Booklet: The Tudors

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  • Anne Boleyn (?1502-1536)

    Henry VIII's second wife. Descriptions of Anne emphasise her dark hair and black eyes, also a mole on her neck and the beginnings of a sixth finger on her left hand. The only surviving portrait of any quality, on which this drawing is based, gives little clue to the qualities that made her so attractive to the king that he was prepared to divorce the pope in order to marry her (1533). When she failed to produce the male heir Henry so desperately wanted, charges of adultery were brought against her and she was beheaded within the Tower of London on 19 May 1536.

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  • Henry VII (1457-1509)

    The posthumous child of Edmund Tudor, half-brother of Henry VI, Henry spent most of his early life in exile in Britanny. His appearance as a young man was recorded and copied in a book of drawings known as the Receuil d'Arras, which also includes portraits of the pretender Perkin Warbeck and Cardinal Wolsey. Following his victory over Richard III in 1485 Henry reigned uneasily over a kingdom that yearned for the return of the more glamorous Yorkist line. In 1499 he was described as 'old before his time', personally checking his household accounts in a miserly and un-kingly way. A portrait painted by Michel Sittow in 1504 emphasises these characteristics but a terracotta bust by the sculptor Torrigiano shows a nobler side. Torrigiano also fashioned the king's tomb effigy in Westminster Abbey.

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  • Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

    What did Elizabeth look like? A portrait of her as princess, aged about 15, shows a plain, rather reticent teenager with no hint of future greatness. As an adult Elizabeth sat for her portrait on very few occasions and only once did an artist dare to add any depth to the conventional outline. This was Isaac Oliver and the resulting pattern was never used. These drawings show Elizabeth at the start of her reign, (left) based on the nondescript work of Lavinia Teerlinc, and (right) at the time of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), based on the Oliver portrait. As with other monarchs, before and since, Elizabeth made much more impact in person. Her grace, charm, intelligence and dignity were described as unequalled, and her gift of bestowing a smile on even the humblest bystander was remembered long after by those fortunate enough to be so favoured.

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  • Henry VIII (1491-1547)

    It was not until his mature years that Henry VIII found an artist of real talent to paint his portrait. Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) created the image of the king (left) that we are familiar with (left), feet firmly astride, waistline already beginning to expand as Henry was forced to give up the athletic pursuits - jousting, archery, tennis, wrestling - that had made him the best-looking monarch in Europe when he first came to the throne (right). Earlier portraits show a strong resemblance to Henry's grandfather Edward IV (who also put on weight in his later years). The close-trimmed beard, a feature of Holbein's portraits, did not appear until Katherine of Aragon, the king's first wife, declined in his affections. She always disliked it and Henry seems to have been generally clean-shaven until he fell in love with Anne Boleyn around 1526.

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  • Edward VI (1537-1553)

    The longed-for son of Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, Edward was not the frail child his early death suggests but a sturdy and self-confident teenager, on the verge of assuming full power when an ordinary chill turned to pulmonary pneumonia through the incompetence of his doctors. Passionate about the Protestant religion, Edward attempted to prevent the succession of his Catholic half-sister Mary by leaving the crown to his cousin Lady Jane Grey. Unfortunately his pathetic 'devys for the succession' did not have the force of parliamentary statute, unlike his father's will. The attempt of his loyal adviser, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, to enforce it led to Mary's victory and Lady Jane's execution. Edward's diary provides a unique insight into the thoughts of a boy who was very ordinary in some ways yet always conscious of his high destiny.

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