Magnificence: A Tale of Two Henrys

Wednesday, 4 June 2014 - 6:00pm
Museum of London





Overview

Henry VII and Henry VIII decisively set themselves, and their residences above their magnates in a palace revolution. By 1550 the way monarchs lived, and the buildings that housed them had been set for the next century and a half.  

 






Transcript of the lecture

4 June 2014

 

Magnificence:

A Tale of Two Henrys

 

Professor Simon Thurley

 

 

 

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is very good to see so many of you.

 

We reach the Tudors, and this evening, I am going to really concentrate on the planning of the Royal Palaces. It is an extraordinary story and it starts in January 1457, when a baby was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales – he was christened Henry Tudor. At the time he was born, I think no one could really have imagined that this little baby was one day going to become the king of England and the founder of one of the most successful dynasties ever to occupy the throne. Yet, this young baby held a very important place in the Lancastrian succession: he was the nephew of Henry VI, and with the failure of the Lancastrian dynasty to produce any heirs, he was one of a very small group of Lancastrians who could lay a claim to the throne, and it was for this reason that when Edward IV seized the throne in 1461, deposing Henry VI, Henry Tudor, still a little baby, was put under the guard of William Herbert, to whom Edward IV granted Henry’s father’s property, and his title, the Earl of Pembroke. Herbert removed Henry from Pembroke and took him to his own castle in Gwent, called Raglan.  

 

Now, Raglan, whilst Henry VII was living there, was almost continually a building site, but you can see from this photograph that it was a very large and imposing building, unfortunately slighted during the Civil War. Obviously, here is the gatehouse… There is a big inner court here, with a range of lodgings against this wall, but separated from the main castle, in its own moat, was a great tower. We do not know exactly where Henry was kept by his guardian, but undoubtedly he would have been familiar with this arrangement of a tower separated by a moat.

 

Well, in 1470, the young man’s fortunes looked up. Henry VI had briefly regained the throne, and Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper, were clearly in line for advancement, but this comeback of course was very short-lived and, after the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471 and the death of Henry VI and his son, Henry Tudor, who was seen as a contender for the throne, fled with his uncle Jasper to Brittany, and there they were to spend the next 13 years in exile.  

 

Now, the Duchy of Brittany was one of a cluster of small states that were in satellite to France, and initially, Henry and Jasper were taken to the principal ducal residence, the Chateau de l’Hermine in Vannes. However, by 1472, they had been taken to somewhere called Sarzeay on the Gulf of Morbihan, where they were lodged with the Admiral of Brittany at his Chateau of Suscinio, which you see here. Henry was kept locked up here for two years, after which they briefly moved to Nantes, before being separated in 1474. Jasper was sent to one chateau, to the Chateau de Josselin, and Henry was sent to the Chateau de Largoet, the house of the Marshall of Brittany, a man called Jean de Rieux, and Henry stayed here for two years.

 

Largoet, which you see here, was very little different actually to English castles of the period. There was a great outer curtain wall, encircling a polygonal court, just as at Raglan, and that was entered by a gatehouse, and whilst the main lodgings were built against the curtain wall, there was also a great high tower, very similar in many ways to the one at Raglan. This one was 144 feet high, six storeys high, and it was begun in the 1460s and so, in 1475, it was sort of nearing completion, and like the great tower at Raglan, it was separated from the rest of the castle by its own moat, and it contained the private lodgings of its owner. It was on the sixth floor of this tower that Henry spent two years of his life. I suggest that the sort of scale and layout of this building – and we will see a little bit more of this later – with its affinities with Raglan, must have made some impression on the future King.

 

When Henry eventually left Brittany, it was pretty rapid. He had heard that the Duke had planned to hand him over to King Richard III, who of course had seized the English throne in 1483, and Henry, disguised as a humble groom, left Brittany for France and was soon to be followed there by his rather motely band of 400 or so followers. His stay in France was fundamentally different from the long, and I think probably for him rather boring, years that he spent in Brittany. It was a brief and extremely busy period, lasting between October 1484 and July 1485. I think there was probably much less leisure time to contemplate his surroundings, but he did spend five months with the French Royal Court in Paris and In Rouen, and he must, during this time, have gained some impression of how the Court worked and of the buildings in which they were operating.

 

In Paris, Henry probably visited and actually almost certainly stayed in Le Louvre, and here you see that wonderful illustration from the Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry, showing the Louvre, the great Donjon, the fortress that Charles V had turned into the principal royal palace of France, and, as you can see in this illustration, it was a building that was designed to impress.   The royal lodgings, situated in this great tower you see behind the outer wall, were in a Donjon, a tower, in the middle of this. So, there is a courtyard in the middle of this block, with a moat in it, and this great tower sticks up out of the top. The royal lodgings were approached by a great spiral staircase, which led up to the Queen’s lodgings on the first floor, and the King’s lodgings on the second floor above. This arrangement of stacked lodgings, on top of each other, is very typical of the Franco-Burgundian tradition, whereby the status of the person was denoted by how high up the building you had your lodgings.

 

Well, as for what else Henry did in France, we know very little because he was busy planning for an invasion and of course, as we all know, as it happens, a successful one. After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he was to become King, and when he finally entered London, he moved directly to the principal metropolitan seat of English Kings at Westminster.

 

This, ladies and gentlemen, was an extraordinary moment. Not many people have thought about this very hard. I will tell you why: almost every single other monarch in English history, before they became King, had already known Westminster and Windsor and the other Royal Palaces, almost all of them had been brought up in them, but certainly they had all known them long before they had ascended the throne. Henry VII’s accession was something quite unique. He had never been to Westminster. He had never been to Windsor. He had never been to London!  So, Henry knew nothing of English palaces and he knew nothing about how to live in them. In fact, his only experience of a proper monarchical life had been during that stay at the Louvre. So, how did this young man cope, as a complete novice, having had no experience of even observing a monarch at close quarters and having never before been to an English Royal Palace?

 

Well, the key to this was two women. The first was his wife. That is that wonderful portrait in the National Portrait Gallery – worth looking at him actually. We are going to talk about him quite a lot later but it is worth looking at him, just taking in the man captured in that wonderful panel.

 

But here is his wife, and she, together with a circle of former courtiers of Edward IV, were absolutely critical in acclimatising this complete novice to the notion of being a King. Elizabeth had been born in the Palace of Westminster. She was the oldest child of Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and during her life, she had succeeded in being daughter, sister, niece and wife of four English monarchs, in that order: Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry VII. So she knew what she was doing…  

 

But Elizabeth was not alone because she was closely allied with the King’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had served both at the Court of Edward IV and the Court of Richard III, and these two women are absolutely crucial to understanding the King and his life at court because they were to be his guides in what was to him an extremely unfamiliar world.

 

However, for the first ten years of his reign, Henry built little or nothing new, and this was for two simple reasons: the first was he had no money; and the second was that it took him at least ten years to establish himself, even vaguely securely, on the English throne. Perkin Warbeck, Lambert Simnel, the Duke of Suffolk – these people were abiding concerns and the cause of a sort of royal paranoia, which I shall come back to talk about in a few moments.

 

However, by about 1491, Henry’s financial situation was at least favourable, if not I suppose arguably quite good. Why do I say that? Well, because we know, from looking at his own chamber accounts, that, between 1491 and 1509, he spent £300,000 on jewels and plate alone.  So the royal finances were obviously beginning to perk up. But I think, in addition to increased resources, I think, despite all the problems he faced, he was beginning to feel a little bit more secure on the throne, and this triggered a series of building projects.

 

One of these was the construction of his new chapel at Westminster. Now this, of course, really falls outside what I am meant to be talking about tonight because I am talking about the domestic residences of the royal family, but it is worth pointing out that this chapel that we know as Henry VII’s chapel, with his tomb there in the middle of it, was actually built by him as Henry VI’s chapel because what Henry was trying to do was trying to emphasise the continuity with his uncle, his royal uncle. He was trying to emphasise his legitimacy on the throne. 

 

It is for exactly this same reason that he turned to Sheen, modern day Richmond, to make his principal, if you like, sort of dynastic royal residence because Sheen was, as I said in my last lecture, for those of you who were here, the spiritual home of the Lancastrian dynasty, the place more closely associated with the Lancastrians than anywhere else.

 

But here we come to a dilemma because what we have to remember is that the house at Sheen, again about which I spoke last time, had been built in the mid-15th Century, 50 years beforehand, but, interestingly, it was in many ways very, very similar to Raglan, to Largoet and indeed the Louvre because this great building here is in fact separated from the rest of the palace by its own moat, so the royal lodgings separated. This is the Great Hall you can see, tucked away in the background here. To get from the Great Hall to the lodgings in this great tower, you have to go over a bridge, over a moat. So, although it was very old-fashioned, this was somewhere where Henry VII felt very familiar because it was exactly like the buildings in which he had been living for the past 20-odd years, and much to his advantage, at Christmas 1497, there was a huge fire in this building that completely gutted the interior and allowed him to completely remodel the interiors to make them a modern residence for himself. 

 

But just as he moved into this refurbished Lancastrian dynastic home at Richmond, he was building himself another palace here at Greenwich, and here, he was rebuilding in the latest style, and this building that you see – and I want you to look at this because this is the bit built by Henry VII, this is all later – was built in a radically different style. Unlike Raglan or Richmond, this was a palace of brick, not stone. It had no defensive moats, no great towers, no walls. This was a domestic dwelling, with no defensive function, and unlike the previous generation of English castles and royal palaces, like we have been looking at here, which were modelling on French castles of the early-15th Century, Greenwich was much more similar to the brick-built ducal palaces of Burgundy.

 

Here, we see the Palace of Prinsenhof in Bruges. This is the building I want you to look at, a long, low building, with a sort of tower and these dormer windows, and if you look at what you are looking at here, it is a long low building with a tower. There is a definite similarity. 

 

This is the surviving house of Louis of Bruges, de Gruuthuse, a house also in Bruges, and you can see here the sort of brick-built structure, with a high roof, similar in many ways to what was built at Greenwich.

 

So, the reign of Henry VIII, as well as introducing this new sort of royal palace, saw another new development in the quest for a small number of private rooms, situated in a tower tacked on to the end of a run of state rooms. So, here, you have a run of state rooms, on the first floor. This is the chapel, and over this gatehouse, you have the outer rooms, and they culminate in a tower, here, which contained Henry VII’s private rooms.

 

I can give you a nice example of this, in another surviving building – this is gone – which is this tower. This is Henry VII’s tower at Windsor Castle. These rooms here survive. They are now the royal library. 

 

I am just going to whip back here, very briefly, to Henry VII’s chapel. Can you see this very characteristic form of window here? You see those? We whip on and we see that these are replicated here in this, and this private tower was, in 1500, tacked on to the end of the great state rooms at Windsor, again which we looked at last time, and contained a private gallery and a study, directly leading off the King’s bedchamber.

 

These private tower lodgings were in fact a reflection of the fact that, under the Yorkist Kings and Henry VII, important changes began to take place in the form of the royal household. On one hand, there was an increasing desire for privacy on the part of the King, and on the other hand, there was an increased perception of the status of the monarch. 

 

But, I think there was another factor too and, in Henry VII’s case, an overriding factor. Henry VII’s extreme insecurity on the throne meant that he trusted barely nobody. He feared assassination, he feared betrayal, and he suspected the loyalty of almost everyone around him, apart from a very small number of his closest companions. Henry VII had, in fact, in 1485, been responsible for setting up the Yeoman of the Guard, a personal bodyguard who actually lived in the outer chambers of the royal palaces, and I will talk about this again in a moment, but, in this outer chamber here actually lived an armed bodyguard, protecting access into the route of the King.  

 

As the various pretenders to the throne threatened Henry VII, so he ratcheted up further the security that surrounded him, and this culminated in the creation of a new inner sanctum existing within the Royals’ household. This new inner sanctum was a direct break with previous royal tradition. The monarch, of course, was the centre of all power, of all patronage, and of all advancement, and therefore proximity to the King was absolutely fundamental to any sort of political or personal success, and the efficacy of medieval royal government relied on the direct involvement of the monarch, or of the ministers in whom he’d entrusted his responsibility. So, contentious attendance to paperwork and discussion and approval could theoretically have absorbed all the monarch’s hours, leaving no time for his courtiers, and this would have caused a serious dilemma because, of course, a court without a King is not a court at all. So, the concept of privacy, as we understand it, did not exist in the Middle Ages. The King ate, drank, slept, dressed, bathed, relieved himself, in public – in other words, in the company of his court. What “privacy” meant, as the concept gradually emerged, was the exclusion of those not needing to be present.  What it did not mean was that the King wanted to be alone. Inevitably, there was therefore a significant break amongst the personnel of the Court, between those who the King regarded as being essential attendants and those people who regarded themselves as being essential attendants – they were not the same thing.

 

As we discovered in my last lecture, the early medieval kings built themselves private retreats, often quite remote from the principal houses, where they could invite those people who they wished. As the fifteenth Century dawned, a more determined distinction between court and king developed themselves. So, last time, I talked about this place called, at Sheen, called La Nayght, which was just outside the Royal Palace here. It was a completely independent little retreat which you could get to. And of course, this Donjon here, this great tower, represented that same architectural division because of course it was surrounded by a moat, it was separate from the rest of the palace, so the King could, to a degree, retreat from the rest of the court.

 

But under Henry VII, added to this sort of increasing architectural distinction, he actually made a reform to his Court that created an organisational distinction. In around 1495, he set up a new household department called the Privy Chamber, the private chamber, the private room, and the Privy Chamber was Henry VII’s answer to his royal paranoia. It was a zone of the Royal Palace exclusively populated by people who he implicitly trusted. It was put under a chief, a man called the Groom of the Stool, who was literally the man – the “stool” being the clothes stool, the lavatory, the garderobe – he was literally the man who waited on the King while he relieved himself, and as well as the Groom of the Stool, there was a small number of other grooms and pages. This Privy Chamber was a way of ensuring that only those who the King regarded as absolutely essential had access to him and these secret places in the Tudor Royal Palaces.

 

Well, from 1509, Henry VIII followed his father’s example in appointing a Privy Chamber, and his Privy Chamber was headed, for sixteen years, by his childhood best friend and favourite, a man called Sir William Compton, and Sir William Compton was the Groom of the Stool. Until 1518, this first ten years of Henry VIII’s reign, during William Compton’s tenure, the Privy Chamber had basically been a department staffed by somewhat socially insignificant men, but in that year, Henry VIII changed all that by drafting in to his Privy Chamber a group of young favourites, including people like Edward Neville, Nicholas Carew, Francis Bryan, and Henry Norris. These young men, his drinking companions basically, he gave a new title to: he called the “gentilhomme de la chamber”, after the French fashion.

 

If the King was rather enamoured of his new mates in his Privy Chamber, not everybody was. In fact, these people became nicknamed “the minions”, and they were basically incredibly badly behaved. They were like a sort of stag party in Amsterdam, and they did really naughty things like sort of dressing up as poor people, riding through the streets of London on donkeys, throwing eggs at the sort of populace, and when the populace started rising up and getting furious, they would take off their disguises and show that they were the King’s companions. So, they basically got up everybody’s noses.

 

This caused really quite an adverse reaction, all this bad behaviour. They spent huge amounts of money, and it was quite clear that some sort of definition ought to be given to this ongoing stag party that was going on around Henry VIII in his Privy Chamber. So, along comes our friend Cardinal Wolsey, and he lays down the rules, in 1519, saying we are going to define what goes on here, we are going to make some rules, we are going to make rules about money, about behaviour, about access, and about what these people actually ought to be doing. These things, which were called the Eltham Ordinances, because they were issued at the Royal Palace of Eltham, produced a sophisticated, autonomous department of the Royal Household, staffed by men of rank, money, ability, and stopped all the sort of boisterous silliness that was going on.  The Ordinances stated that, and I quote: “In the good keeping of the Privy Chamber rested the King’s quiet, rest, comfort and preservation of his health, therefore no person from henceforth presume, attempt, or be admitted to come or repair into the King’s Privy Chamber other than such only as His Grace shall, at time to time, call for.” Six gentlemen, two ushers, four grooms, a barber, and a page, each with very carefully specified duties, attended the King in his private room. The Groom of the Stool, the man in charge of the organisation, Henry Norris, was the man who had access to the King’s, and I quote, “to the King’s bedchamber or any other secret place”, and it was he who, quite literally, held a list, and if your name was not on the list, you were not coming in.

 

So, in architectural terms, these Ordinances, the Eltham Ordinances, envisaged a graded system: first, the Privy Chamber, a single room, next door to the King’s bedchamber, to which the full complement of fifteen staff had access; and then second, next door to the Privy Chamber, was the bedchamber and the small number of closets and the little towers beyond that to which only the King and the Groom of the Stool had access. This graduated system was in fact the system that was introduced under Henry VII. The King’s new tower at Windsor, which I showed you a moment ago, had been his equivalent to the secret places, to the very private areas beyond the Privy Chamber, to which only the King and his Groom of the Stool had access. So, in many ways, what Wolsey was doing was he was writing down the status quo.

 

But, in all his cleverness, what Wolsey had not taken account of was the changed nature of the staff of the Privy Chamber and the changing notion of the room itself because, under Henry VII, the Privy Chamber, as a room, was the centre of the King’s business life and his private life. It was a place of security and safety. The King’s social life and public life was conducted outside the Privy Chamber in the public rooms of the Royal Palace. But Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber was quite a different kettle of fish. It was filled with his friends and his confidants. It was the forum of his private life, and it was the field for rivalry between the really powerful people at court, and membership of the Privy Chamber was highly sought after because it did not only bring personal intimacy with the King but it brought influence, power and therefore wealth, and the attractions, therefore, of membership of this Privy Chamber were absolutely magnetic, and although, by 1526, when there were fifteen staff, by 1530, the number had risen to twenty, and by 1539, there were 28. This rapid expansion in personnel entailed an expanding architectural zone too.

 

So, let us turn to look at the buildings. We have looked at the court structures; now, let us look at where all this was going on.

 

Well, the first point to make here is that 1529 was a watershed in the development of the English royal house. It marks an intellectual turning point for Henry VIII, who suddenly became more interested in architecture. Now, there are no simple explanations to explain why someone sitting on the throne 500 years ago suddenly became more interested in architecture, but I think Anne Boleyn provided a catalyst. She had a great interest in the arts, and much recent literature has emphasised the influence she had on the King’s mind. 

 

But there were five other factors that I think are very important in 1529, five other factors…

 

The first was the downfall of Wolsey, which of course meant that the man who had dominated the reign and the King’s architecture had gone.

 

Secondly, the buildings that Wolsey had occupied were now handed over to Henry VIII and became Royal Palaces, including Hampton Court and Whitehall.

 

The third thing was huge wealth suddenly coming the King’s way because of the appropriation of Church property.

 

The fourth thing was a sort of diversification and increase in the number of houses because Henry VIII kept on getting married and kept on having children and so there were more and more places needed.

 

And finally, there were these alterations in the structure in the structure of the Court, which I have started to talk about.

 

So, this remarkable combination of circumstances was to have long-lasting and important consequences for the form of Royal Palaces, and will set the tone for my next few lectures, so listen hard…!

 

Let us turn to these buildings. So, the King’s houses were essentially composed of the inward chambers, the private rooms that I have been talking about, that developed under Edward IV and Henry VII, and the outward chambers, the Great Hall, the Guard Chamber and the Presence Chamber. We have now, in the time that remains this evening, just to look in some detail at the layout and function of these inward and outward chambers.

 

Beginning with the outward chambers, this is Hampton Court, which I am going to use this evening, just very quickly just give you some orientation. This is the west front, which you come in. This is the outer court, base court. You would come in under this gatehouse and go up into the Great Hall. From the Great Hall, you would go through the outer chambers, which I am going to talk about here. At this point, you enter the inner chambers and the secret chambers beyond here. These are the Queen’s lodgings. This is the chapel. These are the Prince of Wales’ lodgings up here.

 

So, the first of the outer lodgings is the Great Hall. There it is, at Hampton Court. This had originally been where everybody ate, but from the fourteenth Century onwards, it was only the most junior people eating there. Do not imagine that Henry VIII sat in that Great Hall chewing his chicken leg and throwing the bone over his shoulder – it did not happen!  This is where the most junior people ate and only special occasions was it hung with incredible tapestries like this.

 

So, from the Great Hall at Hampton Court – and this is a blow-up of the plan I showed you earlier – here is the Great Hall. You would have entered this small anteroom and then you would have come into the first of the outer chambers, the Great Watching Chamber or the Guard Chamber. It was called the Guard Chamber because in it was the King’s Yeoman of the Guard, that bodyguard that I told you about that Henry VII set up. These men, the Yeomen of the Guard, stood guard in this room during the day, and at night, they literally pulled out straw palliasses and slept on the ground in this room, protecting access to the King.

 

It was also used during the day, and here it is at Hampton Court, for higher courtiers perhaps to eat in, and adjacent to it, behind this tapestry here, there was a little doorway – that doorway is there – was a little room here for the pages, and when, a million years ago, I was responsible for all this, I took all the later panelling off this wall and reinstated this room as it was, the Pages’ Chamber, next door to the Guard Chamber. The pages were responsible for, hanging out in here, for making sure that everything went smoothly, according to plan, in the interminable boring ceremonies that used to happen in the Guard Chamber next door.

 

So, there is the first room. Next door to it was the Presence Chamber. Now, the Presence Chamber was the principal ceremonial room in the Palace, and it was here, in the 1530s, that diplomatic and domestic audiences happened, the King sitting under a canopy like this, and in this room, the King would dine in public. He would sit in his chair, the table would be in front of him, dishes would be presented, he would look at them, and they would be taken away again, because he actually would not eat in public. After the ceremonial meal had taken place, he would retreat and eat in comfort in the Privy Chamber next door.

 

This room was also home to another guard, a sort of inner guard, set up by Henry VIII. They were called the Band of Gentlemen Pensioners, and just like the Yeomen of the Guard, they also slept in the room. So, at night, you would have this room full of guards, armed guards, and this room full of armed guards, all sleeping all over the floor on these mattresses.

 

Hampton Court was a little bit unusual because it had this extra room here, but just for a moment, ignore this extra room, because most palaces, after the Presence Chamber, had the key door, which is the door between the Presence Chamber and the Privy Chamber – that is “E”, here…    The Privy Chamber marks the beginning of the Privy Lodgings, and the Privy Lodgings at Hampton Court are these rooms here, and they led on to, because Hampton Court was a big Palace, onto what were known as the Secret Lodgings. 

 

The Secret Lodgings comprised all sorts of rooms. Here you see a lovely manuscript of Henry VIII in one of the private chapels. It is probably a room like this, a little closet, where the King would have knelt – there is an altar there. He would have looked through a little window and watched mass being celebrated. There is the window through which he would have looked… 

 

This is very fanciful, but here is Henry VIII supposedly in a bedchamber.

 

So, a whole lot of little rooms in these Secret Lodgings behind…

 

The expansion of these inward lodgings, these secret rooms beyond the Privy Chamber door, is the big theme of the late-1530s and the 1540s because, as we have seen in my previous talks, in the Middle Ages, kings, monarchs, lived essentially in three rooms. They could have escaped to these little retreats that I have talked about, I have mentioned them already, the one at Sheen called La Nayght, the one at Kenilworth that I showed you last time, called the La Pleasance.   They could also have escaped to the towers, which I showed you in Henry VII’s room. 

 

But, under Henry VIII, something very radical happened because, in 1529, the very first thing Henry VIII did when he took over Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey was start to build something called the Bain Tower. “Bain”, in the 16th Century, meant “bath” – it was the Bath Tower. It was a three-storey tower that he was building at the end of what had become the Privy Chamber. There was a bedroom, a study, and this is an en-suite bathroom, and this little area here is the sort of stoking room where they heated the water so that he could have hot and cold running water in his en-suite next door to his bedroom. This tower that was built in 1529 was absolutely in the tradition of these towers that I have shown you that were built by Henry VII.

 

One year later, Henry VIII started building something that was radically different. This is Whitehall Palace, and the year after he had built the Bain Tower at Hampton Court, the foundations were laid for this building. This was called the Privy Gallery. Here, between 1530 and 1532, the territory of the Privy Chamber, this private area, was stretched by adding a whole series of new rooms between the Privy Chamber and the bedchamber, and with this change, the Whitehall Privy Lodging ceased to be a single room, which is what it was laid down in the Eltham Ordinances, and it became a suite of five rooms, managed, by 1532, by 24 staff. So, the Privy Chamber, which had originally been conceived as this private, secure room for Henry VII, had actually become the first and, in time, the most public of a suite of private rooms at Henry VIII’s disposal.

 

Here you see my reconstruction drawing of exactly that. Here is the Great Hall, the Great Chamber, the other outer rooms, joining on to this new thing, the Privy Chamber, and here were the King’s rooms, stretched out, overlooking the garden.

 

So, here we see a plan which shows the layout. Here is the Great Hall. Here is the Guard Chamber. Here is the Presence Chamber. Here is the Privy Chamber, and then, suddenly, here you have all these rooms that were policed by the Privy Chamber that were arranged for the King’s access and sort of delectation.

 

What we see happening is that, as these rooms, here, become more and more crowded by all the people who were admitted into the Privy Chamber, the King himself starts to retreat out of the Privy Chamber and create a new set of private rooms called the Secret Rooms! The Secret Rooms exist here and are set up in this tower, the Holbein Gate, which you see here. So, you have the outer rooms, you have the Privy Chamber, and then you have the Secret Rooms, centred on this private tower.

 

This is very much what happens at the other palaces too. We have seen Hampton Court, and we are seeing exactly the same thing happening here. Here, we have the outer rooms… Here, we have the territory of the Privy Chamber, and here, we have the King’s secret lodgings on this side.

 

And I am showing you here the plan of Greenwich Palace. We saw the drawing of it earlier.  Here is the Hall, a stair going out of the Hall, the Guard Chamber, the Watching Chamber, full of the guards, a chapel over here, the Presence Chamber, also full of guards… Here, you go into the Privy Chamber, and the bedchamber, but beyond that, you have the secret lodgings, so, moving from a distinction of two areas into these three areas.

 

So, it was really during the 1520s and the 1530s that the Privy Chamber was in its heyday. The expansion of personnel and of territory, which I have explained just now, which occurred after 1530, heralded the decay in the influence of the Privy Chamber, because the success of the Privy Chamber, if you like, had undermined the very thing it had been invented to protect, which was of course the King’s privy. From about 1540, the Privy Chamber was now opened up to admit others who were, strictly speaking, not members of the Privy Chamber, and gradually, the functions that had taken place in the King’s Presence Chamber were switched to the King’s Privy Chamber. So, previously, in the 1520s and 1530s, if you were elevated to the peerage, this would have been performed in the Presence Chamber, but by the time Sir John Denny was made Viscount Lisle in March 1542, this was carried out in the Privy Chamber at Whitehall. In May 1544, it was on the throne of the Privy Chamber at Whitehall that Henry VIII conferred the Great Seal on Lord Wriothesley, and in 1544, in February, the Duke of Najera was received in the Privy Chamber.  So you see what had happened: the Privy Chamber suddenly now becomes the principal room of reception for a Royal Palace.

 

So, what we have seen this evening is that, in a series of developments over a period of about 50 years, the paranoia of Henry VII was gradually converted into a sophisticated and complex machine fuelled by a powerfully policed etiquette. Henry VIII retreated further and further into his secret lodgings, as the court advanced further and further towards him, and the arrangement of rooms and the machinery of court etiquette, established in the 1530s, went on to form the backbone of royal houses for the next 200 years.

 

 

Thank you very much.

 

© Professor Simon Thurley, 2014

4 June 2014

 

Magnificence:

A Tale of Two Henrys

 

Professor Simon Thurley

 

 

 

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is very good to see so many of you.

 

We reach the Tudors, and this evening, I am going to really concentrate on the planning of the Royal Palaces. It is an extraordinary story and it starts in January 1457, when a baby was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales – he was christened Henry Tudor. At the time he was born, I think no one could really have imagined that this little baby was one day going to become the king of England and the founder of one of the most successful dynasties ever to occupy the throne. Yet, this young baby held a very important place in the Lancastrian succession: he was the nephew of Henry VI, and with the failure of the Lancastrian dynasty to produce any heirs, he was one of a very small group of Lancastrians who could lay a claim to the throne, and it was for this reason that when Edward IV seized the throne in 1461, deposing Henry VI, Henry Tudor, still a little baby, was put under the guard of William Herbert, to whom Edward IV granted Henry’s father’s property, and his title, the Earl of Pembroke. Herbert removed Henry from Pembroke and took him to his own castle in Gwent, called Raglan.  

 

Now, Raglan, whilst Henry VII was living there, was almost continually a building site, but you can see from this photograph that it was a very large and imposing building, unfortunately slighted during the Civil War. Obviously, here is the gatehouse… There is a big inner court here, with a range of lodgings against this wall, but separated from the main castle, in its own moat, was a great tower. We do not know exactly where Henry was kept by his guardian, but undoubtedly he would have been familiar with this arrangement of a tower separated by a moat.

 

Well, in 1470, the young man’s fortunes looked up. Henry VI had briefly regained the throne, and Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper, were clearly in line for advancement, but this comeback of course was very short-lived and, after the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471 and the death of Henry VI and his son, Henry Tudor, who was seen as a contender for the throne, fled with his uncle Jasper to Brittany, and there they were to spend the next 13 years in exile.  

 

Now, the Duchy of Brittany was one of a cluster of small states that were in satellite to France, and initially, Henry and Jasper were taken to the principal ducal residence, the Chateau de l’Hermine in Vannes. However, by 1472, they had been taken to somewhere called Sarzeay on the Gulf of Morbihan, where they were lodged with the Admiral of Brittany at his Chateau of Suscinio, which you see here. Henry was kept locked up here for two years, after which they briefly moved to Nantes, before being separated in 1474. Jasper was sent to one chateau, to the Chateau de Josselin, and Henry was sent to the Chateau de Largoet, the house of the Marshall of Brittany, a man called Jean de Rieux, and Henry stayed here for two years.

 

Largoet, which you see here, was very little different actually to English castles of the period. There was a great outer curtain wall, encircling a polygonal court, just as at Raglan, and that was entered by a gatehouse, and whilst the main lodgings were built against the curtain wall, there was also a great high tower, very similar in many ways to the one at Raglan. This one was 144 feet high, six storeys high, and it was begun in the 1460s and so, in 1475, it was sort of nearing completion, and like the great tower at Raglan, it was separated from the rest of the castle by its own moat, and it contained the private lodgings of its owner. It was on the sixth floor of this tower that Henry spent two years of his life. I suggest that the sort of scale and layout of this building – and we will see a little bit more of this later – with its affinities with Raglan, must have made some impression on the future King.

 

When Henry eventually left Brittany, it was pretty rapid. He had heard that the Duke had planned to hand him over to King Richard III, who of course had seized the English throne in 1483, and Henry, disguised as a humble groom, left Brittany for France and was soon to be followed there by his rather motely band of 400 or so followers. His stay in France was fundamentally different from the long, and I think probably for him rather boring, years that he spent in Brittany. It was a brief and extremely busy period, lasting between October 1484 and July 1485. I think there was probably much less leisure time to contemplate his surroundings, but he did spend five months with the French Royal Court in Paris and In Rouen, and he must, during this time, have gained some impression of how the Court worked and of the buildings in which they were operating.

 

In Paris, Henry probably visited and actually almost certainly stayed in Le Louvre, and here you see that wonderful illustration from the Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry, showing the Louvre, the great Donjon, the fortress that Charles V had turned into the principal royal palace of France, and, as you can see in this illustration, it was a building that was designed to impress.   The royal lodgings, situated in this great tower you see behind the outer wall, were in a Donjon, a tower, in the middle of this. So, there is a courtyard in the middle of this block, with a moat in it, and this great tower sticks up out of the top. The royal lodgings were approached by a great spiral staircase, which led up to the Queen’s lodgings on the first floor, and the King’s lodgings on the second floor above. This arrangement of stacked lodgings, on top of each other, is very typical of the Franco-Burgundian tradition, whereby the status of the person was denoted by how high up the building you had your lodgings.

 

Well, as for what else Henry did in France, we know very little because he was busy planning for an invasion and of course, as we all know, as it happens, a successful one. After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he was to become King, and when he finally entered London, he moved directly to the principal metropolitan seat of English Kings at Westminster.

 

This, ladies and gentlemen, was an extraordinary moment. Not many people have thought about this very hard. I will tell you why: almost every single other monarch in English history, before they became King, had already known Westminster and Windsor and the other Royal Palaces, almost all of them had been brought up in them, but certainly they had all known them long before they had ascended the throne. Henry VII’s accession was something quite unique. He had never been to Westminster. He had never been to Windsor. He had never been to London!  So, Henry knew nothing of English palaces and he knew nothing about how to live in them. In fact, his only experience of a proper monarchical life had been during that stay at the Louvre. So, how did this young man cope, as a complete novice, having had no experience of even observing a monarch at close quarters and having never before been to an English Royal Palace?

 

Well, the key to this was two women. The first was his wife. That is that wonderful portrait in the National Portrait Gallery – worth looking at him actually. We are going to talk about him quite a lot later but it is worth looking at him, just taking in the man captured in that wonderful panel.

 

But here is his wife, and she, together with a circle of former courtiers of Edward IV, were absolutely critical in acclimatising this complete novice to the notion of being a King. Elizabeth had been born in the Palace of Westminster. She was the oldest child of Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and during her life, she had succeeded in being daughter, sister, niece and wife of four English monarchs, in that order: Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry VII. So she knew what she was doing…  

 

But Elizabeth was not alone because she was closely allied with the King’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had served both at the Court of Edward IV and the Court of Richard III, and these two women are absolutely crucial to understanding the King and his life at court because they were to be his guides in what was to him an extremely unfamiliar world.

 

However, for the first ten years of his reign, Henry built little or nothing new, and this was for two simple reasons: the first was he had no money; and the second was that it took him at least ten years to establish himself, even vaguely securely, on the English throne. Perkin Warbeck, Lambert Simnel, the Duke of Suffolk – these people were abiding concerns and the cause of a sort of royal paranoia, which I shall come back to talk about in a few moments.

 

However, by about 1491, Henry’s financial situation was at least favourable, if not I suppose arguably quite good. Why do I say that? Well, because we know, from looking at his own chamber accounts, that, between 1491 and 1509, he spent £300,000 on jewels and plate alone.  So the royal finances were obviously beginning to perk up. But I think, in addition to increased resources, I think, despite all the problems he faced, he was beginning to feel a little bit more secure on the throne, and this triggered a series of building projects.

 

One of these was the construction of his new chapel at Westminster. Now this, of course, really falls outside what I am meant to be talking about tonight because I am talking about the domestic residences of the royal family, but it is worth pointing out that this chapel that we know as Henry VII’s chapel, with his tomb there in the middle of it, was actually built by him as Henry VI’s chapel because what Henry was trying to do was trying to emphasise the continuity with his uncle, his royal uncle. He was trying to emphasise his legitimacy on the throne. 

 

It is for exactly this same reason that he turned to Sheen, modern day Richmond, to make his principal, if you like, sort of dynastic royal residence because Sheen was, as I said in my last lecture, for those of you who were here, the spiritual home of the Lancastrian dynasty, the place more closely associated with the Lancastrians than anywhere else.

 

But here we come to a dilemma because what we have to remember is that the house at Sheen, again about which I spoke last time, had been built in the mid-15th Century, 50 years beforehand, but, interestingly, it was in many ways very, very similar to Raglan, to Largoet and indeed the Louvre because this great building here is in fact separated from the rest of the palace by its own moat, so the royal lodgings separated. This is the Great Hall you can see, tucked away in the background here. To get from the Great Hall to the lodgings in this great tower, you have to go over a bridge, over a moat. So, although it was very old-fashioned, this was somewhere where Henry VII felt very familiar because it was exactly like the buildings in which he had been living for the past 20-odd years, and much to his advantage, at Christmas 1497, there was a huge fire in this building that completely gutted the interior and allowed him to completely remodel the interiors to make them a modern residence for himself. 

 

But just as he moved into this refurbished Lancastrian dynastic home at Richmond, he was building himself another palace here at Greenwich, and here, he was rebuilding in the latest style, and this building that you see – and I want you to look at this because this is the bit built by Henry VII, this is all later – was built in a radically different style. Unlike Raglan or Richmond, this was a palace of brick, not stone. It had no defensive moats, no great towers, no walls. This was a domestic dwelling, with no defensive function, and unlike the previous generation of English castles and royal palaces, like we have been looking at here, which were modelling on French castles of the early-15th Century, Greenwich was much more similar to the brick-built ducal palaces of Burgundy.

 

Here, we see the Palace of Prinsenhof in Bruges. This is the building I want you to look at, a long, low building, with a sort of tower and these dormer windows, and if you look at what you are looking at here, it is a long low building with a tower. There is a definite similarity. 

 

This is the surviving house of Louis of Bruges, de Gruuthuse, a house also in Bruges, and you can see here the sort of brick-built structure, with a high roof, similar in many ways to what was built at Greenwich.

 

So, the reign of Henry VIII, as well as introducing this new sort of royal palace, saw another new development in the quest for a small number of private rooms, situated in a tower tacked on to the end of a run of state rooms. So, here, you have a run of state rooms, on the first floor. This is the chapel, and over this gatehouse, you have the outer rooms, and they culminate in a tower, here, which contained Henry VII’s private rooms.

 

I can give you a nice example of this, in another surviving building – this is gone – which is this tower. This is Henry VII’s tower at Windsor Castle. These rooms here survive. They are now the royal library. 

 

I am just going to whip back here, very briefly, to Henry VII’s chapel. Can you see this very characteristic form of window here? You see those? We whip on and we see that these are replicated here in this, and this private tower was, in 1500, tacked on to the end of the great state rooms at Windsor, again which we looked at last time, and contained a private gallery and a study, directly leading off the King’s bedchamber.

 

These private tower lodgings were in fact a reflection of the fact that, under the Yorkist Kings and Henry VII, important changes began to take place in the form of the royal household. On one hand, there was an increasing desire for privacy on the part of the King, and on the other hand, there was an increased perception of the status of the monarch. 

 

But, I think there was another factor too and, in Henry VII’s case, an overriding factor. Henry VII’s extreme insecurity on the throne meant that he trusted barely nobody. He feared assassination, he feared betrayal, and he suspected the loyalty of almost everyone around him, apart from a very small number of his closest companions. Henry VII had, in fact, in 1485, been responsible for setting up the Yeoman of the Guard, a personal bodyguard who actually lived in the outer chambers of the royal palaces, and I will talk about this again in a moment, but, in this outer chamber here actually lived an armed bodyguard, protecting access into the route of the King.  

 

As the various pretenders to the throne threatened Henry VII, so he ratcheted up further the security that surrounded him, and this culminated in the creation of a new inner sanctum existing within the Royals’ household. This new inner sanctum was a direct break with previous royal tradition. The monarch, of course, was the centre of all power, of all patronage, and of all advancement, and therefore proximity to the King was absolutely fundamental to any sort of political or personal success, and the efficacy of medieval royal government relied on the direct involvement of the monarch, or of the ministers in whom he’d entrusted his responsibility. So, contentious attendance to paperwork and discussion and approval could theoretically have absorbed all the monarch’s hours, leaving no time for his courtiers, and this would have caused a serious dilemma because, of course, a court without a King is not a court at all. So, the concept of privacy, as we understand it, did not exist in the Middle Ages. The King ate, drank, slept, dressed, bathed, relieved himself, in public – in other words, in the company of his court. What “privacy” meant, as the concept gradually emerged, was the exclusion of those not needing to be present.  What it did not mean was that the King wanted to be alone. Inevitably, there was therefore a significant break amongst the personnel of the Court, between those who the King regarded as being essential attendants and those people who regarded themselves as being essential attendants – they were not the same thing.

 

As we discovered in my last lecture, the early medieval kings built themselves private retreats, often quite remote from the principal houses, where they could invite those people who they wished. As the fifteenth Century dawned, a more determined distinction between court and king developed themselves. So, last time, I talked about this place called, at Sheen, called La Nayght, which was just outside the Royal Palace here. It was a completely independent little retreat which you could get to. And of course, this Donjon here, this great tower, represented that same architectural division because of course it was surrounded by a moat, it was separate from the rest of the palace, so the King could, to a degree, retreat from the rest of the court.

 

But under Henry VII, added to this sort of increasing architectural distinction, he actually made a reform to his Court that created an organisational distinction. In around 1495, he set up a new household department called the Privy Chamber, the private chamber, the private room, and the Privy Chamber was Henry VII’s answer to his royal paranoia. It was a zone of the Royal Palace exclusively populated by people who he implicitly trusted. It was put under a chief, a man called the Groom of the Stool, who was literally the man – the “stool” being the clothes stool, the lavatory, the garderobe – he was literally the man who waited on the King while he relieved himself, and as well as the Groom of the Stool, there was a small number of other grooms and pages. This Privy Chamber was a way of ensuring that only those who the King regarded as absolutely essential had access to him and these secret places in the Tudor Royal Palaces.

 

Well, from 1509, Henry VIII followed his father’s example in appointing a Privy Chamber, and his Privy Chamber was headed, for sixteen years, by his childhood best friend and favourite, a man called Sir William Compton, and Sir William Compton was the Groom of the Stool. Until 1518, this first ten years of Henry VIII’s reign, during William Compton’s tenure, the Privy Chamber had basically been a department staffed by somewhat socially insignificant men, but in that year, Henry VIII changed all that by drafting in to his Privy Chamber a group of young favourites, including people like Edward Neville, Nicholas Carew, Francis Bryan, and Henry Norris. These young men, his drinking companions basically, he gave a new title to: he called the “gentilhomme de la chamber”, after the French fashion.

 

If the King was rather enamoured of his new mates in his Privy Chamber, not everybody was. In fact, these people became nicknamed “the minions”, and they were basically incredibly badly behaved. They were like a sort of stag party in Amsterdam, and they did really naughty things like sort of dressing up as poor people, riding through the streets of London on donkeys, throwing eggs at the sort of populace, and when the populace started rising up and getting furious, they would take off their disguises and show that they were the King’s companions. So, they basically got up everybody’s noses.

 

This caused really quite an adverse reaction, all this bad behaviour. They spent huge amounts of money, and it was quite clear that some sort of definition ought to be given to this ongoing stag party that was going on around Henry VIII in his Privy Chamber. So, along comes our friend Cardinal Wolsey, and he lays down the rules, in 1519, saying we are going to define what goes on here, we are going to make some rules, we are going to make rules about money, about behaviour, about access, and about what these people actually ought to be doing. These things, which were called the Eltham Ordinances, because they were issued at the Royal Palace of Eltham, produced a sophisticated, autonomous department of the Royal Household, staffed by men of rank, money, ability, and stopped all the sort of boisterous silliness that was going on.  The Ordinances stated that, and I quote: “In the good keeping of the Privy Chamber rested the King’s quiet, rest, comfort and preservation of his health, therefore no person from henceforth presume, attempt, or be admitted to come or repair into the King’s Privy Chamber other than such only as His Grace shall, at time to time, call for.” Six gentlemen, two ushers, four grooms, a barber, and a page, each with very carefully specified duties, attended the King in his private room. The Groom of the Stool, the man in charge of the organisation, Henry Norris, was the man who had access to the King’s, and I quote, “to the King’s bedchamber or any other secret place”, and it was he who, quite literally, held a list, and if your name was not on the list, you were not coming in.

 

So, in architectural terms, these Ordinances, the Eltham Ordinances, envisaged a graded system: first, the Privy Chamber, a single room, next door to the King’s bedchamber, to which the full complement of fifteen staff had access; and then second, next door to the Privy Chamber, was the bedchamber and the small number of closets and the little towers beyond that to which only the King and the Groom of the Stool had access. This graduated system was in fact the system that was introduced under Henry VII. The King’s new tower at Windsor, which I showed you a moment ago, had been his equivalent to the secret places, to the very private areas beyond the Privy Chamber, to which only the King and his Groom of the Stool had access. So, in many ways, what Wolsey was doing was he was writing down the status quo.

 

But, in all his cleverness, what Wolsey had not taken account of was the changed nature of the staff of the Privy Chamber and the changing notion of the room itself because, under Henry VII, the Privy Chamber, as a room, was the centre of the King’s business life and his private life. It was a place of security and safety. The King’s social life and public life was conducted outside the Privy Chamber in the public rooms of the Royal Palace. But Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber was quite a different kettle of fish. It was filled with his friends and his confidants. It was the forum of his private life, and it was the field for rivalry between the really powerful people at court, and membership of the Privy Chamber was highly sought after because it did not only bring personal intimacy with the King but it brought influence, power and therefore wealth, and the attractions, therefore, of membership of this Privy Chamber were absolutely magnetic, and although, by 1526, when there were fifteen staff, by 1530, the number had risen to twenty, and by 1539, there were 28. This rapid expansion in personnel entailed an expanding architectural zone too.

 

So, let us turn to look at the buildings. We have looked at the court structures; now, let us look at where all this was going on.

 

Well, the first point to make here is that 1529 was a watershed in the development of the English royal house. It marks an intellectual turning point for Henry VIII, who suddenly became more interested in architecture. Now, there are no simple explanations to explain why someone sitting on the throne 500 years ago suddenly became more interested in architecture, but I think Anne Boleyn provided a catalyst. She had a great interest in the arts, and much recent literature has emphasised the influence she had on the King’s mind. 

 

But there were five other factors that I think are very important in 1529, five other factors…

 

The first was the downfall of Wolsey, which of course meant that the man who had dominated the reign and the King’s architecture had gone.

 

Secondly, the buildings that Wolsey had occupied were now handed over to Henry VIII and became Royal Palaces, including Hampton Court and Whitehall.

 

The third thing was huge wealth suddenly coming the King’s way because of the appropriation of Church property.

 

The fourth thing was a sort of diversification and increase in the number of houses because Henry VIII kept on getting married and kept on having children and so there were more and more places needed.

 

And finally, there were these alterations in the structure in the structure of the Court, which I have started to talk about.

 

So, this remarkable combination of circumstances was to have long-lasting and important consequences for the form of Royal Palaces, and will set the tone for my next few lectures, so listen hard…!

 

Let us turn to these buildings. So, the King’s houses were essentially composed of the inward chambers, the private rooms that I have been talking about, that developed under Edward IV and Henry VII, and the outward chambers, the Great Hall, the Guard Chamber and the Presence Chamber. We have now, in the time that remains this evening, just to look in some detail at the layout and function of these inward and outward chambers.

 

Beginning with the outward chambers, this is Hampton Court, which I am going to use this evening, just very quickly just give you some orientation. This is the west front, which you come in. This is the outer court, base court. You would come in under this gatehouse and go up into the Great Hall. From the Great Hall, you would go through the outer chambers, which I am going to talk about here. At this point, you enter the inner chambers and the secret chambers beyond here. These are the Queen’s lodgings. This is the chapel. These are the Prince of Wales’ lodgings up here.

 

So, the first of the outer lodgings is the Great Hall. There it is, at Hampton Court. This had originally been where everybody ate, but from the fourteenth Century onwards, it was only the most junior people eating there. Do not imagine that Henry VIII sat in that Great Hall chewing his chicken leg and throwing the bone over his shoulder – it did not happen!  This is where the most junior people ate and only special occasions was it hung with incredible tapestries like this.

 

So, from the Great Hall at Hampton Court – and this is a blow-up of the plan I showed you earlier – here is the Great Hall. You would have entered this small anteroom and then you would have come into the first of the outer chambers, the Great Watching Chamber or the Guard Chamber. It was called the Guard Chamber because in it was the King’s Yeoman of the Guard, that bodyguard that I told you about that Henry VII set up. These men, the Yeomen of the Guard, stood guard in this room during the day, and at night, they literally pulled out straw palliasses and slept on the ground in this room, protecting access to the King.

 

It was also used during the day, and here it is at Hampton Court, for higher courtiers perhaps to eat in, and adjacent to it, behind this tapestry here, there was a little doorway – that doorway is there – was a little room here for the pages, and when, a million years ago, I was responsible for all this, I took all the later panelling off this wall and reinstated this room as it was, the Pages’ Chamber, next door to the Guard Chamber. The pages were responsible for, hanging out in here, for making sure that everything went smoothly, according to plan, in the interminable boring ceremonies that used to happen in the Guard Chamber next door.

 

So, there is the first room. Next door to it was the Presence Chamber. Now, the Presence Chamber was the principal ceremonial room in the Palace, and it was here, in the 1530s, that diplomatic and domestic audiences happened, the King sitting under a canopy like this, and in this room, the King would dine in public. He would sit in his chair, the table would be in front of him, dishes would be presented, he would look at them, and they would be taken away again, because he actually would not eat in public. After the ceremonial meal had taken place, he would retreat and eat in comfort in the Privy Chamber next door.

 

This room was also home to another guard, a sort of inner guard, set up by Henry VIII. They were called the Band of Gentlemen Pensioners, and just like the Yeomen of the Guard, they also slept in the room. So, at night, you would have this room full of guards, armed guards, and this room full of armed guards, all sleeping all over the floor on these mattresses.

 

Hampton Court was a little bit unusual because it had this extra room here, but just for a moment, ignore this extra room, because most palaces, after the Presence Chamber, had the key door, which is the door between the Presence Chamber and the Privy Chamber – that is “E”, here…    The Privy Chamber marks the beginning of the Privy Lodgings, and the Privy Lodgings at Hampton Court are these rooms here, and they led on to, because Hampton Court was a big Palace, onto what were known as the Secret Lodgings. 

 

The Secret Lodgings comprised all sorts of rooms. Here you see a lovely manuscript of Henry VIII in one of the private chapels. It is probably a room like this, a little closet, where the King would have knelt – there is an altar there. He would have looked through a little window and watched mass being celebrated. There is the window through which he would have looked… 

 

This is very fanciful, but here is Henry VIII supposedly in a bedchamber.

 

So, a whole lot of little rooms in these Secret Lodgings behind…

 

The expansion of these inward lodgings, these secret rooms beyond the Privy Chamber door, is the big theme of the late-1530s and the 1540s because, as we have seen in my previous talks, in the Middle Ages, kings, monarchs, lived essentially in three rooms. They could have escaped to these little retreats that I have talked about, I have mentioned them already, the one at Sheen called La Nayght, the one at Kenilworth that I showed you last time, called the La Pleasance.   They could also have escaped to the towers, which I showed you in Henry VII’s room. 

 

But, under Henry VIII, something very radical happened because, in 1529, the very first thing Henry VIII did when he took over Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey was start to build something called the Bain Tower. “Bain”, in the 16th Century, meant “bath” – it was the Bath Tower. It was a three-storey tower that he was building at the end of what had become the Privy Chamber. There was a bedroom, a study, and this is an en-suite bathroom, and this little area here is the sort of stoking room where they heated the water so that he could have hot and cold running water in his en-suite next door to his bedroom. This tower that was built in 1529 was absolutely in the tradition of these towers that I have shown you that were built by Henry VII.

 

One year later, Henry VIII started building something that was radically different. This is Whitehall Palace, and the year after he had built the Bain Tower at Hampton Court, the foundations were laid for this building. This was called the Privy Gallery. Here, between 1530 and 1532, the territory of the Privy Chamber, this private area, was stretched by adding a whole series of new rooms between the Privy Chamber and the bedchamber, and with this change, the Whitehall Privy Lodging ceased to be a single room, which is what it was laid down in the Eltham Ordinances, and it became a suite of five rooms, managed, by 1532, by 24 staff. So, the Privy Chamber, which had originally been conceived as this private, secure room for Henry VII, had actually become the first and, in time, the most public of a suite of private rooms at Henry VIII’s disposal.

 

Here you see my reconstruction drawing of exactly that. Here is the Great Hall, the Great Chamber, the other outer rooms, joining on to this new thing, the Privy Chamber, and here were the King’s rooms, stretched out, overlooking the garden.

 

So, here we see a plan which shows the layout. Here is the Great Hall. Here is the Guard Chamber. Here is the Presence Chamber. Here is the Privy Chamber, and then, suddenly, here you have all these rooms that were policed by the Privy Chamber that were arranged for the King’s access and sort of delectation.

 

What we see happening is that, as these rooms, here, become more and more crowded by all the people who were admitted into the Privy Chamber, the King himself starts to retreat out of the Privy Chamber and create a new set of private rooms called the Secret Rooms! The Secret Rooms exist here and are set up in this tower, the Holbein Gate, which you see here. So, you have the outer rooms, you have the Privy Chamber, and then you have the Secret Rooms, centred on this private tower.

 

This is very much what happens at the other palaces too. We have seen Hampton Court, and we are seeing exactly the same thing happening here. Here, we have the outer rooms… Here, we have the territory of the Privy Chamber, and here, we have the King’s secret lodgings on this side.

 

And I am showing you here the plan of Greenwich Palace. We saw the drawing of it earlier.  Here is the Hall, a stair going out of the Hall, the Guard Chamber, the Watching Chamber, full of the guards, a chapel over here, the Presence Chamber, also full of guards… Here, you go into the Privy Chamber, and the bedchamber, but beyond that, you have the secret lodgings, so, moving from a distinction of two areas into these three areas.

 

So, it was really during the 1520s and the 1530s that the Privy Chamber was in its heyday. The expansion of personnel and of territory, which I have explained just now, which occurred after 1530, heralded the decay in the influence of the Privy Chamber, because the success of the Privy Chamber, if you like, had undermined the very thing it had been invented to protect, which was of course the King’s privy. From about 1540, the Privy Chamber was now opened up to admit others who were, strictly speaking, not members of the Privy Chamber, and gradually, the functions that had taken place in the King’s Presence Chamber were switched to the King’s Privy Chamber. So, previously, in the 1520s and 1530s, if you were elevated to the peerage, this would have been performed in the Presence Chamber, but by the time Sir John Denny was made Viscount Lisle in March 1542, this was carried out in the Privy Chamber at Whitehall. In May 1544, it was on the throne of the Privy Chamber at Whitehall that Henry VIII conferred the Great Seal on Lord Wriothesley, and in 1544, in February, the Duke of Najera was received in the Privy Chamber.  So you see what had happened: the Privy Chamber suddenly now becomes the principal room of reception for a Royal Palace.

 

So, what we have seen this evening is that, in a series of developments over a period of about 50 years, the paranoia of Henry VII was gradually converted into a sophisticated and complex machine fuelled by a powerfully policed etiquette. Henry VIII retreated further and further into his secret lodgings, as the court advanced further and further towards him, and the arrangement of rooms and the machinery of court etiquette, established in the 1530s, went on to form the backbone of royal houses for the next 200 years.

 

 

Thank you very much.

 

© Professor Simon Thurley, 2014