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Honors Junior Colloquium
Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis
21 April, 2007
The Fabulous Life of the Tudors
This is an idea for an episode for a summer relief series. This episode would include the riches and wealth of the Tudor family, namely Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. We are proposing that a second edition be done on the other members of the Tudor dynasty in the future. The paper should be read with the intent of being said by the famous voice of Robin Leach.
Kings, Queens, riches, and beheadings….the Tudors knew how to live. The highest family in England during the 16th century had it all and set the trends for the world over. From Henry VIII’s collection of musical instruments, to Queen Elizabeth I’s extensive collection of jewels, the Tudors possessed everything that the life of royalty had, including people and power! The Tudors exemplified living the fabulous life.
The second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII became heir to the throne in 1509 after his brother, Prince Arthur, preceded their father in death. Being named king was not the beginning of Henry’s fabulous life of riches and wealth. Growing up, young Henry got the finest education from his tutors. However, regular tutors were not good enough for the future King, as his roster of tutors included well-known poet Skelton. Prince Henry was also one of the first English monarchs to be educated under the Renaissance (Pollard). He spoke French, Latin, and Spanish. But toys were not good enough for the future king as he had his very own fool to amuse him when he was finished with his schooling. Henry was also very athletic who loved hunting and jousting. During the beginning of his reign, he was disinterested in the matters of the state and would be found hunting in the countryside, leaving the political decisions in the hands of Thomas Wolsey (Pollard). A lover of music, he had a collection of instruments including Henry owned 10 trombones, 14 trumpets, 5 bagpipes, 76 recorders, and 78 flutes.
King Henry relished in his wealth and wore it proudly on everything that he could. Henry VIII was the “king of bling” as his fingers were a mass of jeweled rings. He wore a gold collar from which hung a diamond so large it would put Harry Winston to shame. Henry’s jewels often palled in comparison to the notoriety given to his infamous codpiece. In Holbein’s famous painting, the King is standing in a most assertive stance as his hands “frame his defiantly bulging codpiece.” The codpiece was a flap or pouch commonly attached to the crotch of men’s trousers to provide a covering for the genitals. The emphasis put on Henry’s codpiece may have been to discredit Anne Boleyn’s claim that he was impotent.
Elaborate jewelry must be accompanied by elaborate clothes. Like any king, Henry wanted to be noticed and his clothes gained him that attention. Henry VIII wore magnificent clothes of gold, satin, colored feathers, and of course jewels. Unlike his father who wore more natural colors, Henry VIII wore bold colors accented with jewels. Any article of clothing that could be accentuated with jewels was, as some of his clothes were so full of rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and pearls that they would hide the underlying material. No king would be honorable if he did not have the most required accessory-a wife- and Henry had six! Of course being king does have its privileges because whenever Henry grew tired of his wife he would get rid of her. Two of the wives he divorced, two were beheaded, one died, and the last one outlived him.
Perhaps the best known of his assortment of wives was Wife #2 Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the often credited as being the bastard child of Henry VIII but she did not let this over shine the fabulous life she would live as Queen. Elizabeth had daddy issues like many other celebrities however, she was not to be outdone and now daddy is not considered as fabulous as she. Elizabeth is so marvelous that more that four centuries after her reign, there are still movies, books, television shows, and dolls about her!
Like her father Elizabeth had a love for the finer things in life. When she died she left behind 102 French gowns, 100 loose gowns, 67 round gowns, 99 robes, 127 cloaks, 85 safeguards, 126 kirtles, 136 stomachers (Hibbert 103)! Elizabeth chose to wear more muted colors, possibly to draw more attention to her wonderful jewels. All queens want to look exceptional when they are out in public and Elizabeth was no different, always adorned with jeweled bracelets, necklaces, brooches, earrings, and watches. In one portrait no fewer than 319 pearls and precious stones could be counted (Hibbert 103). The Queen only wanted the best and only wore silk stockings because cloth just would not do! She would wear cloth stockings when the weather was extremely cold but during these times she also donned a cloak and furred muff or her personal golden warmingball. (Hibbert 103).
What is a Queen without subjects? Nothing at all and that is why Elizabeth her administration consisted of over 600 officials. However, she was no diva and had a smaller personal staff than her father. She had no more than three Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, less than ten grooms, seven married ladies of high rank, and four of lesser rank. Though the Queen lived a lavish life, she was concerned with expenses and often complained about the rising general costs of the household. Maybe the costs had something to do with the 20,000 sheep and lambs, 600, 000 gallons of beer and more than four million eggs that were consumed annually at the Queen’s palace (Hibbert 107). The frequent guests and visitors of the Queen consumed a large sum of this. Elizabeth liked to be entertained and had fools, an Italian jester, and two dwarfs to tickle her fancy.
Even though Elizabeth had an assortment of jewels and clothes, a majority of them were gifts. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer once stated, the Queen’s apparel was not excessive given her calling (Hibbert 108). But diamonds and pearls were just a part of the benefits of being a Queen. Elizabeth’s love for theater and authority as Queen allowed her to see the first performance of William Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Night’s Dream. But when if she did not want to leave her home to see a play the play came to her. Performances of Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels or Twelfth Night by Shakespeare were performed for the Queen. Like her father, Elizabeth loved music and even had her own choir of fifty and over forty instrumentalists.
Queen Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen and was refuted for never getting married however; one of the Queen’s favorite accessories was Lord Robert Dudley. The apple does not fall far from the tree, as the Queen had many suitors including the Earl of Leicester. Another contender for the position on Elizabeth’s arm was Francis, Duke of Alencon. The winner was England when Elizabeth declared that she was married to her country.
Henry and Elizabeth shared a lot of common traits but his lavish spending palls in comparison to the admiration his daughter continues to receive. There is much more to the Tudor dynasty than the clothes and jewels. Both Elizabeth and Henry were dynamic leaders who were highly respected. But the material things are just make for much more interesting television. Join in next week for part two of the Tudors when we discuss Anne Boleyn and Queen Mary I.
Pollard, A. F. “Henry VIII.” .” Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. 21 April 2007 <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/tudorbio.htm>
Hibbert, Christopher. The Virgin Quen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age. Cambridge: Perseus, 1991.
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