The Ultimate Tudor Christmas Package

Gorgeous!

From author Natalie Grueninger and illustrator Kathryn Holeman…

We are thrilled to announce the perfect, complete gift package for the Tudor queen or king in your life. Fans of Tudor history know well that gift-giving is a dangerous business, and this package allows you to curate your selections to ensure peace and joy in your realm on Christmas morning.

The Ultimate Tudor Christmas Package includes:

  • 1 limited edition ornament. 3” x 3” frame with ribbon for hanging. Choose from 3 options: Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, or Elizabeth Woodville.
  • 1 copy of Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts.
  • 1 box of 12 color pencils.
  • 1 bookmark. Pick from 2 options: Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I.
  • 1 necklace. Pick from 3 options: Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, or Katherine of Aragon.
  • 1 notepad. Pick from 2 options: Tudor Floral or Tudor Florals & Creatures.
  • 1 coaster set. Pick from 2 options: 15th c. Tudor pattern or The Tudors.
  • 1 notecard. Pick from 3 options: Henry VIII and his 6 wives (humor), 15th c. Tudor pattern, and Winter’s Evening at Hampton Court Palace. This card will be placed on the outside of your wrapped package so you can write your own message to the recipient. NOTE: If you want us to write your note for you, there is a spot on the form at check-out for you leave us instructions to do so.
  • A beautifully gift-wrapped box including all items.

The limited edition package includes $100 worth of Tudor treasures for only $59.99 USD. It is gift wrapped with care using our illustrated Tudor pattern paper and ships for free within the United States. We also offer low international flat rate shipping.

The last day to order this package for Christmas Day is December 19, 2019.

All wrapped & ready to ship!

Shop now!

Colouring Tudor History

Ciphers, Secrets, and Spies in the Elizabethan Age

English history comes to Atlanta!

Join the Royal Oak Foundation as we explore the dark corners of Elizabethan history with Carol Ann Lloyd, who will reveal the spy network tasked with keeping Queen Elizabeth I safe.

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley,
after Marcus Geeraerts, the younger.
©National Trust Images

The Elizabethan era (1558-1603) is often depicted as the “Golden Age” in England’s history—an era of great exploration and military victories in which Queen Elizabeth I is represented in sumptuous clothing and jewels. But the reality, which included religious conflicts that tore families apart; political challenges to Elizabeth’s authority; high levels of poverty and crime; and vulnerability to foreign invasion, was far grimmer.

Numerous plots were hatched to dethrone Elizabeth I and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) was the first to oversee the gathering of intelligence and was aided by Francis Walsingham, another of Elizabeth’s most loyal ministers known as the Spymaster. Walsingham’s network of clandestine agents moved throughout England and Europe using their contacts and skills in navigating court politics to safeguard their Queen.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots by British National Trust Images

National Trust houses that were involved in this period of intrigue Baddesley Clinton and Coughton Court in Warwickshire, Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, and Scotney Castle in Kent. Carol Ann will describe this tumultuous time with its secret plots, intercepted and decoded messages, and assassination attempts and reveal how the ability to control information became the most potent tool of the realm.

Queen Elizabeth I, by English School. ©National Trust Images

Event is Monday, November 25

6:30 p.m. lecture followed by a reception

Tickets:

$35 members & co-sponsors; $45 non-members

Location: Atlanta Decorative Arts Center,

351 Peachtree Hills Avenue, NE

To Register: www.royal-oak.org/events or call Kayla Smith at 212-480-2889, ext. 201. Use code TUDOR 19 to receive a discounted price.

Carol Ann Lloyd

Carol Ann Lloyd is a popular speaker who shares the stories of Shakespeare and English history. She is the former Manager of Visitor Education at Folger Shakespeare Library, where she gave workshops and tours about Shakespeare and Early Modern England. Carol Ann has presented programs at the Smithsonian, Folger Shakespeare Library, Agecroft Hall, and TEDx, among other venues. Ms. Lloyd is a member of the National Speakers Association.

Thank you to our co-sponsors: ADAC; Spalding Nix Fine Arts; Culture Club; Holland MacRae; The English-Speaking Union, Atlanta Branch; Oxford University Society of Atlanta

Thank you to co-sponsors: ADAC; Spalding Nix Fine Arts; Culture Club; Holland MacRae; The English-Speaking Union, Atlanta Branch; Oxford University Society of Atlanta Additional support for Atlanta lectures is generously provided by Ms. Lynne R. Pickens

The House of Grey

The Grey family was one of medieval England’s most important dynasties, serving the kings of England as sheriffs, barons and military leaders. Like many families, they were split by the Wars of the Roses, one man betraying Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton, whilst his cousin, Sir John Grey, died for Lancaster at the second battle of St Albans, leaving a widow, Elizabeth née Woodville, and two young sons, Thomas and Richard. Astonishingly, the widowed Elizabeth caught the eye of Edward IV and was catapulted to the throne as his wife. This gave her sons an important role after Edward s death. The Greys were considered rapacious, even by the standards of the time and the competing power grabs of the Greys with Richard, Duke of Gloucester led to Richard Greys summary execution when Gloucester became king. His brother, Thomas, vowed revenge and joined Henry Tudor in exile.

When Thomas Grey’s niece, Elizabeth of York, became queen, the family returned to court.  Thomas married the greatest heiress in England, Cecily Bonville, their numerous children gained positions in the court of their cousin, Henry VIII, and his children Mary, and the Duke of Richmond. Mary. The 2nd Marquis was probably taught by Cardinal Wolsey but was a vigorous supporter of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katharine of Aragon.  his son’s reckless involvement in Wyatt s rebellion ended in his own execution and that of his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, the ‘Nine Days Queen’. Weaving the lives of these men and women from a single family, often different allegiances, into a single narrative, provides a vivid picture of the English mediaeval and Tudor court, reflecting how the personal was always political, as individual relationships and rivalries for land, power and money drove national events.

Author Bio

Melita Thomas is the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, a repository of information about Tudors and Stewarts in the period 1485-1625 

www.tudortimes.co.uk

Melita has loved history since being mesmerised by the BBC productions of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and ‘Elizabeth R’, when she was a little girl. After that, she read everything she could get her hands on about this most fascinating of dynasties. Captivated by the story of the Lady Mary galloping to Framingham to set up her standard and fight for her rights, Melita began her first book about the queen when she was 9. The manuscript is probably still in the attic!

Whilst still pursuing a career in business, Melita took a course on writing biography, which led her and her business partner to the idea for Tudor Times, and gave her the inspiration for writing ‘The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary’.  The research for this book led her to want to know more about the Tudors’ cousins, the Greys, who were prominent members of the court. The result was the House of Grey.

Currently, Melita is studying for a Master’s in Historical Research at the University of London, and beginning research for her third book.  

In her spare time, Melita enjoys long distance walking. She is attempting to walk around the whole coast of Britain, and you can follow her progress here: https://mgctblog.com/

Melita Thomas

Buy the book here:

https://amzn.to/2JM4WI8

Marie de Guise

by Amy Blakeway


For over half the sixteenth century Scotland was ruled by children. In an age when the monarch’s will was the axis upon which political life turned and his or her authority was the source of all justice, periods without an adult ruler, known as royal minorities, were dangerous times indeed. Of course, six-day olds or four year olds did not actually control the country, but the question of who should rule on their behalf was a fraught one – and the person who answered it rarely satisfied everyone. Contemporaries said that Regents ‘bore the person of the monarch’ – that is, they were the monarch for the time. This total control over royal power made their rule potentially dangerous.

Because of a preference for appointing the adult heir to the throne as regent, usually, regents were men: six out of eight in the sixteenth century. However, female regents could be appointed in their husband’s will, or if a monarch was living abroad and needed to delegate their power during their absence. This is what happened in 1554: Mary, Queen of Scots was living in France and, since she was betrothed to the French heir to the throne, would be for the foreseeable future. Claiming that (aged just over eleven) she was now an adult, Mary ordered that James Hamilton, earl of Arran should give up the regency to her mother, Marie de Guise. Since the scheme was really masterminded by the powerful Henri II of France, the Scots had little choice but to agree.

Marie de Guise followed in the footsteps of other Stewart wives and mothers in the previous century, such as Joan Beaufort, mother of James II, and Mary of Gueldres, mother of James III. Between 1513 and 1514 Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII of England’s big sister and the widow of James IV, was regent for her son James V – she lost power when her remarriage meant she passed into the legal control of her new husband. But Marie de Guise was different: all these regents were only ever temporary rulers, who would give power when their child came of age. As Mary would remain in France with her husband, Marie de Guise was a new kind of regent, a permanent ruler on behalf of a perpetually absent monarch.

Despite widespread anxiety about women rulers, a dowager queen was a sound choice as regent for the simple reason that she loved her children. Shakespeare didn’t write Richard III in a vacuum and the fear that an ambitious uncle would take a leaf from Richard III’s book, kill his nephew and steal the crown, was frequently voiced. By contrast, it was assumed a mother would protect her children – and female regents manipulated that rhetoric to their own advantage, perhaps never more skilfully than Catherine de Medici, regent for her young son Charles IX of France.

However, Queen Mothers were not only defined by their gender. Their nationality posed problems for their candidacy as a regent. Catherine de Medici was Italian. Margaret Tudor was English, and Marie de Guise herself was French. Could a foreign-born woman really have Scotland’s interests at heart? For Marie de Guise, the mixture of gender and nationality combined with the extra-flammable ingredient of religious tension in a lethal cocktail which eventually caused her downfall.

Ironically, given that Marie would end her life as the hated face of French power in Scotland, in France she would have been regarded as slightly foreign. Her father, Claude, Duke of Guise, was one of the Princes Étrangers (stranger Princes) at the French court – this title denoted membership of an independent sovereign dynasty. They were descendants of the independent Dukes of Lorraine, whose lands would only be incorporated into France in the eighteenth century.

Marie arrived in Scotland in 1538 to marry James V – it was the second marriage for both of them. He had previously been married to Madeline, the sickly daughter of Francois I. Marie had in fact attended their marriage in Paris, accompanied by her first husband, Louis, duc de Longueville.

As Queen consort she brought considerable cultural capital to Scotland, corresponding with relatives in France to arrange for craftsmen to come over and remodel the royal palaces, and securing technical know-how for the Scottish mining projects. References to her ‘chariot’ suggest she may have been the owner of the first, or at least one of the first, carriages in Scotland. She also fulfilled her main job as Queen consort: to get pregnant and produce, preferably male, children, although sadly two boys she had in 1540 and 1541 lived only a short time.

In other words, Marie de Guise was a model Queen consort, but there is no evidence to suggest that she sought political influence. After James V died in 1542 no-one suggested that his widow should become regent: Marie de Guise’s job was to bring up the new Queen.

This poses an interesting question: how did Guise move from an apparently apolitical royal spouse in 1542 to becoming regent and ruling Scotland?

The process had begun by 1544 when she and a group of the nobility dissatisfied with the regent Arran, proposed a scheme that she should share power with him. Unsurprisingly, he rejected this and for a few months Marie de Guise tried to head up an alternative government. However, this failed – even the English, with whom the Scots were at war, were reluctant to negotiate with her. She and Arran made it up by the autumn and seem to have managed a working relationship of sorts until she took power in 1554.

Even when Guise was part of Arran’s regime, the fact she controlled a third of the crown lands posed problems for the regent. Crown revenues were reduced, and a rival source of patronage had the potential to eat away at his support. However, she enjoyed the trust of the King of France and in fighting the ongoing war against the English French support was crucial. This increased after 1548 when the Treaty of Haddington between France and Scotland promised French support for the war effort and arranged for Mary’s marriage to the Dauphin, Francois. This treaty meant that Mary would be absent from Scotland on a permanent basis and so created the circumstances which eventually developed into Guise becoming regent.

Many historians identify Marie de Guise’s visit to France from August 1550 until November 1551 as another key moment in her gradual ascent to the regency. Accompanied by many Scottish nobles, Guise certainly played a central role in French court life during this period and negotiated continued French support for Scotland. What is less clear, however, is whether these negotiations included discussion of the possibility that she herself would become regent, and, if so, whether Guise herself arrived in France ready to discuss this, or whether it emerged during the conversations.

Once she arrived back in Scotland, however, it was only the rapidly changing international situation in late 1553 which made the possibility of Guise becoming regent a reality. Mary Tudor’s accession to the throne of England meant the strengthening of France’s great rivals, the Hapsburgs, Mary Tudor’s maternal relations and the family from whom she sought a husband. Scotland needed to be bound more securely to France and following months of intense negotiations Arran agreed to resign the regency.

Mary’s enemies would later claim that she subverted the ceremony which appointed her regent by wearing the crown which belonged to her daughter – and that to make matters worse it was the French king’s representative who placed it on her head. Her arch-rival John Knox remarked that seeing Marie crowned in this way was ‘as seemly a sight (if men had eyes) as to place a saddle on the back of an unruly cow’. But, there is no corroborative evidence for this story and the only authors who mention it were not in Edinburgh when Guise became regent. It’s far more likely that this was either a fabrication or a wilful manipulation of the fact that the crown was moved from in front of Arran to Guise to symbolise the transfer of power. This story was designed to signal Guise’s dangerous ambition and so that she was dangerously unsuitable to rule.

Nevertheless, for the six years of her regency, she took her duties as regent seriously. For example, she held numerous justice ayres – peripatetic justice courts which moved around Scotland – this was particularly significant because dispensing justice was understood to be one of the key aspects of being a good ruler.

Even so, by 1555 the reality of an absentee Queen and a French regent who appointed French advisers to key posts was beginning to bite home. Parliament passed an act complaining that many Scots had been ‘speiking aganis the quenis grace [Marie de Guise] and sawing evill brute anent [spreading evil rumours about] the Maist Christin King of Frances subjectis send in this realme for the commoun weill’ and laying down heavy penalties for those who opposed it. In October 1557 the nobility refused Guise’s orders to invade England – they claimed that this was not in the best interests of Scotland, but only an attempt to please the French. John Knox reported that Guise was furious, but other evidence shows she and the nobility did manage to rebuild relations and remained on friendly terms for another year. When they did desert her, and explained to the public in Scotland and potential allies abroad why they were resisting their lawfully appointed regent, the nobles cited their religious concerns but, more importantly, their fear of French rule overturning Scottish laws and an eventual French conquest of Scotland.
Was there any truth in this? Marie always denied it. However, she had appointed trusted French officials to major roles in Scotland. She also at times viewed Scotland as a country which needed to be changed, and once wrote to her brother ‘God knows…what a life I lead. It is no small matter to bring a young nation to a state of perfection’.

From September 1558 onwards the growing Protestant party in Scotland became increasingly vocal. But it was only in May 1559 when this spilled over into violent rebellion against the regent – and even after this, it took many months of temporary compromise for key nobles to desert Guise. John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland is one of the most important sources we have for this period. However, the fact he was absent from Scotland for much of Guise’s regency, combined with his obvious self-interest in the events he discussed, also makes it one of the most problematic. His attitude to Marie de Guise can only be described as venomous. For instance, he claimed that Marie de Guise persuaded the reformers to agree to Mary’s marriage to the Dauphin. Once they had agreed, she ‘began to spew furthe and disclose the latent venom of her dowble harte’. When the Archbishop of St Andrews executed the reformer Walter Milne, Knox said that Guise ‘as a woman born to dissemble and deceave’ was so persuasive in claiming that she had no foreknowledge of the execution that the Protestants, ‘suspecting nothing that the Queen consented to the foirnamed murder’ continued to seek out her support.

Knox’s need to justify the rebellion which he encouraged against Marie de Guise lead him to portray her as a dangerous villain, a French, Catholic, Woman, driven by ambition, which led her to bribe, deceive and corrupt those she encountered. It’s impossible to know which of these concerns prompted her subjects to rise against her in rebellion, but, it’s clear that by 1559 the exercise of power had transformed this once conforming Queen consort into a very dangerous woman indeed.

Amy Blakeway is a lecturer in History at the University of Kent. She is interested in the power and politics of sixteenth-century Scotland and the author of ‘Regency in Sixteenth-Century Scotland’. She currently lives in Canterbury but comes to Edinburgh whenever she can.

Article courtesy of the Dangerous Women Project, University of Edinburgh. Please contact Dr Ben Fletcher-Watson with any questions.

Support the Dangerous Women Project!

Original listing here

Feature image: Attributed to Corneille de Lyon (1500/1510–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Janet Wertman

By day, Janet Wertman is a freelance grantwriter for impactful nonprofits. By night, she indulges a passion for the Tudor era she has harbored since she was *cough* eight years old and her parents let her stay up late to watch The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R.  Janet Wertman is the author of Jane the Quene and The Path to Somerset – the first two books in her Seymour Saga trilogy (the third book, The Boy King, is expected in 2020). She also runs a blog (www.janetwertman.com) where she posts interesting takes on the Tudors, and hosts a radio show, Author Notes, on the Tudor Radio Network where she talks about writing the Tudors and everything that entails.

Jane the Quene

England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate for the marriage that will provide her a real place in the world. Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is 45 and increasingly desperate for a son that will secure his legacy. He left his first wife, a princess of Spain, changing his country’s religion in the process, to marry Anne Boleyn — but she too has failed to deliver the promised heir. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane’s honesty and innocence conjure redemption.

Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk with his own agenda, sees in Jane the perfect vehicle to calm the political unrest that threatens the country. He engineers the plot that ends with Jane becoming the King’s third wife. 

Jane believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, but early miscarriages shake her confidence and hopes. How can a woman who has done nothing wrong herself deal with the guilt of how she unseated her predecessor?

Reviews:

Finalist, 2016 Novel of the Year – Underground Book Reviews

Semi-Finalist, 2017 M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction

Readers’ Award, Chill With a Book; Honoree, BRAG Medallion


“Wertman describes the pageantry, gowns, and architecture of pre-Elizabethan England; presents an ample cast of nobles and ladies-in-waiting; and exposes the tense religious turmoil and malicious political machinations of the Tudor court, led by dastardly Thomas Cromwell.This enticing, historically accurate story lends immediacy to the events.”  – Publishers Weekly 
“A touching and insightful reading experience.” – Historical Novel Society

“[A] thoughtful depiction of Jane Seymour…gives readers a compelling story.” – Nancy Bilyeau, Author of The Crown, The Chalice and The Tapestry, an award-winning Tudor-mystery trilogy published by Simon and Schuster.

The Path to Somerset

After the tragic romance of Jane the Quene, the second book in The Seymour Saga trilogy, The Path to Somerset, takes a dark turn through an era in which King Henry VIII descends into cynicism, suspicion and fits of madness – and in which mistakes mean death. 

Edward Seymour’s future is uncertain. Although his sister Jane bore Henry the son he’d sought for twenty years, when she died in childbirth, Henry’s good nature died with her. Now the fiercely ambitious Edward must carve a difficult path through Henry’s shifting principles and wives. Challenged at every turn by his nemesis, Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Edward must embrace ruthlessness in order to safeguard not only his own future but England’s as well. 

This is the account of Henry’s tumultuous reign, as seen through the eyes of two opponents whose fierce disagreements over religion and common decency fuel epic struggles for the soul of the nation. And for power. 

Reviews:

“The way this story is told truly makes history come to life” and “I highly recommend ordering this book!”  – Tudors Dynasty

“The novel’s sweeping historic detail and bewitching blend of rivalries and romances will dazzle devotees of Tudor England.” – Publishers Weekly


“Author Wertman masterfully weaves the political intrigue of the Tudor court…The narrative is engaging, and characters come to life on the page…Highly recommended.”
Historical Novel Society

“Machinations behind the scenes are shown here with some exceptional dialogue. Wertman brings these people to life.” – The Freelance History Writer Notes and Reviews


“Janet Wertman does a fantastic job navigating this complex political landscape to show Edward Seymour in a new light. This may be my first time reading a book by Janet Wertman, but this will not be my last.” – Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

Amazon purchase links:

Jane the Quene

The Path to Somerset

Social Media Links:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest – 

What is Tudorcon?

Tudorcon is three days of learning, feasting, music, and food held in Manheim PA from October 18 – 20. It will be held in a newly restored winery next to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, bringing together Tudor history enthusiasts with authors, bloggers, and podcasters.

Tudorcon is the brainchild of Heather Teysko of the Renaissance English History Podcast. She has been podcasting since 2009, making her show among the longest continuously running independent Tudor history podcasts. As she says, one afternoon she thought… I’d really like to go to a Tudorcon. Why doesn’t one exist? After consulting with her audience, she decided to make her dream a reality. The inaugural Tudorcon will be held from 18-20 October 2019.

The mission of Tudorcon is to build friendships with other Tudor friends and those who share a passion for Tudor history. This is the very first year of this event so become a part of it!

Can’t attend? No worries, get a digital ticket.

More info here!

Twitter

Facebook

Tickets

SPEAKERS

Engage with leading bloggers, podcasters, and authors on Tudor England.

Heather Teysko  

The Renaissance English History Podcast 

Samantha Bullat

Samantha Bullat 

clothing historian, Jamestown & Yorktown Federation

Christine Morgan

Untitled History Project

Janet Wertman

Janet Wertman

Author, Jane the Queen

Cassidy Cash

That Shakespeare Life

Tiffaney J Williams

Tiffaney J Williams

Performance of Power: Art and Music in the Tudor Court

Carol Ann Lloyd 

TheTudors by the Numbers (watch her Ted Talk on Shakespeare as a change maker) 

Brigitte Webster

Brigitte Webster 

Tudor and 17th Century Experience

Tammy Shrovelton

Tammy Shovelton Early Modern Historian The Relationships that Made a Queen

Tara Mulligan queenly verses: the poetry exchanges between Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots

Michael Radi

Micahel Radi With a very special live performance of the songs of his new musical, The King’s Legacy 

Logan Laudenslager

Logan Laudenslager A very special live performance of Libby Larsen’s Try Me Good King

Entertainment from Pastimes  

Enterainment from Greg Ramsey, the Woomaster

Available Now!

Magic & Mystery in Tudor England

The magic and superstition of Tudor England, with the biggest mystery of all – what happened to change the fate of Anne Boleyn? Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny’s stage. 

A young Anne Boleyn captures the heart of the king. What begins as his distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment… the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed forever.

The best-selling author of PHOENIX RISING presents a story based on historical fact mingled with fiction. It’s already a best-seller on Amazon. Get your copy now!

The past is brought to life. Her characters speak to me.Jenn Henry, actress

An intriguing concept.” Dr Beth Lynne, Ph.D 

“I have known the author for many years and can attest to her diligence in researching a topic. This book is a fresh look at history.” Professor W.D. Pickett, Ph.D

Only 99c for a limited time!

getbook.at/TudorMagic

Magic and Mystery in Tudor England

Now Available!

Get the book!

The magic and superstition of Tudor England, with the biggest mystery of all – what happened to change the fate of Anne Boleyn? Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny’s stage. 

A young Anne Boleyn captures the heart of the king. What begins as his distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment… the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed forever.

The best-selling author of PHOENIX RISING presents a story based on historical fact mingled with fiction.

Available for 99c pre-order! Get a copy now

getbook.at/TudorMagic

Price will increase after September 26, 2019.

How To Host a Tudor Themed Dinner Party by Alison Weir

Written by my special guest, best selling author and historian Alison Weir:

My interest in Tudor England stretches back over five decades and more than twenty books, and I know there are many others with a passion for the period. So I thought it would be fun to give some hints and ideas for hosting the perfect Tudor dinner party.

Tudor Pies at Hampton Court Palace

I did just that, some years ago, one Christmas Eve, and my family agreed that it was a fascinating and enjoyable evening. Before starting any preparations, I did some research, and the books that I found most helpful were these: All the King’s Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace by Peter Brears (London, 1999); Food and Feast in Tudor England by Alison Sim (Stroud, 1997); The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking and Eating by Sara Paston-Williams (The National Trust, 1993) and, for the recipes I used, The Tudor Kitchens Cookery Book, Hampton Court Palace by Roz Denny (undated).

The first thing to be considered is the setting. We don’t all live at Hampton Court – worse luck – and most of us don’t have a great hall, but many have dining rooms, or dining parlours, as they would have been known, and you can add atmosphere by the setting of the table and using candles for lighting. Spread a white linen or damask cloth on the table. You may like to strew fresh herbs or petals along the table, or in the centre. Place pewter or silver bowls of salt at intervals.

Hampton Court Palace

Each place setting should have the following, although you may wish to adapt it to suit the preferences of modern diners: a pewter or silver dinner plate, with a knife and spoon next to it on the right – add a fork if you must, but their use was a luxury in Tudor times (when people speared food with a knife and ate it with the fingers of the other hand, using the spoon for runny dishes) – and a white napkin to the left, folded around two white bread rolls – ‘manchet’, or white, bread, was considered to be the best, and was therefore served to the upper classes. If you bake the rolls yourself, make a cross in the middle. On the right of each dinner plate place a goblet for wine. Wine is served from flagons or ewers placed in the centre of the table, each covered with a cloth.

Food was served in two or three courses, and there were several dishes at each, like a Chinese or Tapas meal today. Each dish would have been served as a ‘mess’ – with portions sufficient for four brought in serving dishes to the table. Sauces were often served in separate dishes. Sweet and savoury courses were served at the same time, but you may – as I did – prefer to keep to a more modern meal structure, with a starter, main course and pudding. Hard cheeses and wine can be served with sweet dishes.

If you have a sideboard or console table, convert it into a Tudor buffet by draping it with silk or damask (scarves or runners will work for this) and arranging on it any silver you have, as well as extra wine cups or glasses – we’ll assume that this is a wealthy Tudor household and that you can afford glass!

In Tudor times hosts and guests were seated in strict order of rank, but in this more egalitarian age it’s best to seat guests wherever you or they wish. Napkins were worn, not in the lap, but across the left shoulder or arm.

Food was served with great ceremony, being carried to the table in procession. You might like to record a trumpet fanfare to signal the arrival of each course. As the food is brought in, you announce, ‘By your leave, masters!’ and everyone stands, sitting down when the dishes are placed on the table.

Grace is then said, in Latin. I used the Christchurch Grace, from Oxford:

Nos, miseri homines et egeni, pro cibis, quos nobis ad corporis subsidium benigne es largitus, tibi, Deus Omnipotens, Pater Cælestis, gratias reverenter agimus; simul obsecrantes, ut iis sobrie, modeste atque grate utamur, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum, Amen.

This translates as: We unhappy and unworthy people do give Thee most reverent thanks, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for the victuals which Thou hast bestowed on us for the sustenance of the body, at the same time beseeching Thee that we may use them soberly, modestly and gratefully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

If a joint of meat is served, the host carves – it was the mark of a gentleman to know how to do so. Gentlemen guests should help their ladies to the choicest portions of food before serving themselves.

Meat on the Spit Display
Hampton Court Palace

For drinks, serve the kind of wines that were enjoyed – and drunk young – in Tudor England: sweet wines from Anjou (Henry VIII’s favourite) or red and white wines from Bordeaux or the Rhine. Ale and beer can also be served. Water was not drunk at table.

After each course of a Tudor feast a subtlety – a sculpted confection of sugar – was carried in impress the guests, but at a dinner party it is probably better to serve it with the dessert course. Unless you are skilled at sugar sculpture, or know where to get one made, it may be better to go for an elaborate cake.

During the meal, you might like to have a CD of Tudor music playing quietly in the background, as if a consort of musicians was present.

For my Christmas Eve meal, I served dishes that involved a fair amount of preparation. To start there was a whole fresh salmon, a fish that was popular in Tudor times. Having laid it on greased foil on a baking tray, I stuffed it with some butter mixed with ground mace and salt, and spread the rest over the outer skin, sprinkled it with whole cloves and covered it with more foil. I baked the fish until the flesh was pale pink, placed it on a large platter, and garnished it with whole stewed prunes, currants, lemon wedges and dill.

In Tudor kitchens they would have roasted a pig whole, but for the main course I bought a leg of pork from my local butcher – boned shoulder will do as well – and trimmed away any fat or gristle. I then stuffed it with a mixture of breadcrumbs, chopped rosemary, raisins, two egg yolks, 100ml of cream, nutmeg, ground mace and seasoning, and trussed up the joint with string. While it was roasting I mixed more breadcrumbs with 100ml of cream, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, saffron and seasoning. Half an hour before the joint was finished, I removed it from the oven and coated it with this mixture, then returned it until it was done. I left it to stand before carving, to allow it to set, and reserved the strained juices for the sauce.

I made up the meat juices to the amount needed with stock and water, then added a large grated apple, cider vinegar, parsley, sage, sugar, salt and pepper. I brought it to be boil, then simmered until the apple was soft and stirred in a lump of butter for richness.

The meat was carved at table and the sauce was served separately. I also offered ‘a dish of peas’ – which the Tudors would have eaten as a dish in itself, not a vegetable on the side – and a dish of carrots. There were – of course – no potatoes, which prompted a protest from my husband! Instead, I served thick slices of brown bread.

I made two sweet dishes: wardens, or pears, in red wine, which were absolutely delicious, and marchpane.

The day before the dinner I peeled the pears, left on the stalks, and boiled the fruit for 15 minutes in heated red wine in which sugar had been dissolved. I then removed the fruit and placed it in preserving jars. I added to the wine some ‘sack’ (sherry), more sugar, honey, cinnamon and ginger, then boiled it, simmered it for 5 minutes, then poured it over the pears, sealing the jars shut. The next day I poured off the wine syrup into a jug, placed the pears – now ruby red – in a serving dish, then poured the syrup over them. I added bayleaves as garnish and served the pears with thick whipped cream.

You can make marchpane – a popular Tudor treat – by following any recipe for shortbread and adding rosewater. Use cutters to make shapes, and glaze with icing and edible gold food colouring. My marchpane disappeared very quickly!

Although the meal had been labour-intensive – and brought home to me how hard people had had to work to prepare food from scratch in the sixteenth century – everyone said it was wonderful, with excellent flavours and aromas. Certainly it gave us a taste of Tudor England!

There was no tea or coffee in Tudor times, so after the meal I suggest you serve guests warmed spiced wine – ‘hippocras’ – and wafers or candied and dried fruits.

What should you wear for your Tudor dinner party? You could go the whole hog and hire a costume – you could even come in character, and suggest that your guests do so, and remain in role for the evening. Or you could just wear a plain velvet evening dress with some Tudor-style jewellery.

If you are planning a Tudor dinner party, I do urge you to get the books I recommended above, as they are packed with recipes and information on table etiquette. Above all, have fun. There will be so many talking points that all the preparation will have been worthwhile.

‘O Lord, which giv’st thy creatures for our food,

Herbs, beasts, birds, fish, and other gifts of thine, ‘O Lord, which giv’st thy creatures for our food,

Bless thee thy gifts, that they may do us good,
And we may live, to praise thy name divine.
And when the time is come this life to end:
Vouchsafe our souls to heaven may ascend.

(An Elizabethan Grace)

Find Alison Weir at these sites:

http://www.alisonweir.org.uk/

Twitter

Originally published on ExpatsPoat.com, 2015 for the series Fear and Loathing in Tudor England

All images are Public Domain