Knole House Revisited & The Tudors in Love: Featuring Julie Milner and Sarah Gristwood


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In this month’s episode of The Tudor Travel Show, I talk to the author, Sarah Gristwood, about her new book The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty. I also meet with Julie Milner, tour and house guide at Knole House in Kent. Together, we take a tour of the house to highlight some of its most illustrious Tudor history.

After being extended by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, during the mid-1400s, Knole became a royal possession in 1537. In 1566, Elizabeth I presented the house and estate to her cousin, Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, who substantially remodelled the medieval palace between 1603 and 1608. The Sackville-West family retain ownership of some of the house and parkland today, but it was gifted to the National Trust in 1946 to be opened to the public. As we tour the house, we step back in time to the sixteenth century, discovering some remarkable artefacts from Tudor times.

Please note: These show notes are intended to complement the relevant podcast episode, which can be found here. We highly recommend that you listen to the conversation and use this blog for reference. You will find links to relevant sources towards the end of this blog.

Knole House: A Tour Through Six Centuries Of History

Our tour starts in the Great Hall, originally used as a dining and banqueting room. With its high ceiling and lavish decoration, this magnificent room is the first space visitors see when they enter Knole. It’s home to an intricately carved wooden screen designed in the Mannerist form, which combines late medieval architecture and Renaissance patterns. Look out for Thomas Sackville’s coat of arms and shield in the Sackville colours of red and gold right at the top. The two leopards were thought to be gifted to Thomas Sackville by Queen Elizabeth I when she made him a baron. Known to symbolise, status and bravery, these were a proud belonging to display.

Portraits adorn the walls of the Great Hall, including one of Thomas Sackville himself (attributed to John de Critz, Serjeant-Painter to the King), which hangs opposite the screen. I was struck by the incredible collection of portraits at Knole, which includes paintings of many prominent figures of the Tudor court.

The Great Hall at Knole House
The Great Hall
Portrait of Thomas Sackville at Knole House
Thomas Sackville

Next, we head to a part of the building which, architecturally speaking, has the closest ties to the Tudor era. Coming up a magnificent carved oak staircase, we enter the Brown Gallery, with its extensive collection of sixteenth and seventeenth-century portraits of many notable Tudor personalities. The artist(s) responsible for the set of portraits in question is not known. IN fact, although a set, they likely to be the work of several artists employed by Thomas Sackville.

The Brown Gallery at Knole House
The Brown Gallery

Leaving the Jacobean exuberance behind, we finish with a Tudor tribute: a beautiful portrait, ‘An Unknown Lady called Mary, Queen of Scots’ (1542–1587). Hung high on the wall, this oil painting shows the young woman, possibly Mary, Queen of Scots, gazing over her visitors.

A portrait at Knole House
‘An Unknown Lady called Mary, Queen of Scots’

To conclude our tour, we head back to the Great Hall to discover an artefact that made its way to Knole from nearby Hever Castle in the nineteenth century. The pair of andirons include figures representing Adam and Eve, a crowned falcon and Henry VIII and Anne’s initials. Attributed to Royal Locksmith, Henry Romayne, this pair of andirons date back to the sixteenth century.

Anne Boleyn Andiron
Anne Boleyn andiron
Henry VIII Andiron
Henry VIII andiron

The Tudors In Love: New Book Release

In the second part of this podcast, I meet with the author of several Tudor books, Sarah Gristwood. In the Leicester Gallery at Knole, Sarah tells us about her new book, due to be released at the end of September.

Sarah Gristwood and Sarah Morris at Knole House
Sarah Gristwood and me at Knole
The Leicester Gallery at Knole House
The Leicester Gallery

Sarah shares the core themes in her book; she describes how understanding the notion and rules of courtly love, allows us to see the world of the Tudors afresh, through new eyes. As a dynasty in love with the idea of loving, Sarah introduces us to the concepts of chivalric romance and how these ‘rules’ give us a code to ‘unlock’ many of the key events that unfolded during the sixteenth century.

Cover of Sarah Gristwood’s new book

Knole House & Tudors In Love: Essential Links

Below are some links to resources mentioned in the podcast episode:

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  1. I love your work, Sarah. I have 2 of your books, and I’m always excited when an email of new content arrives in my inbox.
    Do you know when Sarah Gristwood’s new book will be available for purchase in the US? Shipping looks to be around $20 from the UK.
    Also, my husband and I are hoping to visit Ireland for a short trip in June 2022; are there any must-see Tudor locales we should hit? We would be based in Dublin. I understand the English conquest (or reconquest) of Ireland took place under the Tudor dynasty during the 16th century?
    I took a 2-week literary tour of Scotland & England back in 1999 well before my passion for Tudor history manifested itself during the first stages of Covid quarantine. How I long to return and visit again through the lens of a Tudor time traveler! Many thanks, Rebecca in Mississippi

    1. Hi Rebecca, I don’t think a US date is set yet but have you tried the Book Depository – it’s free shipping anywhere in the world. When it comes to Ireland – I haven’t toured Ireland at all so I know diddley-squat about places to visit with Tudor connections. Maybe it is something for me to aspire to at some point in the future! ? Sorry I can’t be of more help on this one. x

  2. Thank you Sarah for this blog, and in particular for the photos of Knole House. The National Trust do not usually permit visitors any interior photography (I’m sure they made an exception for you ?) so these are particularly precious. Did you get a pic of the Anne Boleyn portrait by any chance? ??

    1. Thanks, Janice. No, strangely I didn’t. It was not a very flattering portrait of Anne and very tucked away. I think on some level I wanted to remember her as being more attractive! ??

    1. Here is the website for Knole House. I can’t send you specific travel information as it depends on where you are coming from and whether you have a car. This site will have a ‘how to reach us’ section which describes how to get to Knole via various forms of transport. Where do you live BTW?

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