The Tudor Travel Guide

Your Visitor's Companion to the Aristocratic Houses of the Sixteenth Century

Christmas is fast approaching and after the end of a difficult year for most of us, some feasting and merriment will be most welcome. Well, in this month’s Great Tudor Bake Off, Brigitte Webster, our Tudor chef, here at The Tudor Travel Guide, treats us to a savoury Tudor dish for the dinner table: Tudor venison pie. We hope you enjoy reading this blog and have a go at recreating this dish for yourself. At the very end, you will also find a link to a video, where you can learn more about Tudor food at Christmas from Brigitte and follow along as she prepares the venison pie in her kitchen at the Old Hall in Norfolk. Merry Christmas!

Feasting at a Tudor Christmas

Before the Reformation, Advent, or the forty days of St Martin, was a period of fasting which ended on Christmas Eve, 24 December. Celebrations and festive food started to be served for twelve days known as Christmastide. Advent fasting meant no meat, cheese, milk or eggs. After such a long time of food restrictions, the first feast on Christmas Day would have been a very welcome arrival. The custom of eating high-value meats and other luxurious foods continued at Christmas and survived the test of time and the influence of the Reformation movement.

The staple dish of a Tudor Christmas was meat.  If Christmas fell on a fasting day such as a Friday, the Church gave special permission that meat, instead of fish, could be eaten. (No such dispensation applied to New Year’s Day.)

Ingatestone Hall, Essex

Household accounts give us precise quantities of just how much meat was consumed.  On Christmas Day 1551, at Ingatestone Hall in Essex, Sir William Petre’s family consumed six boiled and six roast joints of beef; a neck of mutton; a loin of pork; a breast of pork; a goose and four coneys. For supper, the feast continued with five more joints of mutton; a neck of pork; two coneys; a woodcock and a venison pasty.

Henry Willoughby gave a feast for all his tenants on Christmas Day in 1547 and his household accounts show the purchase of 4 pieces of beef; a whole mutton; ten geese; nine pigs; six capons; a swan; sixteen coneys; three hens;  two woodcocks and sixteen venison pies! The Earl of Rutland was quite well known for having his baked stag and deer pasties sent from Belvoir when he was in London.

Venison and the Tudor Table at Christmas

Venison was the meat of the nobility and generally could not be purchased – you either were ‘gifted’ it or you had your own deer park (= forest), which supplied you with both hunting, fun and venison. Christmas fell right in the hunting season and so venison was clearly a popular choice. Most recipes call for it to be boiled or roasted and baked as venison pie. A sixteenth-century English physician and former Carthusian monk esteemed it ‘gentlemen’s food’ and felt that nowhere in the world was venison so esteemed as in England.

Some meat, such as chicken and rabbit (coney), were subject to price hiking in the run-up to Christmas before dipping to well below average during Lent. At Ingatestone Hall, rabbits featured prominently both at dinner and supper over Christmas 1551-52. This may indicate that household heads treated their servants and labourers to rabbit meat at Christmas.

Accounts between 1500 and 1600, reveal that sausage was also becoming more popular with the gentry at Christmas.  Also, it has to be also that some vegetables were increasingly popular in the late sixteenth-century. This is reflected in household accounts and cookery books aimed at the well to do. A popular one was the turnip, which could be purchased during the cold season. Food (such as capons and oranges) was a popular and welcome Christmas gift.

Henry VIII received six kinds of cheese from Suffolk on New Year’s Day 1538, witnessed by Master John Husee.  In 1544, Mary received sweetmeats, amongst many other gifts.  Elizabeth I was the lucky recipient of a pair of quinces and a chessboard made from marchpane from the master Cook, as well as boxes of sweetmeats and crystallised fruit from the Clerk of the Spicery. In 1577-8, she also received a pot of green (fresh) ginger and orange flowers from Doctor Maister; a few marchpane from the Master Cook; a great pie of quinces and wardens from the Sergeant of the Pastry, while Morgan, the Apothecary, sent three boxes of ginger candy, another of ginger and a third filled with orange candy.

A chessboard made out of marchpane in black and gold
Chessboard made of marchpane

Christmas was a time when, by tradition, the wealthier members of society were supposed to extend their hospitality to those less fortunate. In December 1555, diarist Henry Machyn, recorded that he and his neighbours were guests at a great feast and offered marmalade, gingerbread, fruit and jelly.

Neighbours expecting an invite to the party at the ‘Big House’ would send anything from preserves, fruit, pies, cakes, eggs, cheese, spices, meats or brawns.  From most of the records available, it seems that gifts were given in the hope either of a return of money, gold or an invitation from the local lord of the manor or sometimes as a bribe. It was also the custom for tenants to send presents to their landlords such as capon, brawns, pigs, geese, rabbits, partridges, sugar loaves, nutmeg or baskets of apples, eggs or pears.

The most iconic and beloved Tudor dishes served at Christmas were:

Mince pies made from shredded leftover mutton (shepherds), suet, sugar, dried fruits, and spices, were supposed to contain thirteen ingredients, symbolising Christ and the Apostles. Sometimes these pies were gilded. That and the spices used, proclaimed the status of the host and also harked back to Magi. It was apparently considered unlucky to cut a Christmas pie with a knife.

Plum porridge, later called Plum Pudding or Christmas Pudding and served as an appetiser, was a thick broth of mutton or beef with plums, bread, spices, dried fruit and wine. (In the Elizabethan period, flour was also added.)

Figgy pudding was a kind of sweet dish made from almonds, wine, figs, raisins ginger and honey.

Brawn was very salty pork or boar served with mustard and was available to most people.

Turkey started to appear in England during the sixteenth-century.  The earliest record relates to six birds imported and sold in Bristol for 2d in 1526. The new arrival started to be recognised during the 1530s, was being sold in markets in 1540s and, by the end of the 1500s, it had started to appear as a Christmas food.  William Strickland, a navigator, was granted a coat of arms in 1550 showing a turkey.

A drawing of a turkey.
Turkey

Stuffing, known as forcemeat, containing egg, currants, pork and herbs, was first recorded being served with poultry in 1538.

Brussels sprouts were first recorded in 1587. As there is no English recipe from the sixteenth-century featuring them, it is very doubtful that they would have been part of a Tudor, Christmas dinner.

Twelfth Night Cake was a type of sweet bread with spices and dried fruit. Sadly, no original recipe for this survives.

Bean cake appears to have been some kind of gingerbread and was also known as peppercake. Inside there was a coin or bean and sometimes also a pea. The couple who received the slice containing the bean and the pea, were made King and Queen of the Bean. They then lead the singing and dancing.

Lambs Wool & Wassail Bowl (= I give you health) are both spiced, ale based seasonal Christmas drinks with roasted crab apples swimming on the top. The word wassail occurs in extracts from Spenser, Shakespeare and Ben Johnson.

A bowl of Tudor food, baked wheat and currents decorated with small purple flowers
Frumenty

Boar’s head is mostly associated with Queen’s College in Oxford (where it has been served since 1341).  Boar’s head is a true status symbol and the King of France sent Henry a Christmas gift of wild boar pate.

Frumenty was an extremely popular side dish served with venison. Frumenty is wheat boiled in milk or ale with eggs, fruit, spices and sometimes sugar, cream or almond milk.

No feast day went without its banquet – and that was especially true of Christmas.  Banqueting stuffe was a dessert course with a variety of treats on offer: sweet meats (canapes) such as suckets (fruit in syrup, marmalades etc); comfits (sugar-coated seeds & spices); marchpane; sweet breads such as Twelfth Night Cake and biscuits (or jumbles).

An array of different, colourful Tudor dishes in decorative bowls and platters.
Banqueting Stuffe

Tudor Venison Pie

As our main ingredient this month is venison, which we will bake as venison pie, here is an anonymous poem of the fifteenth century:

“Then comes in the second course with mickle (much) pride,

The cranes, the herons, the bitterns, by their side

To partridges and the plovers, the woodcocks , and the snipe.

Furmity (Frumenty) for pottages, with venison fine,

And the umbles (entails) of the doe and all that ever comes in,

Capons well baked, with the pieces of the roe,

Raisins of currants, with other spices mo(re).

The Recipe for Venison Pie:

“To Bake a Red Deare” from The Good Huswife’s Jewel by Thomas Dawson; 1585/96/1610

A venison pie on a green plate and decorated by herbs and edible flowers.
Tudor Venison Pie

“Take a handful of time, a handful of rosemarie, a handful of winter savorie, a handful of bay leaves and a handful of fennel. When your liquor seethe and you perboyle your venison in it, put in your hearbes also, and perboyle your venison until it be halfe enough. Then take it out and lay it upon a faire boorde that the water may runne out from it. Then take a knife and pricke it full of holes and while it is warme have a faire traye  with vineger therein and so put your venison in from morning vntill night, and ever nowe  and then turne it upside downe. Then at night have your coffin ready. This done, season it with synamome ginger, and nutmegges, pepper and salte. And when you have seasoned it, put it in your coffin and put a good quantitie of sweete butter into it. Then put it into the Oven at night when you goe to bedde. In the morning drawe it forth and put a saucer full of vineger into your pye at a hole in the toppe of it, so that the vineger may runne into everie place of it, and then stop the whole againe and turne the bottome upward. And so serve it in.”

Here is a modernised, simplified recipe for venison pie, along with the ingredient list:

  • 1 pack of ready-made shortcrust pastry for the “coffin”
  • 1 small venison steak per person
  • 1 tablespoon of each: thyme, rosemary, winter savoury, bay leaves and fennel
  • Enough stock to submerge the meat
  • 1 cup of mild (or watered down) wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of each: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper and salt
  • 1-2 spoonful of unsalted butter

METHOD:

First step (one day before or several hours beforehand):

  • Parboil the venison steaks in stock, together with all the herbs until they are “medium rare” but not fully cooked.
  • Remove them from the water, prick with a knife several times and put the meat into the vinegar. Leave it there for several hours or overnight.

Second step (next day or several hours later):

  • Roll out the pastry (coffin) and form a pie “coffin” (base).
  • Remove the meat from the vinegar and season it with the spices. Chop it into smaller pieces, if you prefer. Lay them out in your coffin base. Add the butter, close up with a lid and bake until golden brown at medium heat.
  • Remove from the oven and while still warm, make a small hole into the lid, spoon in some of the vinegar and turn over. Decorate and serve!

Now if you want to follow along and watch this recipe being recreated in Brigitte’s kitchen, click on the image below. If you want to read more about how Tudor Christmas traditions, you can read my blog: Hever at Christmas: Festive Traditions and Momentous Decisions : Good luck and enjoy! Have a Merry Tudor Christmas! Looking forward to seeing you back in January!

A venison pie on a green plate and decorated by herbs and edible flowers.

Sources and further reading:

A Tudor Christmas, by A. Weir and Siobhan Clarke

Christmas in Shakespeare’s England, by Maria Hubert

Festivals and Feasts of the Common Man 1550-1660, by Stuart Peachey

Food and Identity in England 1540-1640, by Paul S. Lloyd

Plenty and Grase – Food & Drink in a Sixteenth Century Household, by Mark Dawson

Food in Early Modern England, by Joan Thirsk

Food in Early Modern Europe, by Ken Albala

The Good Huswife’s Jewel, by Thomas Dawson (1585/96-97/1610)

Each month, our Tudor recipe is contributed by Brigitte Webster. Brigitte runs the ‘Tudor and 17th Century Experience‘. She turned her passion for early English history into a business and opened a living history guesthouse, where people step back in time and totally immerse themselves in Tudor history by sleeping in Tudor beds, eating and drinking authentic, Tudor recipes. She also provides her guests with Tudor entertainment. She loves re-creating Tudor food and gardens and researching Tudor furniture.

In this month’s episode of The Tudor Travel Show: Extra! Sarah is in conversation with Professor Simon Thurley, a pre-eminent architectural historian, specialising in Britain’s built environment. Sarah talks to Simon about the Boleyn properties of the early sixteenth century when the family was at the height of its power. She also explores with Simon the delights of his most recent book on Tudor buildings: Houses of Power.

Note: This blog on Tudor ‘Houses of Power’ is an abbreviated transcript of that conversation, which you can also listen to in full here.

The Boleyn ‘Houses of Power’

Sarah:
Welcome, Simon, to The Tudor Travel Show.  It’s a total delight for me to have you here.  As I think you know, you are one of my favourite authors in the Tudor-sphere and it would be great to be able to hear a little bit from you about the work that you are doing now. Most recently, I saw you on the Gresham College website, where you were delivering a lecture about the Boleyns property portfolio and their House of Power in the early sixteenth century. We are going to talk more about the Boleyns today. But before we dive into that, you also gave a lecture on a similar theme, but this time wrapped around the Cecil family. I was curious about why you picked those two families. Was there a particular question you were hoping to answer as you pulled together the work to deliver those lectures?

An image of Professor Simon Thurley set against part of the cover of his book: Houses of Power

Simon:

Essentially, I chose families who acquired their wealth and their success in slightly different ways. The Boleyns are extremely interesting because they became an enormously wealthy landowning family with a huge number of properties and a huge amount land and, of course, their most famous child became, by default, the greatest landowner in England of them all. So it’s an aspect of a very, very well-trodden path that hadn’t really been looked at before. The Cecils likewise; although they came to power via a different route, through their skill in administration, they amassed an equally, and arguably even more impressive, portfolio of buildings and estates at a period when the monarchy was not so interested in doing that. Henry VIII, if he had seen any of the Cecil houses, would have licked his lips and probably persuaded them to give them over to him!

Sarah:

Well, let’s look at the Boleyns in more detail. One of the things that I found to be most interesting in your lecture was how you talked about Hever in relation to some of the larger Boleyn properties, Rochford Hall and Luton Hoo, for example. Everybody knows a lot about Hever, but maybe not so much about Rochford Hall or Luton Hoo. Can you tell us a little bit about those properties and, in particular, how they might have appeared during the sixteenth-century when the Boleyns owned them?

Simon:

Yes, indeed. What the Boleyn family did essentially, was that they married into land. And, arguably, the whole story of the family dynasty is driven by women, because it’s through the female line that the Boleyns came into a series of massive houses. These aren’t small places; these are really big double or, in some cases, triple courtyard houses. Obviously, they’re not as big as Hampton Court but they are very, very substantial residences.

A reconstruction of Rochford Hall, one of he Boleyn family's Houses of Power

Rochford Hall, which is in Essex, still has big chunks surviving. The remains of the building are now on a golf course. It’s very, very close to the church and the church has a private pew in it, which I think may well have been a private pew that the Boleyn family, including Anne, would have used. So, you can get a little bit of a flavour of the size and splendour of the house and its landscape setting because, of course, although it wasn’t surrounded by a golf course in the sixteenth-century it was surrounded by beautiful, mature trees in parkland. The golf course still allows you to get a sense of that.

Now, with regard to what is left of Luton Hoo; there’s nothing, absolutely nothing! It’s very, very frustrating. The Hoo, as it was known, was another big house with a lot of land attached to it. However, in the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, and again in the nineteenth-century, a succession of very big building projects literally scalped the landscape clean. This is very frustrating because it’s quite clear that Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, spent a lot of time there; it was one of his principal residences.

Sarah:

I knew something of Rochford Hall and the likes of Blickling Hall, but I didn’t really know so much about Luton Hoo so, after listening to your lecture, I went away to try and research it a bit more. There doesn’t even seem to be any description of what the house actually looked like, is that right?

Simon:

Yes, that is right although that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. I think that it is quite possible that more could be found out and it’s also perfectly possible that more could be found out about Rochford Hall, as well. It might even be possible there to partially reconstruct what it was like in the Boleyn period. I doubt that you could get that far with the Hoo, but I think it is possible to get further. I did look at quite a lot of primary documentation, including all the relevant wills and inquisitions post-mortem, but I suspect with a really sustained campaign, you might be able to get further than I did.

An image of Hever Castle, one of the Boleyn family's Houses of Power
Hever Castle

Sarah:

Thinking about the trio of properties we’ve already been talking about (Hever, Luton Hoo and Rochford Hall), I was left with the impression that Hever perhaps wasn’t used so much as a family home during the Boleyn children’s childhood. No doubt it was used, but I’d always thought that was the principal residence in which the children grew up. Would it be more accurate though to imagine that they would have moved equally between those three or four properties, or more?

Simon:

Yes, you’re quite right. Hever is very, very small and I was able to reconstruct in great detail the plan of the house in the time that it was owned by the Boleyns. It is a very, very small house and Thomas Boleyn was a very, very great man and there’s no way that his whole family (and there were a lot of children, plus all their servants and attendants), could have stayed there for any serious length of time.

There was very good hunting in the High Weald and I think it was very much used as a hunting lodge but also, and this is absolutely crucial to understanding it, it was close to Greenwich. In the early part of Henry VIII’s reign, when the fatal attraction between Henry and Anne began, Greenwich was the headquarters of the monarchy and it’s a very straightforward ride from Greenwich to Hever. So, there were a lot of reasons why Hever was geographically very convenient and, during that period, when Anne really had to keep out of the way because it was all very difficult, it was the ideal place to retreat to because there were hardly any servants there; it was a very, very private location, surrounded by a double moat in the middle of a hunting park. If you didn’t want people to bother you it was the obvious place to go.

An old woodcut map of Tudor London showing streets in the city.
Section for the Agas map of Tudor London from 1520, showing Old Jewry in the City of London (highlighted). This area was one of the known locations of a Boleyn London home. Note: ‘Old Jewry’ lies just off London’s main thoroughfare: Cheapside.
Taken from: The Agas Map of Early Modern London

Sarah:
That’s really interesting; it sheds a whole new light on the subject. And I guess the closeness to Greenwich would perhaps explain why she retreated there when she fell ill with the Sweat. I think they were at Greenwich when they were when the king first received news of the outbreak in London. Now I’m also curious about the Boleyn properties in London. I know that Anne occupied certain properties, I think Durham House was one when she was in her ascendancy, but do we know of any specific London properties like, for example, we know of Austin Friars for Thomas Cromwell?

Simon:

We do know where their houses were in the City of London. We know that and, in fact, one of the consequences of me giving my Gresham lecture on the Boleyns is that someone who is making a study of various aspects of this got in touch with me.  She has managed to identify a Boleyn property in the City that I hadn’t found. So, there were a number of houses in the City but, of course, by that stage, these big aristocrats were moving West. They were moving out of the city and colonizing swanky residential areas, such as The Strand. We should also remember that Thomas and Elizabeth had lodgings in every single royal place, indeed quite extensive lodgings in some of them. So they were well provided for in London.

Sarah:
Do we know exactly where the Boleyn properties in London properties were?

Simon:

Well, for example, at one point there was a house near Lincoln’s Inn and at another time there was a house in Old Jewry, right in the centre of the City. These were probably pretty substantial masonry houses, but no house in the City was very big because it was very constrained space. The occupants would have spent most of the time at court and the moment that the ‘end of term’ came they’d be out of London. In the case of the Boleyns, this would have meant going to the larger houses, to Rochford or Hoo, in particular, and then also little trips to Hever to entertain themselves.

An old woodcut map of Lincoln's Inn Fields, part of Tudor London
Lincoln’s Inn: another known location of a Boleyn property in London. This time, the property lay outside the city walls, closer to the fashionable Strand district of Tudor London.
Taken from: The Agas Map of Early Modern London

Sarah:

Great, I’m looking forward to it! Now, I want to talk now about your book ‘Houses of Power’. What an absolutely amazing book it is! It’s so packed with illuminating detail. I keep going back to it, having forgotten what I’ve read and going, “Oh my goodness!” all over again. Please can you tell us about what stimulated you to write it and if somebody was buying it, what could they expect?

Simon:

Well, I’m really someone who writes history through buildings and through places and this book is about buildings, but it is also about places. It’s about urban space and it’s about the countryside as well as individual buildings. It’s really trying to help us understand the Tudor court through the places in which it spent its time. Obviously, there is a considerable amount of information on Whitehall and the Thames Valley houses. This is where the court resided in the wintertime: Greenwich and Richmond etc. However, there’s also quite a lot about what happened elsewhere, including the progresses of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. The book also explores how those progresses worked; where they went; the houses they stayed in and what happened if you were unfortunate enough to be an aristocrat and Queen Elizabeth turned up on your doorstep!

Book cover of Simon Thurley's Houses of Power : The Places that Shaped the Tudor World.

Henry VII’s Houses of Power

Sarah:

When you wrote the book, were you collating all the knowledge you’d already acquired over the years or were you trying to research something else? And also, my second question, if I may, is did you learn anything through writing ‘Houses of Power’?

Simon:

‘Houses Of Power’ really came out of my very first book, that was published in 1993, and which was called ‘The Royal Palaces of Tudor England’ and that was essentially my PhD. That book had a number of flaws. The two principal flaws were, firstly, that back in 1993, I hadn’t really properly understood Henry VII and, secondly, that the book didn’t go on to explore the residences of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Both of those shortcomings made quite a big difference to the sort of the picture I was able to paint; particularly in relation to not really fully understanding Henry VII.

So by the time I started writing ‘Houses of Power,’ I thought I knew everything about the subject. Then, I found to my complete horror that I really didn’t and I had got it quite muddled up and misunderstood. And so certainly the material on Henry VII is very original; I don’t think anybody previously understood the interrelationship between Henry VII and the places in which he lived. I think that is a very new insight. Also, the Elizabethan stuff; by that, I mean properly understanding Queen Elizabeth I’s attitudes to architecture and to the places in which she lived and how she used them. Everyone says she wasn’t interested in building, but actually, she built some pretty important things. So, I think the book did surprise me. Having worked in this area for more than 30 years, I realised how much I really didn’t know and didn’t understand. I felt that it was very important to try to get it all together in one place as a coherent narrative.

Bust of Henry VII
Henry VII

Sarah:

I was really fascinated by what you were saying there about Henry VII. Can you talk a little bit more about that; about what you learned about him and the places he occupied and what that reveals about him?

Simon:

I think the single most important thing that one has to remember is that it’s been very, very unusual in English history for a monarch to come to the throne who had really never stepped inside a royal palace before he became King. On one occasion, for a matter of hours, Henry VII came to London, went into Westminster Palace, saw King Henry VI and that was it.

So, when he became King, every single royal house he went into was completely new to him. He had been in Westminster as a teenager 20 years before he came to the throne, but he’d never been to Windsor; he’d never been to Woodstock; he’d never been to any of the big palaces. So there’s a real sense of a reinvention that takes place and that reinvention can only really take place when he feels a bit more secure on the throne.  

For the first part of his reign, he’s looking over his shoulder in every direction for rebellions. He could have lost the throne at any moment. But the moment he feels secure on the throne, after about 1500, you do see him taking a completely different course. He’s able to reinvent things in his own image. There is a sense then that Henry VII starts afresh. One of the reasons he can do that is that he’s not encumbered by a huge back history of tradition, because he didn’t know what it was like being at court before he got there.

A reconstruction of Greenwich palace, one of the Tudor's Houses of Power
Reconstruction of Greenwich Palace by Peter Kent.

Sarah:

Do you think that reinvention you’ve referred to was evident in his development or rebuilding of what was the Palace of Placentia, Duke Humphrey’s old palace, which became Greenwich? Was that his first major building project, and can that building at Greenwich tell us anything more about his aspirations, tastes and so on?

Simon:

Yes, I think it definitely can. Placentia or Greenwich (depending on what you want to call it, it’s called different things at different times) is a very particular type of palace because it is one that has a physical division between a sort of pleasure area and a more public area. I think what’s very important about Henry VII is that he’s involved in a break with tradition, whereby he more or less insists on having a private and safe environment after he discovers a plot in which his Lord Chamberlain and his Lord Steward are implicated. It’s pretty horrific. He is determined to create an environment within the royal houses where he could be safe and secure and that leads to the whole new concept of private residences within these places.

Sarah:

That’s very interesting! Now, one of the aspects on which I completely resonate with you is my love of seeing history through places. What I have found out is that when I understand more about a Tudor building, I understand more about the history and the events and the people that lived there. I know you share that feeling; can help me explain why that might be the case?

Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire


Simon:

Well, imagine you’re thinking about the Reformation and you live in Bolivia (assuming anyone in Bolivia is remotely interested in English history) and you’re reading textbooks. You can appreciate that there was a big moment that happened in English history. Then imagine that you get on an aeroplane and you go to Fountains Abbey and you see this huge magnificent building of stone for yourself. You begin to understand the investment in bricks and mortar and money that went into the whole of monasticism. Then you begin to understand that there were reasons why the monastic life was not fulfilling its original purposes; that there was corruption and there were abuses; that there was a process of reform and a greedy king who wanted to liquidise its assets for himself.

That visit to Fountains Abbey will tell you an awful lot more than reading four or five books because you’re actually there and you can see the physical impact. You can replicate that with the Tudor world; you can visit the Tower of London or Hampton Court – there are all sorts of places you can go to – and suddenly you begin to get it. I think that’s it – you step into a place where you can touch the very brick that was touched by the people you are reading about and studying. Obviously, things will have changed, but without going to a place it’s very hard to understand.

When I write about places I never ever write about them unless I have been there and really properly studied the place as much as I can in its physical sense. When writing ‘Houses of Power’, I had visited them all before, but I went back to dozens and dozens of places to look at them again to make sure I was really understanding their landscapes and setting; how the parks related to the houses; where the rivers were; where the roads were; how you’d get to them – all of that you need to get your teeth into.

Sarah:

I know it’s a bit of a clichéd phrase, but it absolutely does bring it all to life when you can understand how people would have arrived at the place and how they would have used the rooms. Anybody that follows this show will recognise the expression that I use with my co-author of the ‘In The Footsteps’ books, Natalie Grueninger; that is that ‘it is that it’s only time and not space that separates you’ when you visit a historic site. I think that’s exactly what you’re referring to there about being able to touch the bricks – and that’s very special.

Simon:

Yes, very neatly put.

A reconstruction of Whitehall palace from the river front, one of the Tudor's Houses of Power
Whitehall Palace from the Thames

Simon’s Top Tudor Places

Sarah:

Sadly, we’re coming towards the end of our chat. I have a couple of slightly whimsical questions for you now, if I may, Simon. First, of all the places you have studied over the years, is there a particular place, house or chamber from the Tudor period that you would love to see recreated in all its former glory and why would you choose that one?

Simon:

There is one building that I’ve researched more than anywhere else and really thought about more than anyone else and gone back and back and back to – and that is Whitehall. Whitehall is really such an important and influential building and, despite all my efforts over 30 years, it is still fundamentally misunderstood. People call it a jumble of buildings, a pile of disorganised structures hurled together – but that simply isn’t the case.

Whitehall is really such an important place; to understand how it worked explains how politics worked and how the government worked at the time. So, if I could have my day in the past, unquestionably I would want to spend it in Whitehall. Incidentally, I was reading seventeenth-century diarist, Robert Hook, the other day and was fascinated to learn that Christopher Wren apparently played exactly the same game in the 1670s, asking where would you go back to if you could go back in history. So, it’s an old game, but it’s a really nice one, isn’t it?

Sarah:

It is. For me, it would have to be the Royal Apartments at The Tower, simply because Anne Boleyn is my historical heroine, as many listeners will know. To be close to the place where she saw her moments both of triumph, and of tragedy, would be incredible. Anyway, enough about me and my whims! My next whimsical question is: if there is one so far unanswered question about Tudor houses of power, to which you would really love to have the answer, what would it be?

Drawing of the river front of Greenwich Palace, one of the Tudor's Houses of Power

Simon:

Well, there are a number of very important houses of power about which we still don’t know as much as we want to. There are some quite specific things I’d like to know. For example, I would love to do a bit more digging at Greenwich. If someone were to say ‘Okay, you can do a really massive archaeological dig at Greenwich’. That would be great. The lawns are all there ready and just waiting for my spade! I think the question I’d want to answer would be about the inner court there, which Elizabeth I remodelled. I’d really love to see if I could find some big chunks of stucco or terracotta to understand exactly how classicizing that courtyard was. I think it was rather an amazing courtyard and because it is lost to history, people believe that Elizabeth I didn’t do anything, but I think that she did something there that was pretty amazing and we just don’t really know about it.

Sarah:
Well, my final question is about up and coming projects. I’ve mentioned, of course, your Gresham lecture coming up on the Cecils that everybody should make a beeline for. Are there any other projects you can tell us about?

Simon:
I’m in the process of completing a sequel to my ‘Houses of Power’ book which, you’ll be disappointed to hear, is about the seventeenth-century and the Stuarts. So, I can’t really mention that in this environment! But I do actually have a project about Tudor merchants’ houses in the City, which will see the light of day as a book in due course. I think that will be interesting and revealing for people because only one of them survives and that is Crosby Hall, which is now in Chelsea, and which was owned by Thomas More. That will be the centrepiece of the book.

Sarah:
That sounds marvellous, I can’t wait! In the meantime, I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time out and talking to us today about these wonderful houses of power.

Simon:

You are welcome! It was really nice to talk to you.

The 30 November (2020) sees the 490th anniversary of the sad demise and death of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey at Leicester Abbey. This followed his arrest for treason at Cawood Castle in North Yorkshire earlier that month. To commemorate this event, The Tudor Travel Guide team are holding a virtual summit over the weekend of the 28-29 November 2020. It will celebrate, and remember, The Rise and Fall of Cardinal Wolsey. One aspect that we will be exploring in the summit is the notion of Wolsey as a patron of the arts. Nowhere does this remain more evident than in the bricks and mortar of the greatest surviving palace of the Tudor age, Hampton Court.

You can tune in to the summit to see me in conversation with Dr Jonathan Foyle, who has extensively researched Wolsey’s early palace. Jonathan describes how Hampton Court became a physical expression of the Cardinal’s status, wealth and power. You can click on the image below, or at the end of this blog to register. But for now, let’s go back in time, to before the great palace we know today took shape, and explore its earliest origins.

The Origins of Hampton Court Palace

When we think of Hampton Court Palace, most of us immediately associate it with the court of King Henry VIII. We recall the pivotal events of his reign that unfolded within its russet-coloured walls: the stillbirth of Anne Boleyn’s second child in 1534; the birth of the future Edward VI in 1537 and death of his mother, Jane Seymour, shortly thereafter; the arrest of Katherine Howard in 1541 and finally Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr in 1543. Much credit is given to Henry for the building we see today, but in recent years, architectural historians such as Jonathan Foyle, have begun to shed light on the role played by Thomas Wolsey in the genius and glory of the building.

Although it wasn’t my original intention, it turns out that this blog will be the first of three. The second will focus on the development of Hampton Court by Wolsey after 1515, and the third will describe the changes that Henry VIII subsequently made to the palace during his extensive refurbishment of the building after 1529. As far as this blog is concerned though, I had some gaps I needed to fill in about the earliest origins of the greatest Tudor palace in England, so I went on a quest to find out more…

The Birth of a Palace: Location, Location, Location…

It is no accident that Hampton Court Palace it sited where it is today, although urbanisation has obscured some of the original attributes of the surrounding landscape that made the building of the initial grange and manor house an attractive prospect. Today, the palace is engulfed by suburbia. A busy road runs to the west of the palace gates and the adjacent town of East Moseley brings a hum of twenty-first-century living. But to enjoy Hampton Court as it was meant to be appreciated, we must allow all such trappings of modern-day life to dissolve away into time.

Anne Boleyn’s Gateway, housing the stairs leading up to the Great Hall

Hampton Court, as it was known from the beginning of its history, was established in the heart of the Surrey countryside, on the north bank of the River Thames. Clearly, there was a settlement on-site even before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066: the name ‘Hampton’ originating from Anglo-Saxon, with Hame meaning home and Ton signifying a cluster of houses fortified with a hedge and ditch.

The building lies 13 miles from central London in a westerly direction. Here the ground is flat, gravelly and therefore, well-drained. An account of the palace, written towards the end of the nineteenth century captures an image of the surrounding countryside, much as it might have looked some 300 years previously before relentless urban sprawl swallowed up the surrounding countryside. Ernest Law’s History of Hampton Court Palace, first published in 1889, describes how the stretch of riverbank across from Hampton Court was even then ‘studded with eyots [small river islands], and bordered with luxuriant meadows fringed with willows’. He goes on to describe how the meadows beyond were ‘crowned with flowers’ with ‘clusters of trees, flowery hedgerows and broad undulating heath-clad commons’. Beyond that, when houses did not obscure the view, you could see the ‘dim blue outline of the Surrey Hills’. All very pleasant, and a far cry from the dirt, filth and pestilence of Tudor London!

Of course, there was another critical factor in Wolsey’s interest in developing the modest, existing medieval manor into a grand and palatial building: it lay roughly midway between London and another major royal palace at Windsor (20 miles upstream from Hampton Court). It was also in easy reach of Richmond Palace eight miles downstream. The river connected them all via ‘the silent highway’ of the Thames, thereby avoiding the relative lawlessness of England’s overland road network. The river provided an easy and pleasant way to travel – and thus, Hampton Court became a convenient stopping off point for royalty, visiting dignitaries and ambassadors. However, Wolsey was not the first substantive owner of the manor of Hampton.

Base Court looking towards Anne Boleyn’s Gateway

Records stretch back to 1086, with early owners including Walter de St Valerie, whose family owned the manor for around 150 years thereafter. During the early thirteenth-century, Hampton Court was passed to Henry de St Alban, who in turn either lent or gave the land to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. They had their English HQ at St John’s Priory in the City. During the early fourteenth century, wealthy local landowners bestowed further lands upon the manor, such that by the beginning of the 1400s, Hampton Court had augmented to an estate of considerable value. This estate included a ‘preceptory’ (monastery of the Order of the Knights Hospitallers), ‘a small mansion’ (which Law states was probably on the site of the current palace) and ‘a garden with a dovecot’, alongside around 1000 acres of pasture and arable land.

Another 150 years go by before we hear more of Hampton Court. In 1503, the manor was visited by Elizabeth of York. At the time, the property was being leased from the Knight’s Hospitallers by Lord Daubeney, who had risen to become Lord Chancellor under Henry VII. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that the queen should be a guest of one of the most influential men in the land at the time.

The queen’s privy purse expenses reveal that she was rowed by 12 oarsmen upstream from Richmond to Hampton Court by barge. The occasion of the visit was a retreat to the then religious foundation to pray for the safe delivery of a child, for Elizabeth was heavily pregnant at the time. Elizabeth stayed at the manor for eight days, before being conveyed back to Richmond with her ladies in a ‘grete bote’. Sadly, she would die from puerperal sepsis just one month later. The use of Hampton Court in this way is not surprising given the contents of a letter from Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, to Wolsey around this time. Fox describes how Henry VII used Hampton Court as a ‘cell’, or subsidiary house, within easy reach of Richmond.

Wolsey’s Great Hall by Jonathan Foyle

One more royal visit was to grace the manor of Hampton Court before it was acquired by Cardinal Wolsey. A young and virile Henry VIII arrived there with Katherine of Aragon on 20 March 1514. During the visit, a Venetian called Giovanni Ratto presented the king with an incredibly valuable Mantuan ‘barb’ or racehorse on behalf of the Marquis of Mantua. Apparently, the Marquis had been offered his weight in gold for the horse but had instead decided to gift it to the King of England, who clearly appreciated the value of the gift, later writing a note of thanks to the Marquis that it was ‘the most beautiful, high bred and surpassing steeds’.

Thomas Wolsey Acquires Hampton Court

Then, on midsummers day, 21 June 1514, an indenture was granted from Thomas Docwra, prior of the Knight’s Hospitaller to ‘the most Rev. Father in God Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York’ for the lease of Hampton Court for a term of 99 years at a rent of £50 per annum. A copy of the lease is described in Law’s account; it confirms the presence of a small manor house, which was apparently moated. It seems to have been sparsely furnished at this point; a hall is described containing only two tables and a cupboard. A parlour, tower chamber, chapel and kitchen are also mentioned.

The following year, 1515, saw the commencement of Wolsey’s ambitious project to convert a modest, medieval manor house into one of the most impressive and sumptuous buildings in England. It was so majestic that Henry VIII would come to covert it for himself but first, Wolsey would create a building that was unique on English soil: a very English palace with an Italianate twist. It was a palace that would dazzle visiting European dignitaries and cement Wolsey’s status as the most powerful and influential man in England, next to the king himself.

In a subsequent blog, I will describe Wolsey’s grand design and recreate the palace he built before Henry VIII seized it from the Cardinal. In the meantime, you can hear more about Wolsey’s Hampton Court from Jonathan Foyle in my up-and-coming summit: The Rise and Fall of Cardinal Wolsey. Just click here to find out more and save your FREE place.

Many of you will have been as sad as I was to learn that, here in the UK, we have just lost one of our most ancient pear trees to a new railway project. In honour of this tree, and as pears are currently seasonal and easy to obtain, I have chosen the pear as our main ingredient for this month’s Tudor food blog.

Although the pear has never been as popular as the apple, these long-lived trees have a long history in England. Probably not indigenous, the wild pear arrived on our shores in Saxon times – and most probably even earlier than that. The Saxons called the fruit the “pere” or “peru hu”. This was probably the ancestor of the domesticated pear, which were introduced to many parts of Europe by the Romans and later, during the medieval period, by monks (in England by the Cistercians, in particular). On several occasions, the Domesday Book of 1086 mentions old pear trees being used as boundary markers.

There have been a variety of domesticated pears since the Romans, but identification can be tricky as names changed all the time. England’s best known and still available early pear is the WARDEN, which was first mentioned by the English poet and theologian, Alexander Neckam, in the thirteenth century. A warden is basically a firm-textured cooking pear that keeps well over the winter, a property highly appreciated in times when food preservation was limited.

In 1530, Cardinal Wolsey is reputed to have been eating roasted wardens at Sheffield Manor at the moment when he was first seized with his fatal illness. One of the earliest entries relating to the pear in an English herbal can be admired in ‘The Grete Herball‘ which was published by Peter Treveris in 1526.

Pear, P. Treveris

Harris, a fruiterer to Henry VIII, introduced pears from France and the low countries in 1533 for the orchard at Teynham (Kent). In 1548, William Turner lists the wild pear and its various names. He also mentions a revival of interest in orchard management as part of his Herbal of 1568.

In 1580, Harrison said that “pirrie’ (pear cider) was made from pears in Sussex, Kent and Worcestershire. The pear’s importance was recognized by the incorporation in Worcester’s city arms. The image below shows the three pears sable, included in the coat of arms of the city on the direction of Queen Elizabeth I, when she visited Worcester in 1575.

Worcester’s 3 Pears Sable

The Elizabethan herbalist, John Gerard, showed in his Herbal of 1597, that the number of pear varieties had increased since the beginning of the century. He illustrated eight pears: the Jenneting; the Pear Royall; the Quince Pear; the Katherine; the Saint James; the Burgomet; the Bishops and the Winter Pear. He lists several wild hedge pears and states that they taste too harsh and bitter for consumption and should be used instead for making ‘perry’ cider.

William Shakespeare does not appear to have enjoyed pears, as most of his references to them are not favourable.

‘…… as crest-fallen as a dried pear (Merry Wives of Windsor)

……I must have saffron to colour the warden pies (Winter’s Tale)

…. Your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears’ (from “All’s Well that Ends Well”).

Pears came in different sizes, tastes, textures and colours. In his Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1573), English poet and farmer, Thomas Tusser, is one of the first to mention the different colours. General storage advice was given in the Second Book, Entreating the Ordering of Orchards (1577) by Conrad Heresbach. The pears should be stored in sand, flocks (scraps of wool), covered with wheat or chaff, or by dipping the stalks in boiling pitch and then hanging the pears up. Keeping the pears in freshly boiled wine was another option.

The earliest record of a garden design incorporating an orchard of Warden trees dates to the late sixteenth-century. it was commissioned by devout Catholic, Sir Thomas Tresham, at his lodge at Lyveden in Northamptonshire. Lawson’s New Orchard and Garden (1597), advised that “hard winter fruit and wardens” were not fit to be gathered until Michaelmas (29 September).

Pears were a popular gift to the nobility by commoners, as recorded on the 15 December 1534, when Thomas Cromwell received Wardens from Sir Henry Penago. On 2 April 1539, the accounts show an entry of 12d given to a poor woman for bringing Wardens. Tudors were not yet convinced that eating pears raw was a good thing, due to their ‘cold and wet’ properties, but they did recognize their health benefits eaten cooked with the addition of sugar and spices. Boiled with honey in wine made them ‘agreeable and wholesome’.

Pears are often depicted in Renaissance religious paintings and frequently feature in Flemish flower and fruit paintings of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. The pear gives rise to metaphor – mostly sexual in nature – and invited comparison to the shape of the womb.

Madonna with pear, Hoefnagel’s pear and Jan Steel’s painting

The health benefits of the (cooked) pear and Wardens were acknowledged by the Tudor physician, Andrew Boorde, who said in his Dyetary of Health, published in 1542, that they were nutritious roasted, stewed or baked and comforted the stomach – especially if enjoyed eaten with other preserved fruits. A view shared by Christopher Langton in his Introduction to Physicke (1545); William Bullein in his Book of Simples (1562) and Thomas Cogan’s The Haven of Health (1584).  John Harrington’s message of 1607 is clear, ‘Raw pears a poison, baked a medicine’.

And, on that note, we will follow their advice and make full use of this delicious fine fruit and prepare a dish which frequently featured at the tables of the nobility as part of their banquet. This recipe is also so easy to replicate you can’t go wrong. The aroma and taste are divine and will not disappoint even the fussiest eater.

RECIPE

To make Wardens in Conserve from A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye, a recipe collection gathered by Matthew Parker, Master of Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, published in 1545/57/75.

This recipe is one of a variety that existed for this pear based ‘sweetmeat’.  The earliest we know of in England dates to 1390, under the name of ‘Peers in Confyt’. It is believed that at Henry IV’s wedding feast in 1403, pears in syrup were served together with venison, quails and sturgeon.

Modernised version:

Ingredients:

Hard pears – one per person

Red sweet wine (for Romney, which was a Greek wine popular between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries) – around 250 to 500ml for 4 pears

Clear honey – 100-200ml

Sugar (quite a lot)

Cinnamon (to taste)

Ginger (to taste)

METHOD:

  • Boil the wine with the honey.
  • Wash and peel pears but do not remove the stalk or cut the pears.
  • Place the pears into the wine, cover and allow them to simmer gently until soft (around 20-40 minutes).
  • Mix in the spices and sugar and stir over a low heat to dissolve then allow it to boil up for a few minutes to produce a ‘syrup’ type consistency.  Add more sugar for thickness, if required.
  • Turn and check frequently.
  • Remove the pears from the wine, place in dishes and cover with the syrup.
  • Serve hot or cold. Decorate with borage flowers, rose petals or cinnamon and then enjoy your posh banqueting dessert – fit for a Tudor king or queen!

Video of How to Make Tudor Pears in Conserve…

If you wish to listen to Brigitte talking about pears in Tudor times and watch her making the ‘Pears in Conserve’ recipe, click on the image below.

Click on the image above to watch Brigitte’s video

Thomas Dawson’s recipe alternative: (1597)

You may also bake the pears without liquid in a dish in the oven. Then remove, allow to cool slightly and peel. Use juice created during the baking process to create a syrup with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and some wine. Note: Pears were advised to be reserved until after the main meal, to ‘ease the stomach’ acting as a digestif.

Sources used and recommended for further reading:

  • Cultivated Fruits of Britain: Their Origin and History, by F.A. Roach
  • The Herball, by John Gerard, 1597
  • The Grete Herball, by Peter Treveris, 1526
  • The Names of Herbes, by William Turner, 1548
  • The Booke of Simples, by W. Bullein, 1562
  • The Haven of Helth, by T. Cogan, 1584
  • Four Bookes of Husbandry, by C. Heresbach, 1577
  • The Englishman’s’ Doctor, by J. Harrington,  1607
  • Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, by T. Tusser, 1573/1812
  • Food and Health in Early Modern Europe by David Gentilcore
  • A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye, 1545/57/75
  • The Original Warden Pear by Margaret Roberts

Each month, our Tudor recipe is contributed by Brigitte Webster. Brigitte runs the ‘Tudor and 17th Century Experience‘. She turned her passion for early English history into a business and opened a living history guesthouse, where people step back in time and totally immerse themselves in Tudor history by sleeping in Tudor beds, eating and drinking authentic, Tudor recipes. She also provides her guests with Tudor entertainment. She loves re-creating Tudor food and gardens and researching Tudor furniture.

The tragic and untimely death of Jane Seymour 483 years ago today devastated Henry VIII. Although Jane died at Hampton Court Palace, as we shall hear in this week’s guest blog from Sylvia Barbara Soberton, Henry retreated to grieve at nearby Esher Place to mourn his loss. Now you can learn more about this narrow window in time as part of Sylvia’s virtual book tour to celebrate the launch of her new book: The Medical Downfall of the Tudors: Sex, Reproduction and Succession.

The Death of Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, died on 24 October 1537 following complications from childbirth that arose after her long and arduous labour. Only two weeks before, Jane had given birth to Henry VIII’s longed-for male heir, Prince Edward, who would become Edward VI. Jane’s death was a painful moment in Henry’s life: after two marriages that ended in heartbreak and scandal, he finally had a wife who gave him the son he had craved since his accession in 1509. And yet Jane died shortly after their son’s birth. Many people wonder, if Jane was Henry’s true love, was he at her deathbed? In this article, I’m going to answer that question.

Jane Seymour established her birthing chamber at the newly refurbished Hampton Court Palace, breaking with the tradition of royal children being born at Greenwich. She took to her chamber on 27 September while the King left for Esher Place, a few miles from Hampton Court, to enjoy hunting there. His presence at Esher is confirmed on 30 September.[1] On 10 October 1537, the Queen went into labour that dragged for longer than anticipated, and on 11 October a solemn procession went through London “to pray for the Queen that was then in labour of child”.[2] Finally, at two o’clock in the morning of 12 October 1537, Jane succeeded where her predecessors had failed and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Three days later Prince Edward, named after the saint on whose feast day he was born, was baptised in the royal chapel at Hampton Court, with the nobility and the King’s daughters present for the occasion. 

Yet soon after the christening, the Queen’s health deteriorated. Day by day she grew increasingly weak until, on 23 October 1537, she had “a natural lax” after which it looked like she was on the road to full recovery.[3] This “natural lax” was not “heavy bleeding”, as suggested by Edward VI’s biographer.[4] “Lax”, in the medical context of the era, meant diarrhoea. But Jane’s condition worsened at night, and in the morning her confessor administered the extreme unction. She died on 24 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace, aged about twenty-nine.

Was Henry VIII at Jane’s deathbed? On 24 October, shortly before Jane’s death, Sir John Russell wrote to Thomas Cromwell informing him of the King’s whereabouts:

“The King was determined, as this day, to have removed to Esher; and because the Queen was very sick this night, and this day, he tarried; but tomorrow, God willing, he intended to be there. If she amends, he will go; but if she amends not, he told me, this day, ‘he could not find it in his heart’; for, I assure you, she hath been in great danger yesternight and this day. Thanked be God, she is somewhat amended; and if she escapes this night, the physicians be in good hope that she be past all danger.”[5]

Sadly, Jane didn’t escape death’s clutches. It appears that Henry was at Hampton Court when Jane breathed her last; whether he was at her deathbed remains possible but unlikely, considering his inherent dread of sickness and death. It may be that Jane’s premature death reawakened unpleasant memories of the death of Henry’s beloved mother, Elizabeth of York, who died in similar circumstances thirty-four years earlier. Hampton Court was now the place where Jane Seymour died and Henry didn’t want to stay there. Where did he go? A document in the Herald’s College recorded that following Jane’s death, the King “retired to a solitary place to pass his sorrows”.[6] Chronicler Edward Hall wrote that Henry departed to Westminster Palace “where he mourned and kept himself close and secret a great while”.[7] However, as we will see, this is not correct because on the day of Jane’s death Henry returned to Esher Place.  

The King Mourns at Esher Place

Before the end of October, Henry met with his councillors there and, according to Cromwell, was convinced to remarry. The King apparently “took pleasure” at Esher, and Cromwell implied that Henry could request it as a gift from Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. Esher was the property of Gardiner’s see, and the bishop ceded the estate to the King, albeit reluctantly and not without regret.[8] Gardiner wrote plainly to Cromwell that he didn’t want to part with Esher, but Cromwell chided the bishop, saying that the King’s sojourn there wasn’t merely for fun and games; it was a place “where there is a grief”, implying that the King closeted himself away from court at Esher to mourn Jane Seymour’s death.[9]

Esher Place is a Grade-II listed country house since 1953 used as a college by the trade union Unite in Esher, Surrey. In the fifteenth century, William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor, tore down the original building dating to the thirteenth century to make way for a large and luxurious brick residence. The so-called Waynflete’s Tower still stands today. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey owned Esher Place and withdrew there following the disastrous Blackfriars trial in 1529 when he failed to secure the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katharine of Aragon. He penned a series of letters to the King and Thomas Cromwell “from Asher”, as Esher Place was then spelt, from October 1529 to February 1530.[10] Following Wolsey’s disgrace, Esher transferred to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and then in 1537, it became Henry VIII’s property. When Henry VIII’s elder daughter became Queen, she gave Esher back to Gardiner, who became her Lord Chancellor. Queen Elizabeth I granted Esher to her Norfolk kinsman William Howard, Baron Howard of Effingham, and he, in turn, granted it to Sir Francis Drake’s cousin Richard Drake.

Jane Seymour was buried on 12 November 1537 at St George’s Chapel at Windsor with great pomp and solemnity, with her ladies-in-waiting and household officers present. The King’s presence is recorded at Windsor on 12 November. In a joint letter to Cromwell written from Windsor, John Russell and Thomas Hennege informed Cromwell that they had received his letter “and shown it to the King”.[11] It is evident from their letter that the King didn’t attend Jane’s funeral but was present at Windsor Castle for that occasion. Russell and Hennege informed Cromwell that “your lordship’s suit is that the lords, after the business done at Windsor, may repair hither to see his Grace’s health.”[12] It is an interesting insight into the King’s frame of mind during this period and Thomas Cromwell’s ability to read his moods. Jane’s death came unexpectedly at a time that should have been filled with celebrations of the birth of the heir to the throne. Instead, it was a time of mourning. The King was in need of consolation from his subjects.

Now Buy the Book!

If you want to buy a copy of Sylvia’s book, check out this link to Amazon (UK), or Amazon (US) search on your local Amazon site.

Sources

[1] Letters and Papers, Volume 12 Part 2, n. 802.

[2] Wriothesley’s Chronicle, Volume 1, p. 65.

[3] State Papers, Volume 1, p. 572.

[4] Jennifer Loach, Edward VI, p. 7.

[5] Agnes Strickland, Elisabeth Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest, Volume 2, p. 285.

[6] Letters and Papers, Volume 12 Part 2, n. 1060.

[7] Edward Hall, Hall’s Chronicle, p. 825.

[8] Roger Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Volume 2, p. 98.

[9] Ibid.

[10] State Papers, Volume 1: Correspondence Between the King and Cardinal Wolsey, pp. 347-361.

[11] Letters and Papers, Volume 12 Part 2, n. 1063.

[12] Ibid.