019. That gives you plenty of time to view her video - - if you haven't had chance yet.

    Here are the times in different time zones:

    • London, UK - Friday 4th January at 11pm
    • Madrid, Spain - Saturday 5th January at 12am
    • New York, USA - Friday 4th January at 6pm
    • Los Angeles, USA - Friday 4th January at 3pm
    • Sydney, Australia - Saturday 5th January at 10am
    • Adelaide, Australia - Saturday 5th January at 9.30am

    Our expert speaker for January is Samantha Wilcoxson, author of The Plantagenet Embers series of historical novels. She will be speaking to us on Mary I, the subject of her novel Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I. She will be joining us in the chatroom on 25th January.

    Here are the times in different time zones:

    • London, UK - Friday 25th January at 11pm
    • Madrid, Spain - Saturday 26th January at 12am
    • New York, USA - Friday 25th January at 6pm
    • Los Angeles, USA - Friday 25th January at 3pm
    • Sydney, Australia - Saturday 26th January at 10am
    • Adelaide, Australia - Saturday 26th January at 9.30am

    Our informal live chat in January is also on Mary I and will give you chance to share your views on the woman who has gone down in history as "Bloody Mary". That chat will take place on 11th January.

    Here are the times in different time zones:

    • London, UK - Friday 11th January at 11pm
    • Madrid, Spain - Saturday 12th January at 12am
    • New York, USA - Friday 11th January at 6pm
    • Los Angeles, USA - Friday 11th January at 3pm
    • Sydney, Australia - Saturday 12th January at 10am
    • Adelaide, Australia - Saturday 12th January at 9.30am
  • British Christmas Traditions

    Our family’s Christmas is now a real mix of British and Spanish traditions, with an Icelandic tradition thrown in for good measure! In today’s Claire Chats video talk, I look at the popular Christmas traditions of the UK, and I’d love it if you could tell me about your country’s traditions, or those that are personal to your family.

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  • Throwback Thursday – Professional Tudor Musicians

    For today’s Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d highlight this wonderful expert talk from Jane Moulder from back in 2015. Jane is not only incredibly knowledgeable about the music and musicians of the period, but she is also a member of the wonderful Renaissance group Piva.

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  • Escape from Lumley Castle!

    I’ve just received this news regarding Lumley Castle, a 14th-century castle, now hotel, in County Durham, in the North of England. Here’s the press release:

    The legend surrounding a 630-year-old North East castle is to be brought vividly to life, giving amateur detectives the chance to solve a mystery in a UK first.

    Lumley Castle Hotel, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, has announced plans to create the country’s first escape room within a historic property. The 73-room castle has joined forces with the highly acclaimed Escape Rooms Durham, which already runs two games within the city centre, Mr Borrowdale’s Study and Lab Heist. And the organisation has created a unique new escape room challenge, based on the tragic story of Lily of Lumley, who, in the 14th century, was reputedly thrown down a well by Catholic priests for renouncing her faith. Lily is said to haunt the castle and there have been many supposed sightings of her ghost over the years – but now everyone who visits Lumley will get the opportunity to come face to face with the tragic heroine.

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  • Katherine Grey, Countess of Hertford

    Lady Katherine Grey was born as the second surviving daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk. Born at Bradgate Park in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, Katherine was the offspring of an aspiring and preeminent Tudor family with ambitions at the royal court. Katherine’s maternal grandparents were Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and Mary Tudor, the youngest surviving sister of King Henry VIII; this gave Katherine, and her two siblings, Jane and Mary, a claim to the English throne through their grandmother. Known popularly as the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, the tragic young queen who was sentenced to death by the Catholic Queen Mary I, Katherine has become a fashionable topic of discussion in the academic and popular history world. Historians such as Leanda de Lisle have revaluated her life to reveal an equally as resilient and tragic figure to her sister Jane; indeed, Lady Katherine’s short life witnessed a number of tumultuous and unexpected events. This article intends to put forward a condensed examination of her life, which will include: her marriage, imprisonment, claim to the throne and downfall.

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  • This week in history 10 – 16 December

    10th December:

    1541 – Thomas Culpeper, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and Francis Dereham, a member of Queen Catherine Howard’s household, were executed at Tyburn. Culpeper and Dereham were tried on 1st December 1541 at the Guildhall, and convicted of treason. Both were executed on 10th December 1541, but Culpeper was beheaded while Dereham had to face the brutal traitor’s death of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Culpeper was buried at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate (Holborn).
    1591 – Executions of Edmund Gennings, Roman Catholic priest, and Swithin Wells, Roman Catholic, on a scaffold set up outside Wells’ house at Holborn. They were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason due to their Catholic faith and for celebrating the mass.

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  • Don’t miss Kate Cole’s “The Witches of Elizabethan and Stuart Essex” talk!

    Everybody’s heard of the Pendle Witches, but historian Kate Cole feels there are far more interesting witches from Elizabethan and Stuart Essex. We hope you enjoy Kate’s fascinating talk.

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  • General Tudor History Quiz

    Every Sunday we have a bit of Tudor history fun. Sometimes it’s a crossword puzzle or wordsearch, and other times it’s a quiz. Today it’s quiz. So, grab yourself a snack and your favourite beverage, make yourself comfortable, and let’s get those little grey cells working!

    Good luck!

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  • Have you read this month’s magazine?

    The December issue of Tudor Life Magazine which is produced by the Tudor Society and edited by historian and author Gareth Russell is a wonderful read. Its theme is the Cecil family, but it also has a Christmas section.

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  • Happy birthday Mary, Queen of Scots!

    Today is the anniversary of the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots, on 8th December 1542. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland and his second wife, Marie de Guise, and the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) and James IV of Scotland.

    One of the mottos associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, is “En ma Fin gît mon Commencement” , or “In my End is my Beginning”, and she is more famous for her brutal end at the hands of the axeman on 8th February 1587.

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  • Open Weekend Day 2 – We hope you’re enjoying it!

    The open weekend kicked off brilliantly yesterday with lots of registrants visiting the site and diving into the archives. We hope you thoroughly enjoyed having a good look around.

    Yesterday, we added our usual Friday video talk to the site. This week, Philippa Brewell, our raving reporter, gave us a virtual tour of the beautiful ruins of Wenlock Priory. It really is a stunning place.

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  • 3 Expert Answers from our Archives

    As part of our Tudor Society open weekend I'd like to share three expert answers from our archives with you. Tudor Society members can submit questions and have them answered by Tudor experts. You can find more in our archives.

    Elizabeth I arriving at Nonsuch

    Thank you so much to Tudor Society member Nancy for asking this question: "If the queen had to make a potty stop between residences, how would that be accomplished? Does anyone know?"

    Social historian and re-enactor Bess Chilver has answered Nancy's question, taking into account what a king would do as well. Over to Bess...

    Very interesting question. Our perception of a Royal, even now in these times of minimal deference, is that of a figure, remote and almost not human. Or at least, not subject to the usual human frailties and bodily functions.

    However, even a King or a Queen needs to use the (Royal) Potty sometimes, so where did they use it?


    Catherine of Aragon

    Thank you to Tudor Society member Angela for asking the question "Should Ferdinand of Aragon have insisted on Katherine's return when Prince Arthur died?". Historian Amy Licence, who is the author of Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII's True Wife has answered Angela's question...

    This is a complex question, because Katherine's position in England fluctuated during the period of her widowhood between 1502 and 1509. Also, we have to consider the dual impulses in Ferdinand, as a father on one hand, and as a monarch on the other, playing on the international stage, on which all his children were pawns for the furtherment of the Spanish Empire. Out of Katherine’s parents, it was Isabella of Castile who played a more active role in terms of writing to Henry VII before and after her daughter’s wedding, so she was really the commanding figure of the pair until her death in 1505. We must be careful too, with the word “should,” because it is suggestive of hindsight. We know what an awful time Katherine was to have during her widowhood and later, at the hands of Henry VIII, but back then they didn’t know how things would turn out.


    Thank you to Ana for asking "Why did Henry VIII get so fat? Was he really obese because he ate too much? Or because he was ill?". Here is Kyra Kramer's answer:

    Henry was a man of large appetites, in so many ways. Until he was in his late 30s, he was an Adonis and Olympic-level athlete, and he ate to match the calorific needs of his muscular, 6'2" body. Like many athletes, he continued to eat this way even when middle age slowed down his metabolism, meaning that while he still rode and jousted as much as ever, he was getting a bit thick in the middle. We've all, I believe, seen this happen to formerly strapping men. They call it the "dad jeans" phase in America; when men start wearing jeans a little bigger, a little looser, and with a little more room in the backside. They are by no means obese, but they are no longer the ab-showing gods of their youth.

    That was the stage Henry was in when he had his terrible jousting accident in January of 1536. After the accident, he never jousted again. His legs had become too weak (either from the osteomyelitis-related ulcers or from McLeod's syndrome) to hold himself into the saddle when a lance struck him. However, he did still ride long hours almost every day in hunting, and while he remained an equestrian, his girth remained in check. Sadly for the king, the ulcers on his legs began to be too painful to ride or to even move around easily. In a relatively short time period Henry changed from a sportsman to a near-invalid.


  • Expert Talk – Gareth Russell – Catherine Howard: Personality and Private Life

    To celebrate our Tudor Society open weekend, we have a special bonus expert talk this month from historian Gareth Russell, author of “Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII”.

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  • Wenlock Priory – Philippa, roving reporter

    In this week’s Friday video talk, Philippa Lacey Brewell, the Tudor Society roving reporter, takes us around the beautiful ruins of Wenlock Priory in Much Wenlock, Shropshire.

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