The Tudor Society
  • John Blanke

    John Blanke was a royal trumpeter and was employed as a musician at the court of Henry VII and Henry VIII, his first appearance at court being recorded in 1507. It is believed that John Blanke was of African descent; however, sadly, his age, date of birth, parentage, and place of birth all remain unknown to us.

    It appears that John Blanke was part of a larger trend in Europe at the time in which rulers tended to employ African musicians. It is believed that this happened from as early as 1194 when it is documented that turbaned black trumpeters were involved in the procession of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, into Palermo in Sicily. Scholars have suggested that Blanke arrived in England alongside Katherine of Aragon as part of her retinue when she came to marry Prince Arthur in 1501. Although we have evidence for an African presence in her retinue, there is no record of John Blanke being a member, so this is speculative. Also, given the fact that the Tudor court employed musicians from all over Europe, Blanke could have come from Spain, Portugal, or Italy, as these countries had an increasingly large African population.

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  • Africans in Tudor and Stuart England by Conor Byrne

    One often hears of the Tudor period being ‘done to death’. Historians have always revelled, and continue to do so, in studying this exciting and glamorous period, which saw monumental religious change, political development and cultural growth, and ordinary people worldwide cannot get enough of the Tudors, whether reading about them, watching historical films or visiting Tudor palaces. However, it cannot be denied that our obsession with the Tudors is very white-centred.

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