Suzannah Lipscomb has just completed another series on Channel Five, this time visiting the sites related to the “Tudors”. In the first episode, she concentrated on Henry VIII and the naval power he inherited from John Howard, Duke of Norfolk. The second was principally about the penultimate “Tudor”, Mary I, as well as Edward VI and Jane, who Lipscomb reckons as rightly belonging among our monarchs and with a slightly longer reign (by four days) than is generally recorded. She describes Mary’s progress in July 1553 from Norwich, a city of many churches, to Kenninghall, Framlingham Castle and Cambridge before proceeding to London, comparing her de heretico comburendo victims in number to those executed under Edward after Kett’s rebellion (and the Prayer Book Rebellion), suggesting that the “Bloody Mary” sobriquet was unearned. It does not, however, take account of the many that Mary also executed for treason – those led by the Greys and Dudleys, Wyatt, Thomas Stafford and Sir Henry Dudley. Lipscomb evidently resisted the temptation to emulate Will Kemp by dancing from Norwich to London – even with the convoluted route, there was too much traffic for it to be safe.
The third episode was about the reign of Elizabeth I, the men who served her and their East Midland buildings – from Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Kenilworth, the recusant Sir Thomas Tresham and Rushton Triangular Lodge, Christopher Hatton, the Lord Chancellor who helped to judge Mary Stuart, and Holdenby House to Fotheringhay where she was executed and finally Sir William Cecil at Burleigh near Stamford – only omitting Henry, Earl of Huntingdon who lived on Leicester High Street.
The fourth part featured a walk across London from the site of Greenwich Palace, where there were early and late portraits of Henry VIII together with his “wives”, proceeding to the Dutch church at Austin Friars, to which refugees came from 1550. Lipscomb crossed the river at Tower Bridge, the only fixed crossing at the time, which usually featured a few severed heads, also visiting the effective prison at Bridewell and the site of the former brothels. “Tudor” culture probably saw Sir John Hawkins, not Raleigh, introduce tobacco, but also featured bear-baiting at Southwark. Shakespeare’s Globe stood for a few years until a cannon burned it down. Then we were shown Fulham Palace, erstwhile home of the Bishops of London. These included Ridley, who was defrocked and executed in Oxford by Mary I and is given dramatic last words by Foxe, but also Bonner, his successor who regularly tortured suspected heretics there. The episode concluded at Hampton Court, to which all of Henry VIII’s “wives” were taken by barge as the river was the main form of transport at the time.
The fifth part was about the Kent-Sussex Weald, starting with the Stafford residence of Penshurst Place, where the third Duke‘s banquets reminded Henry VIII of his own family’s weak claim and led to the Duke buying a single to Tower Hill. Hever Castle, childhood home of the Boleyns is just a short walk away and there are many portraits of both families, including Arthur “Tudor”. Ashdown Forest, where Henry hunted deer and boar is close to hand, as is Michelham Priory where his fourth and fifth “marriages” took place and was given to Anne of Cleves.
The series concluded in Yorkshire, concentrating on the Reformations. The Pilgrimage of Grace was illustrated by a visit to Pontefract and York. As the first monasteries were suppressed, Aske led the rebellion from the city, joined by local gentry and the Archbishop, but Henry VIII’s promises broke it up. Then the Duke of Norfolk enforced order, Aske was taken to the Tower of London before being hanged and gibbeted from Clifford’s Tower. The process was accelerated as St. Mary’s Abbey, York, was then dissolved, later becoming the venue for the Yorkshire Museum. Woolgate bar was the most northerly venue Henry ever visited.
The episode also focused on the Rising of the Northern Earls. In 1569, they met at Markenfield Hall for a feast and a Mass, followed by a Latin Mass at Ripon Cathedral. When they were defeated, the Earls fled and were attainted, whilst 600 commoners were executed. Elizabeth I’s early tolerance of law-abiding Catholics ended as she was excommunicated. We were shown the bridge upon which Margaret Clitherow was pressed to death and reminded that Fawkes was from York and plotted against the crown within three years of Elizabeth’s death.
This intriguing series will be available on My5 for a few years and is very much worth a visit.