The ceiling of the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace (Photo: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0)
There are few periods of British history that command greater curiosity and interest than the years associated with the Tudor dynasty (1485–1603). Although this significant ruling family spanned only three generations, it produced some of the most memorable monarchs of any age or place. Indeed, the impact of the Tudor era reverberates across the centuries, continuing to invite scrutiny from popular historians and academics alike.
By the late 15th century, the ancient Roman city of Londonium had become the center of life for England, a truly urban center known to be one of the largest and most significant of the time. Besides its place as seat of the established Parliament, the city became inextricably linked to the Tudor popular identity, with the adaptation, expansion, and visibility of royal palaces, churches, and other sites, including those that would forever have a grim narrative of death attached to them.
Historian Cheryl White examines four historical themes that were significant to the promoting of the indelible Tudor imprint upon history, inviting participants to engage with the intriguing but often dangerous court life of Henry VIII, witness the dramatic religious and social challenges wrought during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, and to experience the progressive but cautious Renaissance court of Elizabeth I, whose patronage of the arts gave her name to an entire age of world history. Although the Tudor dynasty produced remarkable advances toward the early modern age, medieval superstition and brutality was yet evident, noted also in an examination of Tudor London’s darker side.
White is a professor of history at Louisiana State University, Shreveport.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Introduction: London Landscapes and Landmarks
White presents the primary setting of 16th-century Tudor history, the geography, topography, and social boundaries of the city of London. She examines the life of the city then, as now, fed by the great River Thames, and the development of the city from its Roman foundations as Londonium to the Tudor age.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Royal Fortresses, Castles, and Palaces
Explore the great properties and playgrounds of the Tudor monarchy, from the Norman inheritance of William the Conqueror’s White Tower, to the great castle at Windsor, and the seized palace where Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace—the magnificent Hampton Court, where some of the greatest events of early modern England occurred.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. The Dark Side of Tudor London: Prisons, Tortures, Execution Sites
White offers more than a look at the macabre in a survey of the Tower of London, Newgate Prison, and the Tyburn gallows that confronts the reality of treachery and treason that was ever-present in the Tudor political reality. These grim aspects of the era span the entire Tudor age, as each monarch successively confronted either real or perceived challenges to the legitimacy of their rule.
2:45–4 p.m. The Tudor Religious Landscape of London
The burial sites of the Tudor monarchs and their epitaphs provide great commentary on the intentional Tudor shaping of history, as does the complex and often rapidly changing religious expressions found in London religious sites associated with these monarchs. From St. George’s Chapel at Windsor to the private royal chapel at Hampton Court and the hidden crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, there are many epic Tudor histories etched in stone and stained glass, and in the rich stories that accompany the structures themselves.