Lacey Baldwin Smith has written that “Tudor portraits bear about as much resemblance to their subjects as elephants to prunes.” A slight exaggeration, maybe. But it is true that the historical accuracy of the depictions in Tudor portraits, particularly of royalty, was often at war with “symbolic iconizing”—the use of imagery to represent the person’s character, position or role.
The symbolism could include inscriptions, emblems, mottos, relationships with other people, animals, or objects, and it could also be written into the body itself. A famous example is Hans Holbein’s sketch of Henry VIII—the painting itself was destroyed in a fire—with the king posed to emphasize his power, authority, and resoluteness: legs spread and firmly planted, broad shoulders, one hand on his dagger, and a very visible codpiece (larger, art historians have noted, than portraits of other men at the time.) His stance, as Suzanne Lipscomb points out, “mimics the stance of a man standing in full armour…sparking associations with martial glory.” Lipscomb also points out an interesting detail: in the draft sketch, Henry’s face is turned to a ¾ angle. But in the final painting, as we know from 16th century copies done within Henry’s lifetime, Holbein has Henry looking straight ahead, confronting the spectator with an unblinking stare that is still symbolic of masculinity today.
The Battle of Blackheath, also known as the Battle of Deptford Bridge, was the battle which brought the Cornish Rebellion to an end. It was fought on 17th June 1497 and Henry VII’s forces were triumphant against the rebels.
The mummified remains of Peder Winstrup are one of the best-preserved human bodies from the 1600s. Preliminary investigations reveal a sensational find: the internal organs are still in place.
WATCH: Unique mummy undergoes medical investigations:
“We can now observe that Winstrup’s mummy is one of the best-preserved bodies from Europe in the 1600s, with an information potential well in line with that offered by Ötzi the ice man or Egyptian mummies. His remains constitute a unique archive of medical history on the living conditions and health of people living in the 1600s”, says Per Karsten, director of the Historical Museum at Lund University.
Peder Winstrup, a bishop and prominent historical figure in Scandinavia, was one of the founding fathers of Lund University. He died in 1679 and was buried in the famous cathedral in Lund a year later. The coffin, together with its contents, constitutes a unique time capsule from the year 1679 with a well-preserved body, textiles and plant material.
Usually the internal organs would have been removed; in this case, however, the body was not embalmed in a traditional manner but simply dried out naturally. The good condition of the body seems to be the result of several factors in combination: constant air flow, the plant material in the coffin, a long period of illness resulting in the body becoming lean, death and burial during the winter months of December‒January and the general climate and temperature conditions in the cathedral.
In December Peder Winstrup underwent a CT scan at the University hospital in Lund. The preliminary results show that the body is relatively well preserved and it was possible to identify most of the internal organs.
The first results show dried fluid and mucus in the sinuses, indicating that Winstrup had been bedridden for a long period before he died. Calcifications in the lung could indicate both tuberculosis and pneumonia. Plaque was also found in the left coronary artery of the heart, the aorta and the carotid artery, indicating that the bishop suffered from atherosclerosis.
“The gall bladder also has several gallstones, which could indicate a high consumption of fatty food”, says Caroline Ahlström Arcini, an osteologist working on the project.
Peder Winstrup, who lived to the age of 74, also suffered from osteoarthritis in both the knee and hip joints. In addition, he had lost a number of teeth. Traces of caries were found in a couple of the remaining teeth, which would indicate that he had access to sugary foods.
“His right shoulder was slightly higher than his left, due to an injury to a tendon in the shoulder. This would have limited Winstrup’s mobility, making it difficult for him to carry out simple everyday tasks such as putting on a shirt or combing his hair with the comb in his right hand”, says Caroline Ahlström Arcini.
An unexpected discovery that emerged from the CT scan was a four- or five-month old foetus, well hidden in the coffin under Winstrup’s feet. Nobody knows who put the foetus there.
“You can only speculate as to whether it was one of Winstrup’s next of kin, or whether someone else took the opportunity while preparing the coffin. But we hope to be able to clarify any kinship through a DNA test”, says Per Karsten.
The next step will be investigations into the textiles in the coffin, as well as further study of the body. Tissue samples from the internal organs are to be removed, among other things. In addition, the extensive plant material in the coffin will be investigated.
I just wanted to share with you some resources from the National Archives for those of you using primary sources for your research. Reading and interpreting old documents can be a challenge in many different ways, so here are some resources you should find useful.
Just a quick message to say that we've managed to fit Gareth Russell in for a live chat session THIS FRIDAY at 11:30pm UK time (6:30pm Eastern Daylight, 3:30pm Pacific Daylight). He'll be answering your questions on his excellent talk about "The Importance of Christianity".
William Somer (Sommers) served as Henry VIII’s fool from June 1535 and just a month later got into trouble with the King. In July 1535, Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, recorded that Henry VIII was so angry with Somer that he nearly killed him:
Henry Fitzroy was the illegitimate child of Henry VIII, the second Tudor monarch, with his mistress Elizabeth Blount. In 1512, when Henry VIII was approximately twenty-one years of age a beautiful young woman came to court. Her name was Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount and at that time she had no idea the future that lay ahead of her. While the Blounts were not members of nobility, they were members of the gentry who through opportunity, connections and talent had earned a place at court. It is believed that it was William Blount, Lord Mountjoy, Queen Katherine of Aragon’s chamberlain, who acquired a place at court for Elizabeth Blount. Sometime between 1513 – 1514, Bessie became a maid of honour to the Queen. As a maid of honour, Bessie would have had to have been beautiful and well-mannered, with all the accomplishments suitable for a young lady of the time. She’d need to be able to play a musical instrument, to sing and dance, to sew and embroider, to know her place and, most importantly, be devout to the Catholic faith. It is reported that Bessie was a very talented singer and dancer, and it may have been these talents which attracted the young Henry VIII.
On behalf of all the members of the Tudor Society, I would just like to offer our sincere and warm congratulations to historian John Ashdown-Hill who has been awarded an MBE for services to Historical Research and the Exhumation and Identification of Richard III.
In today’s Claire Chats, I look at an event from Henry VII’s reign, the marriage of Catherine of Aragon and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and the pageantry involved in Catherine’s procession through London.
Here’s the cover for the forthcoming Tudor Life magazine. The theme for this magazine is loosely “Vulnerability” and covers an interesting range of topics as always. Thanks to all the contributors for this magazine.
The Field of Cloth of Gold was an historic meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France to solidify the Treaty of London. It ran from 7th June 1520 until 24th June 1520 and was held on a field between the English stronghold of Guînes and the French town of Ardres, to solidify the Treaty of London.
The Field of Cloth of Gold was a spectacular meeting between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting lasted from the 7th June to 24th June 1520 and was one of the most impressive, lavish meetings to ever be held between the two Kings. The meeting was held between the English stronghold of Guînes and the French town of Ardres, on a piece of land which was referred to as the Field of Cloth of Gold.
On 4th June 1550 (some sources say the 5th), Robert Dudley married Amy Robsart at the royal palace of Sheen at Richmond, near London. The marriage was attended by the then king, Edward VI.
Both Amy and Dudley were a few days short of their 18th birthdays when they got married, and the marriage was a love-match, or a “carnal marriage” as William Cecil described it, rather than an arranged union. The couple were sweethearts and very much in love, but it was not to be a happy marriage and events conspired against them.
This month, historian Gareth Russell gives us a wonderful insight into the role of Importance of Christianity in the Medieval and Early Modern Period. As always, Gareth is charming and insightful with his examination of this important subject.
One of the curators behind 32 Londoners of the London Eye has contacted to let me know that Anne Boleyn has been chosen as one of their iconic 32 Londoners in 2015. Historian Tracy Borman, who is also Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, will be talking about Anne Boleyn on 11th June and pointing out London landmarks associated with Anne.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was patron to the Florentine scuptor Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474-1552) and commissioned him to make a lavish Renaissance style tomb for him. The project comprised a beautiful black marble sarcophagus and four bronze angels, each measuring around a metre in height, which are now known as Wolsey’s Angels.
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty, was born at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire on 31st May 1443. She was the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe and John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (and eventual wife) Katherine Swynford. Margaret was their only child. Although a 1397 act of Parliament legitimized the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, Henry IV declared that they could never inherit the throne.
Just a reminder that Claire Ridgway will be in the chatroom tonight (29th May) to answer questions on her recent talk on Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and the Fall of Anne Boleyn, or anything you want to ask her. The chat will be at midnight UK time on Friday, which works out as 1am Central European time on Saturday, 7pm in New York on Friday, 4pm in Los Angeles on Friday and 9am on Saturday in Sydney.