No, the Tudors DIDN’T bring the Renaissance to England, it was here already….!

The Wilton Diptych

Tudorites are always very keen to claim the introduction of the Renaissance to England as their territory. Anyone who went before the blessed Henry VII had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Right? No, very wrong.

Lady and gentlemen, I give you the Wilton Diptych (see here and also this video), which was created for and loved by Richard II. He was a whole century before Richard III and therefore before Henry VII and his crowd too. Um, and Richard II was also before the murderous usurpation of the House of Lancaster, the heir of which crowd Henry Tudor pretended to be.

If more proof were needed as to the origin of the diptych, it even has a portrait of Richard II as the boy kneeling before the Madonna and Child.

I’ll warrant Richard III was as appreciative of it then as we are now. He was an educated, literate, thoughtful man of piety, so of course he was drawn to exquisite art and all its advances and improvements. More than Henry Tudor, I’d be willing to bet.

The diptych has been described as one of the most familiar and admirable works of the late Gothic Period or Early Northern Renaissance. Which indeed it is, so shame on those who spout the Tudors’ praises for single-handedly bringing such fine art to England. All the Tudors ever did was hang on to their stolen throne any way they possibly could, with great cruelty.

Are they really saying that all of a sudden, on 22nd August 1485, thanks solely to Henry Tudor, England woke up with the dazzling Renaissance placed generously in its lap? Well, it woke up with something, that’s for sure. An ensuing century of misery, secrecy, torture and blood-spilling. Forget the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors got rid of all their foes with one hand behind their backs.

You’ve guessed it—I’m NOT a fan of theirs, even though I’m half-Welsh.

17 comments

  1. I’m sure the Renaissance was in England (pre Tudor) even more than we realize! It’s just that so much evidence was lost forever, in a certain Great Fire of London, so much potential (especially manuscript) evidence we could enjoy today, gone! 😣

    Liked by 2 people

  2. THIS!!! A lot of times, people talk like Richard III’s death allowed for the Renaissance to come to England. Completely ignoring Caxton, Chaucer, Richard II etc. Its another one of those Tudor myths. The Tudors ruled during the humanist era and that served them. They had little contribution. Sorry not sorry.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That totally sounds like the kind of thing people repeat without thinking it through. Why on earth would have Richard prevent the ‘Renaissance’ from arriving to England?

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I shouldn’t worry about being Welsh and rubbishing Tudor as it is very likely that he didn’t have any Welsh blood at all. His grandfather was probably Edmund Beaufort. This nonsense that every thing they did was wonderful is so annoying.

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  4. I suppose it depends on what you call “The Renaissance”. Richard II had an elaborate and cultured court, possibly a match for any in Europe. The Lancastrians rather rowed back on that – their courts were more masculine, more military. Richard II was certainly a patron of the arts, but in fairness Henry IV was an avid collector of books (He built libraries, Richard II built dancing-chambers, onto palaces.) Humphrey of Gloucester, though a hopeless politician, was also an avid collector of books – his collection eventually passed to Oxford University. Edward IV’s court was influenced by Burgundy and regained much of the gloss of Richard II’s time. It is worth mentioning that there *were* portraits that have been lost. For example, Wylie records that Henry IV had one of the Earl of Douglas. Now if he had one of Douglas (why?) the chances are he had others. Both Lionel, Duke of Clarence and Henry IV actually visited Italy. So did lesser men. Amazing if *none* of the influence came back.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. All great comments to your post Viscountessw, and I second the rubbish about H7’s assertion he descended from the noble Welsh! The Mortimers (including Richard, duke of York and his children, thru his mother, Anne Mortimer) had more Welsh blood than H7.

    Another area of likely loss of evidence for the “renaissance” in England is long before the Great Fire, just consider the utter devastation in what Eamon Duffy called in his book, The Stripping of the Altars, if one looks at just the loss of the artworks and architecture alone. As reservoirs of a vast array of artworks, for centuries, the abbeys, monasteries, cathedrals, parish churches, and personal collections, are not examples of a “gothic” art stuck in time, say around 1200ad, people are not like that nor are the artists who created works, on vellum parchment, or on walls (fresco) in stained glass neatly pigeon-holed as “gothic” artists.

    Just one example, I had a terror of art history classes dealing with the “middle ages” because no one professor actually could tell us when they started or ended – some placed them when the dear Vikings were bought off (think what is France today, the province of Normandy, literally handed over to that ravaging horde in lieu of their incessant summer raiding down the Seine; it worked btw) while others say it wasn’t until the technology for the great cathedrals emerged (c late 1100’s with Abbot Suger: the astonishing Basilique Cathedrale de Saint-Denis) and others even include the painter Giotto as still Gothic! (there is always one crank in every university department).

    Now, I see Giotto as the first modern artist (painter; he was active around 1300ad) which certainly complicates things, doesn’t it! Aside from a few oddballs in art history who chronologically refuse to move him out of the medieval time frame he lived in, others tend to see him as the “proto-renaissance” or what we could call early Renaissance (by 150 years!)

    But Giotto was modern, anyone reading this would immediately recognize his innovations, they are used in every comic strip, every graphic novel, every standard movie frame – the visual language he created in fresco is STILL in use to this day, with overlapping figures, the idea of a low horizon picture plane, identifiable characters (all wearing the same costume from one panel to the next, ahem, does Batman have 12 different Batman ensembles? Does even James Bond have a totally different look (surfer grunge stoner; fey innocent toyboy; Homer Simpson lookalike? I think not!) from one scene to the next, one film to the next; Giotto gave us ENCLOSED panels, with all the figures and action turning inward, to the main narrative or Subject itself (usually Christ, Giotto was after all, a religious painter).

    Although Giotto predates what we call proper geometric or linear perspective (after 1420’s ad; that window to the world, where if you look out your window the objects decrease in scale and clarity the further away from you the Viewer they are, until they finally reach that bluish horizon – and yes, the horizon is bluish, painters were not messing with you, our eyes cannot see the full spectrum of color that far out) Giotto employed what could be called optical perspective, something not unlike what the ancient Romans and Greeks employed and one I use myself, mostly because if I can convince you that the space shown is believable, and so are the people atop of each other, than hey, beats the arduous use of ruling out the orthogonals and 3 pt perspective (don’t ask!) – illusion = art = Viewer believes what they see = so it’s good enough for me! Giotto taught us all that!

    Whole books are written about Giotto’s innovations that we USE to this day, but like stained glass, and fresco, architecture is fragile, and the loss of thousands of artifacts in the Reformation is literally mind boggling. One simply can’t dismiss such losses as just “gothic stuff” – likely they weren’t – another example would be the norther painter Jan van Eyck, a master of what we know as oil paint – active in the 1430’s and we label as “gothic” OMG … what he did with oil, like many of his norhtern brethren was heart stopping, likely a influence from the Low Countries mastery, sheer brilliance, with illuminated manuscripts, where miniatures were simply adopted on a far grander scale with a portrait superimposed as the rationale for the painting (usually on wood now) – painters like Van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden created the portrait pose and manner and understanding of what it means to present oneself FOR a portrait to this day! It was not my dear Leonardo, he borrowed it from them! His so-called Mona Lisa is a direct steal from van der Weyden’s highly popular methods – BUT – also highly unusual, indeed, unheard of for an Italian, Leonardo painted this small panel portrait on wood … in oil!
    “Oh mio Dio!!!!”

    And Leonardo changed the very possibilities of what can be done in oil, on wood, or canvas (linen) or anything else, with that one simple adjustment; which Raphael (sigh) then ran off to the races and further experimented with, going so far afield from what was considered seemly or appropriate to a Van der Weyden or Van Eyck that WE like to say, well, Raphael was finally a renaissance painter, those guys are stuck in a gothic sensibility. (One could say the patrons of Van Eyck or Weyden would not want their portrait to betray private moments of reflection, anguish, snide superiority, longing, melancholy, etc, such Raphael, and his ilk, were obsessed with exposing – that in itself is an interesting sea change, the “light of the mind” did not belong exclusively to any one era, it simply expressed itself in different ways which “we” art historians I regret to say too often refuse to recognize!)

    So, are Van der Weyden and Van Eyck NOT the Renaissance? Who ever painted the original portrait we all know of Richard was using methods put down by these two artists at least 3 decades before our boy was even born! And the copyist in the 1500’s did not need to update the portrait and make it conform to the new stylistic trends (think Holbein) but literally just copy what was there, since the 3/4 view, from head to about mid chest, had been Van der Weyden’s bread and butter for a good 40-50 years BEFORE Leonardo decided to use it for his Mona!

    I do wonder though, how many other portraits were lost, in that rush to destroy everything that came before. If you recall when the Taliban blew up ONE rock inset of sculptures of Buddha the world was rightfully outraged, horrified at the cultural destruction, one need not have been Buddhist to be disgusted. Now magnify that by what was lost when Harry 8 went loco, and it wasn’t always human destruction with that toxic nightmare!

    (sorry for the rant, but really!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow! Rant away, my friend – you obviously know far, far more about this than I do. Yes, Henry VIII was a dangerous dimwit, lacking appreciation of anything beyond the activities of his loins – which only fired on one half of their cranky cylinder most of the time. Hence only one male child within wedlock: Henry’s fault, not the wives’. When it comes to wanton destruction, he and Oliver Cromwell are a dead heat, I think. Of course the Tudors didn’t bestow the Renaissance upon a grateful land, which hitherto had been wilfully starved of anything beyond rough cave paintings…if it was lucky enough to have a cave nearby.

    I think Henry VII would have been appalled and terrified by what his son and heir would do. I don’t like him either, but at least he’d have refrained from such barbaric devastation. Even if he didn’t refrain from callous regicide. Um, no, wrong word. Cowardly regicide. After all, he stayed at the back, as always.

    I’m not pious, or even particularly religious, but I wince whenever I think of what that stupid great lump of lard did to our heritage. And all so he could bed a woman he was to behead anyway. Nothing pleased him. I think Jane Seynour can thank her lucky stars she passed away as she did, having given him the longed-for boy.

    Of course, if he’d had a vestige of wit, he’d have claimed a pre-contract with Elizabeth Blount, thus making Henry Fitzroy his legitimate male heir. Duh…

    But again, I bow to your superior knowledge of all things to do with art and the Renaissance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “that stupid great lump of lard” – vicountessw

      I am STILL giggling Vicountess!

      You make a good point too….if pre-contracts were so easy to fake and bully parliament into accepting why DIDN’T Henry VIII attempt it?

      He was supposedly even considering marrying his illegitimate son to his legitimate daughter (which was nauseating for obvious reasons) but yet making up a pre-contract was a step too far for him?

      Hmph. Perhaps it wasn’t so easy to just create a pre-contract from thin air and make it stick after all.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. EB, I did not know about this proposed marriage between his son (Henry of Richmond?) and presumably Mary Tudor (Katherine’s daughter) – when did this idea occur to him? Before Edward VI was born but that seems so premature, H8 had these wives all one atop the next, hardly gave breathing room for one to be properly buried and another to produce an heir, why even consider this half-brother/half sister marriage?

        I did know that H8 had to be talked OUT of having Mary Tudor executed for supporting her mother. And people wonder why daughter Mary was a bit complicated.

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      2. Hi Amma, I believe the idea of marrying Mary Tudor to Henry Fitzroy was proposed by the Pope as a way to placate Henry (so he wouldn’t continue to attempt to jettison Catherine of Aragon). Henry ultimately rejected the idea (thankfully) but reportedly he did consider it. He also made a few half-hearted stabs at establishing Fitzroy as his heir instead of Mary, but decided to go with his Plan B (Anne Boleyn) instead. Fitzroy died shortly after Anne was executed I think.

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    2. Viscountessw I am such a cynic that deep down I suspect the “stripping of the altars” had little to do with H8’s deep religious convictions and more to do with the massive financial largesse it gave him to horde, or to dispense as grants ensuring desirable allegiance, or simply pay for his French wars.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Henry was a bit “confused” about religion and shifted about in the winds somewhat, but essentially he was a Catholic who wanted to be his own Pope. He believed in the traditional Mass, transubstantiation, purgatory, clerical celebacy, you name it. But he wanted to seize the riches of the Church and he did. Funnily enough, it was not a new idea. Parliament actively considered it during the reign of Henry IV, but Archbishop Arundel (a very scary man!) won the day. But Henry VIII was no more a Protestant than Henry IV. It was the money, not the principle.

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    1. oh my sighthound6, that might be the best single summation of H8 and his religious sentiments! Much like Pope Julius II, the “warrior pope” (and all around megalomaniac) the one time impoverished della Rovere who thought he was king, since being Pope wasn’t enough!

      (This is the guy, who upon seeing Michelangelo’s excessive plans for Julius’ tomb, ostensibly in St Peter’s, which had been there, oh since St Peter???, well, it was hopelessly impossible for a church that had been built in the 3rd c.ad, a towering tomb structure on 4 levels, with over 20 lifesize marble figures, some writhing in agony, an Ark of the Covenant, a massive statue of Moses, and of course topped off with an enthroned Julius himself. What to do what to do? Answer? Tear down the old St Peters (too small, full of all that detritus, the debris every last dreary pilgrim schlepped in from God knows where, I mean, it had become Aunt Mamie’s attic)…. so, THE Church of St Peter, which was just fine for every other pope since St Peter was poof, gone and the one you see today was built to please the King I mean the Pope. Sadly, Michelangelo did not get that plum commission, and he became so incensed, so paranoid about the whole project that he fled in the middle of the night to Florence, where the King/Pope could not (technically) reach him, convinced the della Rovere despot was out to have him assassinated. I certainly think Julius II was more than capable of it.

      As to Thomas, yet another son of Richard Fitzalan 3rd earl of Arundel, I need to read up on this Archbishop Arundel, all I know of him was – I think – his clash with the Lollards. (Btw, does every English noble, gentry or peerage lineage go back to a Mortimer??? They are literally everywhere. Fitzalan’s great grandfather was Roger Mortimer, 1st baron, it’s among his sons that descend the Fizalans, de Veres, and Richard’s Mortimer earl of March ancestor).

      As to transubstantiation, not being Catholic myself, I still know enough to that this is quite a huge part of the faith; what would H8 have made of his own heir, and E6’s preferred heir, Lady Jane Grey, who considered the Eucharistic offering an act of cannibalism, and if anyone was known to be practicing it, to Lady Jane’s mind, should be punishable by death (burning at the stake)? Learning this about Lady Jane completely changed my perspective of her; it may have been standard thinking at the time, but it was news to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is an excellent and very detailed biography of him, called Thomas Arundel: A Study of Church Life in the Reign of Richard II, by Margaret Aston. Unfortunately it seems to be a bit pricey now (mine certainly wasn’t and is an ex-library copy) but it does tell you everything you need to know about this obnoxious man. Well, obnoxious in my opinion. (And I’m infallible, of course! 😊)

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  8. Viscountessw, as usual, great recommendation, and yes, pricey lol. Amazon lists her title on Arundel (used, apparently withdrawn from college libraries) in the $75-80 range (US funds). That in itself doesn’t concern me as purged library books tend to be well cared for (I have many!), the topic is just outside enough what I am working on that it the “not now, put in splurge” pile. Aston’s other titles however, were intriguing, “Faith and Fire: Popular and Unpopular Religion 1350-1600” is very affordable and another for the “splurge” pile.

    The one that I have absolutely NO logical reason to get but I really want is Aston’s recent study called “Broken Idols of the English Reformation” (well over 1100 pages, pub by Cambridge, 2020) which appears to be a continuation, or expansion, of what Eamon Duffy canvassed in his Stripping of the Altars (which to my mind is quite a bit about the philosophical, theological, and political collisions of the age that led to such destruction), Aston – from the little I can tell in the Pub reviews, concentrates on what items were destroyed, the stained glass, the icons, defaced imagery; if the focus is more on the visual then that has its appeal to me and could make a good bookend to Duffy’s work. In PB it’s affordable, in HC it’s eye watering in price. I’ve made a devil’s bargain, however, if the book has numerous illustrations as the book dimensions are notably different between PB and HC!

    Normally, I would just go to my county library and request what we call an InterLibrary loan for the book, but like so much else that Covid has interrupted, we do not have that IILL service and likely will not have it again “for the foreseeable future” … oh poo.

    on a semi connected question, I have a couple of Kathryn Warner’s biographies, the one on Edward II, also Isabella of France (no comment on either here, hahaha), however, she also has written one for Richard II: a True King’s Fall. Have you had a chance to read this one? If so, would you make a recommendation or a pass?

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