Details in Holbein Paintings


Born in Augsburg?c. 1497, Hans Holbein the Younger learned to paint from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder.

Holbein traveled to England in 1526 in search of work, with a recommendation from Erasmus. He was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, where he quickly built a high reputation. After returning to Basel for four years, he resumed his career in England in 1532. This time he worked under the patronage of Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. By 1535, he was King’s Painter to King Henry VIII. In this role, he produced not only portraits and festive decorations but designs for jewelry, plate and other precious objects. His portraits of the royal family and nobles are a record of the court in the years when Henry was asserting his supremacy over the English church.

There are a couple sketches believed to Anne Boleyn that are attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger. “One portrays a woman with rather plump features dressed in a plain nightgown and coif. Some have said that this shows the queen during pregnancy, sometime between 1533 and 1535, but recent research shows that the subject is most likely one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, possibly Lady Margaret Lee or her sister, Anne Wyatt. It seems more likely that the finished portrait Holbein painted of Anne Boleyn was destroyed after she was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on false charges of treason, adultery and incest.

Hans Holbein sketch thought to be Anne Boleyn

By Hans Holbein the Younger

Margaret Lee nee Wyatt

Holbein painted many of the most well-known figures of the Tudor court, including: Henry VIII, Thomas More, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Jane Seymour, Elizabeth Seymour (Jane’s sister), Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleves and many more. Today, we will look at those portraits and zoom in on some of the amazing artistry that Holbein had. I hope you enjoy looking as closely at it as I have.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

The detail in Holbein’s painting of Thomas Howard is magnificent. Look at the details in his face and his clothing. When I look at this portrait I feel like I’m looking at the real man. Look at the details in his chain – marvelous details.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, 1539; Royal Collection, Windsor Castle

King Henry VIII

Holbein was known for his details in portraits. We see in Henry’s right hand him clenching his gloves tightly, while his left rests very near his dagger as if he is always ready for an unknown attack.


Sir Thomas More

This portrait of Thomas More is absolutely magnificent. The detail is amazing. The close up on his chin (I wish was closer) shows his individual facial hairs! Also look at his clothing. By looking at it I feel like I could reach out and touch the velvet and fur with my own hand.


Notice the detail of the Tudor rose on the Collar of Esses Livery chain.tudor_rose_from_holbeins_portrait_of_more

Jane Seymour

Holbein’s talent truly rested in his attention to detail. His portrait of Queen Jane Seymour again shows the clear design of the fabric of her dress. Just look at the tiny details!


Elizabeth Seymour (married to Gregory Cromwell and sister to Jane Seymour)

In my opinion, my favorite part of this portrait is her face and hands. Holbein truly had a way to make his subject come to life. When I look at her face I feel like I’m staring at the perfect image of this amazing woman and sister to a queen. The color of her skin is amazing as well – so life like!


Thomas Cromwell

Compared to Holbein’s other portraits of Tudor politicians, Cromwell seems reduced; he is placed low in the frame, deep in the pictorial space, placing a distance and diminishing him from the viewer. The table reaches into the immediate foreground as if reaching into the viewer’s personal space.?Holbein presents Cromwell as somewhat sour, cold and grim, yet the portrait has been described as “a softened version of the subject”.?

The inscription on the border reads “To our trusty and right well, beloved Councillor, Thomas Cromwell, Master of our Jewel House”. Cromwell sits on a bench before a table holding a legal document. His left hand has a patterned gold ring with a large green gemstone. He is dressed in sober colours,?comprising a black fur lined overcoat, a black hat and a “severe expression”.?The table is covered with a green cloth. Some of his effects are placed on it, including a quill, a devotional book, scissors and a leather bag. (Wikipedia about the portrait)


Anne of Cleves

In the summer of 1539 Hans Holbein was sent by King Henry VIII to D?ren to paint the portrait of Anne of Cleves whom the king was considering as his fourth Queen. He wanted to know what she looked like. The portrait, now in the Louvre, is unusually painted on parchment suggesting that Holbein did indeed paint the portrait while in D?ren, not later in London from a sketch. As first and foremost an artist true to his calling (and not the king’s), how did Holbein portray the Queen as an aspect of his own mind without upsetting the bloodthirsty and dangerous tyrant?

Anne’s hands are clasped at her waist but, if you turn your head, you will see what few but artists are ever likely to have seen before: a face formed from her joined hands looking up towards her head. (Every Painter Paints Himself)


The following are more of his amazing portraits for your viewing pleasure…

Lady with Squirrel

Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, probably Anne Lovell. oil and tempera on oak, National Gallery, London
Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, probably Anne Lovell. oil and tempera on oak, National Gallery, London



Portrait of a Woman in a White Coif


The Ambassadors

This painting has some of the most hidden messages/symbols of any of Holbein’s paintings. To learn more please watch the video below and prepare to be amazed!


Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,017 subscribers.

Lambeth Palace (Guest Post)


Guest post by: Patricia Deegan (February 1st 2017)

This is currently the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the senior bishop of the Church of England and leader of the Anglican church. The archbishop of Canterbury has lived on this site since the thirteenth century due to it’s proximity to the palace of Westminster (which itself had been started in the eleventh century) and the access to the river Thames. Though there was no bridge from Lambeth to Westminster on the north bank so people and goods had to go by ferry.

The modern Palace of Westminster taken from Lambeth Palace – don’t be fooled by the misty atmosphere into thinking the building is far away. It’s literally just across the river as Parliament is right on the river. It was a cold day and quite misty. © Patricia Deegan

However, in the way of all such great houses, Lambeth Palace has had buildings added and changed around in the various centuries of it’s existence. The gateway, Morton’s Tower, is Tudor as it was built in 1490 by Cardinal Morton. Sir Thomas More joined the staff of Lambeth palace when he was 12 to gain an education in the workings of the household.  It is thought More probably stayed in Morton’s Tower for a time.

Morton’s Tower © Patricia Deegan

The chamber, now known as the guard room. used to be the archbishop’s principle audience chamber and it is thought that Sir Thomas More was summoned to this room in 1534 to swear the Oath of Supremacy by Thomas Cromwell.

Elizabeth I’s first archbishop, Matthew Parker, is the only archbishop buried in Lambeth palace. Thomas Cranmer is thought to have compiled the first Common Book of Prayer in a small room that has a balcony overlooking the internal chapel. Cardinal Pole lay in state in Lambeth palace for 40 days after his death in 1558.

© Patricia Deegan

It appears from their website that guided tours around it are permitted but it’s primary purpose continues to be as the residence of the Archbishop. It also holds church records and the Community of Saint Anselm, an Anglican religious order that is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The palace shows what a great personage the archbishop of Canterbury used to be as the palace has both a state dining room and a state drawing room.  I was pleased to see though that charitable giving also went on historically as “the Lambeth dole”, which comprised bread, broth and money, was given out from Morton’s Tower from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries.

Two places in the palace have iron rings for prisoners: there is a small cell in Morton’s Tower that was used for imprisonment in the 16th century and there are also iron rings in the Lollard’s Tower. Though I’m not sure why or how they were used in the residence of a churchman.

Although there appears to be a church right next to the palace, less than 100 yards away, it used to be a parish church as there is a chapel within the palace for the archbishop and palace staff. The next door parish church is now a garden museum due to historical links with gardener and plantsman John Tradescant.


The photographs were taken by the author

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,017 subscribers.

Monasteries (Guest Post)


By Patricia Deegan

This is an article about the buildings and grounds of the monasteries rather than the religious people within them or their religious practises.

Although a number of the original Christian communities in Britain (the Celtic Church) had had monasteries, the monks during that period lived almost like hermits in separate cells within the monastery grounds. However there gradually came a movement within western Europe that led to a more communal way of life for those who took vows to be monks.

By the medieval period some monastic communities were quite large, with up to 150 professed religious members (monks) at their height, and were notable land owners, with one example being Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. Other communities would have been simpler and not as rich, for example priories could have just eight monks. The ideal community was thought to be at least 12 monks or nuns in addition to the head of the community.

Somewhat confusingly, abbeys had a head called an abbot (or abbess if a convent) but their subordinate would be called a prior or prioress although the monastery was an abbey and not a priory. One definition of the difference between abbeys and priories is: “An abbey is a monastery governed by an abbot, while a priory is a monastery ruled by a prior under the auspices of the abbot of the mother abbey.”[1]

The term ‘convent’ is used to describe buildings used by nuns but originally, in it’s Latin form conventus, it actually referred to the buildings used by any religious order whether male or female.

There were even smaller communities, called a cell, of just two or three who were wholly subservient to the mother house (the founding house of a religious order). The initial legislation passed in 1535, the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries Act, gave the King the power to dissolve religious houses with annual incomes declared in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of less than £200.

There is an existing ninth century plan of a monastery, St Gall, in Switzerland which was quite a large and complex plan. This was a Benedictine monastery and most English monasteries were based on Benedictine plans. There is also evidence available from archaeology, and old records, of monasteries within England which help to show the likely layouts of medieval monasteries here.

Most religious houses would often have a gatehouse, in the enclosing walls, which acted as the main entrance. There would be various buildings and a church.

The main buildings for the monks or nuns were arranged in a square – often on the south side of the church but the geographical landscape they built on would sometimes dictate the layout. This square of buildings surrounded a central area of grass, which would sometimes have water at the centre of it and scented plants. This garden was known as the cloister garth. The covered paths, just in front of the buildings which edged the garden, with low walls and arches were known as cloisters.



The church, being the centre of their world, would be the grandest building of all and, as all Christian churches were, was orientated towards the east so people would pray towards the east from whence the Saviour would come. The main or high altar, would be in the sanctuary area (an especially holy area often slightly raised), within the apse (the semi-circular end to the building) on the east side and edged by a rail. This was considered especially holy as there was a belief in the literal physical presence of God in the Eucharist during mass and in the tabernacle the rest of the time. However, the term ‘sanctuary’ was also used for consecrated areas where ordinary people could claim asylum and protection, even from the law for a time. The entire church was often a place where sanctuary could be invoked. In Westminster abbey there was an entire separate building called St. Peter’s sanctuary within the abbey grounds, with a chapel and residential rooms, where sanctuary could be claimed.

The sacristy, a room where the vestments (clothing used by the priests in rituals) and holy vessels were kept, might be at the top of the church near the high altar.

I have attempted a plan to show the layout of a possible ‘average’ medieval monastery that might be found in England during the medieval and early Tudor period:

A: Gatehouse  - Entrance into the monastic grounds
B: Secular Buildings – including workshops and stables
C: Church
C1: High altar
C2:  Sacristy where clothing for the priest in the mass and the holy vessels were stored (some churches)
C3: Main entrance into the church for guests, servants and local people (if they were allowed to use the monastery church.
C4:  Entrance into the church from the cloisters for the monks
D: East range of buildings
D1: Library and scriptorium or sacristy
D2: Chapter House where the monks led for administration and discipline daily
D3: Slype which was a covered pathway through to the area behind the east range
D4: Parlour which was a day room and where monks could talk, if necessary, to each other

First floor: The dormitory for the monks
E: South range of buildings
E1: Calefactory where monks were permitted to warm themselves at a fire
E2: Refectory (frater) or dining room for the monks

First floor above E1: Muniment room where deeds and valuable documents were held
First floor above E2: Vestiary where communal clothing for the monks was held
F:  Kitchen in a separate building to reduce the risk of fire spreading
G: West range of buildings
G1: Refectory for the lay brothers (or the prior if this was a smaller monastery)
G2: Cellarium or store room for monastery supplies

First Floor: Dormitory for the lay brothers or accommodation for the prior in a smaller monastery
H: Cloisters or covered and arcaded pathway in front of the buildings comprising the monk’s accommodation
H1: East Cloisters
H2:  South Cloisters
H3: West Cloisters
H4: North Cloisters
I: Cloister Garth or garden in the centre of the cloisters. Often it would simply be grass but some had scented plants.
I1: Lavatorium or simple washing room with a basin of piped water and towels for monks to wash their hands before meals.
J: Hospitaller – the office of the monk who looked after any guests the monastery may have. the St Gall plan placed a small cell for him in this location and it would make sense for guests to have an accessible monk to raise any query or let him know of any problems without the guests having to make their way into the area dedicated to monks to find someone.
K: Hospitium – guest house.
L: Brewery
M: Bakehouse
N: Vegetable Garden
O: Abbot’s House
O1: Abbot’s necessarium or privy
P: Herbularius – the physic garden of medicinal plants
Q: Infirmary buildings (on site care for sick and elderly monks)
Q1: Infirmary privies
Q2: Main hall with beds
Q3: Infirmary chapel
Q4: Infirmary frater
Q5:  Infirmary kitchen
Q6: Herbarium  which was the workshop of the infirmarer (the monk in charge of the sick)
R: Balneary – bath house.
S: Reredorter or necessarium – communal latrines for the monks.
T: A fish pond – although monasteries were located near running water, there tended to be fishponds too. Presumably to ensure there was plenty of fresh fish.
U: Cemetery Orchard – useful trees (fruit and nuts) and a location for the bodies of the monks


The east building range of the cloisters would be likely to include:

* A library with a scriptorium, for copying books, in monasteries where this was an important part of their work. Though some monasteries did copying work in the cloisters, as these walkways tended to be wide enough to allow for a desk to be placed next to the arches (to get the natural light) and still have enough room left allow monks to easily go past the desks. Though some floor plans of monasteries, such as Roche abbey near Sheffield in Yorkshire, had the sacristy next to the church instead of a library. All five friaries in London had libraries.

* A chapter house where the monks would meet each day. Here they would discuss faults the monks had shown and be given penance, the duties would be assigned for the day and they would also a reading from the Rules (e.g. of St Benedict). In very large communities, the chapter house could be a separate polygon shaped building behind the east range. as was the case for Westminster abbey and their chapter house survives with the abbey church to this day.

* A slype, or covered passageway, which could be next to the chapter house or parlour, allowing access to the area behind the east range of buildings.

* A parlour was where necessary conversation could take place between monks – often there could be vows or regulations that enforced silence generally within the monastery. This room could also act as a day room for monks.

* On the first floor of this range was the dormitory (or dorter) where the monks slept and, at the end of the dormitory that was next to the church, were the night stairs into the church. These stairs would allow the monks to go straight into church, especially for Matins and Lauds.

The south building range of the cloisters would be likely to include:

* A calefactory – which was a warming room with a fire and useful for monks who had been working outside on cool or cold days. Other rooms in the monastery did not have fires in the early part of the medieval period, except for the infirmary, the guest house and the kitchen.

* A refectory – which was a dining room, also known as the frater. By the refectory was the lavatorium. This was not a toilet, as the name might suggest to modern people, but a trough full of water for monks to wash their hands in before their meal. As far as I can tell, it might be in the cloister next to the refectory and towels were made available or it might be in a separate building with octagonal basin in it, in the centre of the cloister garth.

* Near to the refectory (but not adjoining it, presumably to prevent the spread of fires) was the kitchen in a separate building.

* On the first floor, above the calefactory was the muniment room where documents and deeds were kept (at least it was in both Fountains and Netley abbeys). Why they put the room with flammable material above one of the few rooms with fires is unknown.

* On the first floor above the refectory, according to the St Gall plan, was the vestiary. This was where clothing was kept. As monks were not supposed to have private property, the clothing would have been communal too. Although they would not regularly wash their clothing, accidents would happen and habits would have needed replacing occasionally or washing so spare habits must have been kept. The cold winters of the late medieval and Tudor periods would have meant that cloaks and boots would have been needed for going outside. No matter how healthy and young the monks may have been, wearing the same open toed sandals that they had in summer, when the temperature dropped below freezing and their accommodation was generally unheated, would have led to illness and injury. Presumably the spare towels were kept there together with some additional blankets for the coldest parts of the year. I presume there must have been stairs at the west end of the south range as the muniment room can’t have been used as a passageway through to the vestiary as it held valuable documents.

Between the east and south ranges of buildings, on a few plans, there was a reredorter or necessarium, in the corner between the dormitory and refectory. These were the communal latrines. However, monasteries generally seem to have been built by a natural source of water such as a stream. Westminster abbey was built next to tributaries of the Tyburn river. This running water seems to have been a favoured way to deal with the human waste produced by the communities. Monasteries do not appear to have adopted the town practise of simply throwing their waste into channels down the middle of the road. Thus the course of the river involved would dictate where the latrines were to be placed, i.e. presumably downstream from where water was being extracted for washing, brewing or drinking and thus not in a set location each time a monastery was built.

Monasteries did also have a bath house called a balneary (such as Westminster abbey in London and Margam Abbey in Wales). Westminster abbey had hot water but the monks only bathed four times a year.

The west building range would be likely to include:

* A cellarium or store room for the monastery’s supplies.

* A refectory for the lay brothers (who had a simplified prayer schedule and did most of the manual work).

* Above this range was the dormitory for the lay brothers.

* However, in a smaller community without lay brothers, the accommodation for the abbot may be in the west range instead. This can be seen in the Priory of St Mary and the Holy Cross at Binham in Norfolk.

Although one of the vows of a monk was poverty, the abbot always had separate accommodation. In the St. Gall it is a fairly small house but the surviving late medieval abbot’s houses suggest they became bigger as time went on in bigger communities.

Bigger communities sometimes had a second square of buildings south of the main cloisters, in Westminster abbey this was called the “little cloister”. This might accommodate the novitiate (where trainee monks lived), the infirmary (for sick or elderly and frail monks) and even some guest accommodation could be ranged around that cloister garth. Westminster abbey noted that their main cloister garth itself was a simple square of green whilst their little cloister garth had a fountain, scented plants and turf seats for the recuperating or elderly monks in the infirmary.

Other plans, with a single set of cloisters, show the infirmary in a separate building slightly apart from the main accommodation. Presumably this was to reduce infections spreading. They may not have understood how illnesses could spread but their treatment of leprosy shows that they understood that diseases could be passed onto other people. The kitchen for the infirmary could prepare more meat for the infirm than monks were generally supposed to eat. On my plan I have placed the herbularius, the physic (an old word for medicine) or infirmarer’s garden, next to the infirmary and placed the herbarium (or infirmarer’s workshop) close to it. This would allow the infirmarer, the monk in charge of the sick, to dry the medicinal plants and store them. Also to create medicinal teas, balms, poultices, honeys and vinegars as they were required.

Where the novice’s accommodation would be in an average monastery, with only one set of cloisters, is not terribly clear from my searches. As they were likely to be separated from the fully professed brethren, it may well be male novices were accommodated with the lay brothers in the west wing until they took their final vows. However, an average convent might have had to place female novices in with the fully professed sisters as there simply wasn’t the space for a separate building for a few novices in a more modest land holding.

A community so small that it was termed a ‘cell’ of monks might live and work in a single building.

As well as the buildings for the monks, and the main other buildings mentioned above, there could be a number of other buildings for a self-sufficient community: stables for horses, workshops for crafts (such as candlemaking), probably some hives, maybe near the medicinal plant garden.

I have placed the orchard, with it’s cemetery in it, to the east of the church as it is in the St Gall Plan. This area was, as it’s names suggests, a place both for ‘useful’ trees (such as apples, pears, nuts, etc) and for deceased monks to be buried. Westminster abbey had a cemetery orchard but some monasteries had a separate cemetery on the east side of the church to their orchards. Fountains abbey had separate burial plots separated by stone partiions.

Bigger communities had farms and woods too and the orchard would have been much bigger.


Wikipedia: Leicester Abbey, Abbey, Dissolution of the Monasteries


Athelhampton House: A Brief History


Built at the beginning of the Tudor-era, the Great Hall of Athelhampton was built by Sir William Martyn in 1485 and is located in Dorset, England.

Martyn had also obtained a license in 1495 to enclose 160 acres for a deer park on the property. This original manor had a Great hall, Solar and Buttery. A Solar was located on the upper level of the manor and was the living quarters for the owner and his family, while a Buttery was a service room located near the Great Hall that held the liquor (wine or ale). The person in charge of the Buttery was called the Butler. In a royal household the same officer was titled, Marshall of the Buttery. This officer was responsible to serve the wine to the head of the household and his guests.

Great Hall, Credit:
Great Hall, Credit:

William Martyn was born in 1446 – his father was Thomas Martyn who died on the 14th of  September 1485; William inherited the manor of Athelhampton and estates upon the death of his father.

Quote about Athelhampton shared from:

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT The manor of Athelhampton, the name of which derives from its Saxon owner, Aethelric, was owned in 1086 by the Bishop of Salisbury. It subsequently passed to the de Loudres family, and the de Pydeles, whose heiress married Sir Richard Martyn of Waterston, Dorset (qv) c 1350 (guidebook). The present house was begun c 1485 by Sir William Martyn, who was also licensed to form a deer park in 1495 (ibid). When Nicholas Martyn died in 1595, the estate was divided equally between four heiresses, and remained divided until 1848. The house itself was sold in 1665 by Sir Ralph Bankes of Kingston Lacey, Dorset (qv), who had acquired it through marriage, to Sir Robert Long of Dracot Cerne, Wiltshire. The Long family did not reside at Athelhampton, and the house was used as a farmhouse. In 1812 the property was inherited by the fourth Earl of Mornington, nephew of the Duke of Wellington, and in 1848 the fifth Earl sold it to George Wood, who undertook repairs and alterations to the fabric of the house.

Athelhampton remained in the Martyn family for many generations until it was sold to Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891.



Athelhampton is now considered one of the most haunted places in England. The Buttery that adjoins the Great Hall is said to experience a tapping noise (on barrels) from a ghost that is referred to as “Cooper.” Various other occupants and visitors of the manor have all seen a “grey lady.” She has been seen by some to wander through the bedrooms (and walls) of the east wing of the house during the early hours of the day.

There has also been reported a dark apparition that appears to look like a monk. This apparition was seen by a housemaid in broad daylight. The woman heard footsteps behind her and when she turned around she saw a monk standing outside the bathroom door. It is believed that the monk was the Catholic priest to the Martyn family.

The most well-known of all the apparitions at the manor house is the pet ape. The ape was owned by Nicholas Martyn and when he passed away in 1595 the ape was somehow accidentally entombed in a secret passage behind the Great Chamber during construction on the house. While he has never been seen it is said you can hear scratching from the behind the panels of the Great Chamber as if he is trying to escape his tomb.

Video of the Great Hall at Athelhampton to give you an idea of the room…

 While the beginnings of Athelhampton stem from before the Tudor-era the creation of the Great Hall and it’s beauty began during the reign of King Henry VII. With such a long history it’s no wonder the house has residents from the past that still reside within its walls.


Athelhampton House & Gardens – Our History
The Dorset Magazine, The Dorset Life – Athelhampton House
Britain Express (Attractions) – Athelhampton House
Visit Dorset – Athelhampton House & Gardens
Historic England – Athelhampton
Dorset Ancestors
British History Online – Athelhampton
Dunwich, Gerina – Phantom Felines and Other Ghostly Animals; The Spectral Ape of Athelhampton House

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,017 subscribers.

Sir John Spencer: Althorp House

Sir John Spencer: Althorp House

Unless you were born in the mid-90’s (or later) or have been under a rock for most of your life, you know who Diana was – former wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. When she married Charles many said that she was a commoner, but she was not, she was an aristocrat.

If we look back at her family tree and her family estate of Althorp we’ll find it goes all the way back to the Tudor period with her ancestor Sir John Spencer – the “sheep-keeper”. Some have said that he was a descendant of the great Norman House, La DeSpencer.

John Spencer was born around 1455, during the reign of King Henry VI. Little is known about his life other than he was a wealthy English landowner who lived during the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V (if you can call it a reign), Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII.

From 1486, John Spencer was a tenant at Althorp and grazed sheep on the estate, it is here that he fell in love with the potential of the property and in 1508 purchased it from the Catesby family. When Spencer purchased Althorp he was already the owner of Wormleighton in Warwickshire which he purchased the 3rd of September 1506 from the Cope family. At Wormleighton he had a household of some sixty people. Clearly he had money.

Althorp House

  • Located 75 miles north of London.
  • It’s an English manor house that rests on a 14,500 acre estate.
  • Althorp has 90 rooms.
  • 19 generations of Spencers have lived at Althorp for over 500 years.
Althorp in 1677 by John Vosterman
Althorp in 1677 by John Vosterman
© Copyright Kenneth Allen (2008)

A newspaper article about the Spencer family from the Spectator, dated January 30, 1864 also states that in the third year of Henry VII’s reign (1488), John Spencer purchased the manor of Brington near Althorp from a Thomas Woodville, Marquis of Dorset. I cannot find a “Thomas Woodville, Marquis of Dorset” anywhere, but I do find one Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. If this is the correct person, than John Spencer purchased the manor from the eldest son of the dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville. It also states that he exchanged some land with the Marquis of Dorset at Bosworth in Leicestershire for the manor of Wykedyve in Northamptonshire and purchased from him Wyke-hamon.

John Spencer married Isabel Graunt (sometime before 1506), daughter of Sir Walter Graunt, of Snitterfield. They were the first generation of Spencers at Althorp, along with their children.

John was knighted by King Henry VIII in 1519 and became Sir John Spencer. He died on the 14th day of September 1522.

It was 239 years after his death that a descendant of Sir John Spencer, also named John Spencer, was named Baron and Viscount Spencer (in 1761). Four years later, in 1765, he was named as the first Earl Spencer.  The man who currently holds the title of 9th Earl Spencer is none other than the brother of Princess Diana, Charles Spencer.

Sources:   (birth year for John Spencer noted here)

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,017 subscribers.

Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses


Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses


Compton Wynyates

Public Domain: 19th century print or a watercolour from Nash Mansions of England published in 1870
Public Domain

“The delightful red-brick manor house of Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, was begun by Edmund Compton in 1481, just prior to the accession of the House of Tudor. Edmund’s sturdy but good-looking country home was given some elegant editions, including porch and some towers by his son, the prominent Tudor courtier, Sir William Compton, between 1493 and 1528.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.348)

King Henry VIII’s room at Compton Wynyates had stained glass windows featuring the royal arms and throne of Aragon – the royal arms of his future wife, Katharine of Aragon. In 1572, Elizabeth I also stayed in the same room as her father.

In later years Compton Wynyates became uninhabited. This caused the house to decay and nearly fell into complete ruin. In 1768 it was ordered by Lord Northampton to be demolished, but the order was not carried out. In the late 19th century it was restored and in 1884 was once again inhabited by the 5th Marquess of Northampton.

Hampton Court Palace
Photo Credit: Christopher Wren / CC BY-SA 3.0

“One of England’s finest royal building associated with the magnificent court of Henry VIII, although major changes were made in the 17th century during the reign of William and Mary. The palace came into royal hands as a gift from the statesman, Cardinal Wolsey to his royal master, Henry VIII.” -The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.350)

In an episode of “The Tudors” on Showtime, it shows Henry VIII becoming a little distraught by the grandeur of the palace that Wolsey had built - it was greater than any palace Henry had at the time. Once Wolsey noticed Henry’s reaction to the grand palace he offered it as a gift to His Majesty. At this time Wolsey was starting to fall out of favor of the  king and out of self-preservation offered his splendid palace…I’m sure Hampton Court Palace was hard to part with, but then again, so is your head.

(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hever Castle

Public Domain
Photo Credit: The Giant Puffin / Public Domain

“The moated and fortified manor house of Hever Castle, near Edenbridge in Kent, was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth l. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor in the 1520’s when he paid court to Anne.”- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.352)

After the death of Anne’s father Hever Castle was taken over by the Crown. Henry VIII gave it to Anne of Cleves after their divorce in 1540. When Anne of Cleves died in 1557 the Castle again reverted to the Crown until Queen Mary l gifted it to Sir Edward Waldegrave.  For more on what happened: Hever Castle & Gardens – Owners

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger

Leeds Castle

CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo credit: Sophie Templer / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII took a great liking to Leeds Castle in Kent, and carried out lavish improvements, transforming it from castle to fortified palace. The King was often in Kent, where he was entertained at Penhurst Place and visited Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. Leeds Castle had well-established royal links, and had been favoured by kings and queens since Edward l honeymooned there in 1299.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.353)

In 1519, Henry VIII transformed Leeds Castle for his wife Katherine of Aragon.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Sulgrave Manor
Photo Credit: Cathy Cox / CC BY-SA 2.0

“The sturdy, unpretentious manor house at Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, was built in the early Tudor years by a direct ancestor of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America. Lawrence Washington, younger son of a prominent Lancashire family, was born c. 1500. He became a wool merchant and bought the Priory of St. Andrew, Northhamptonshire, from the Crown in 1539, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.356)

Edinburgh Castle & Holyroodhouse
Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Edinburgh Castle was a well-established stronghold and royal dwelling by the latter years of the 14th century when the future Robert ll build David’s Tower, containing royal apartments. In the mid-1430’s, James l built a new Great Chamber, probably alongside the royal accommodations in the Tower. His successor, James ll, brought the great siege gun of Mons Meg to the castle, which assumed an increasingly important role as a royal artillery.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.358)

The increased use of Edinburgh Castle as Scotland’s principal foundry in 1511 left little room for the royal family to stay. In the meantime, the royals began to stay more regularly at the Abbey of Holyrood. King James IV built Holyroodhouse as his principal residence in the late 15th century.
Holyroodhouse – Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0
James IV of Scotland

Following her return from France in 1561 Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at Holyroodhouse. In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley there, and in 1566 the brutal murder of David Rizzio catapulted Mary into scandal after Lord Darnley was suspected of orchestrating the murder.

Mary, Queen of Scots
David Rizzio
David Rizzio











Falkland Palace & Stirling Castle
Falkland Palace – Photo Credit: Sam Styles / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Falkland Palace began as a castle built by the Macduffs, earls of Fife, probably in the 13th century. James ll extended the castle and frequently visited it to hunt deer and wild board. After 1458, when he granted a charter, it was known as Falkland Palace.” “James V’s daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was a frequent visitor to Falkland Palace after her return to Scotland from French exile in 1561.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.359)

King James ll of Scotland
King James II of Scotland

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically important sites and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle.

Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to revel in its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations.” –

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle – Photo Credit: Finlay McWalter / CC BY-SA 3.0

Deal Castle
Photo Credit: Lieven Smits / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’s south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)

Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deals Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.

Henry Vlll in 1542
Anne of Cleves - 1540s
Anne of Cleves – 1540s

Syon House

Public Domain
Public Domain

The splendid Syon House, now surrounded by London’s westward sprawl at Brenford in Middlesex, was built during the reign of Edward VI by his uncle Edward, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector. Somerset built a three-storey building with battlements and angle turrets around a central courtyard. His house stood on the foundations of the abbey church that had belonged to the convent on the side.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.362)

The land which Syon House was built had originally belonged to a convent. The nuns’ confessor, Richard Reynolds refused to accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England – he was was executed and his body placed on the gateway of the abbey to be used as an example of what happens to those who refuse to accept the Act of Supremacy.

Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard was detained here prior to her execution in 1542.

Henry’s coffin rested at Syon House on it’s journey to Westminster and had burst open overnight- dogs were said to be seen gnawing on the royal corpse. Many suspected divine retribution since this happened at Syon House and the events that took place years earlier.

Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard

Sudeley Castle
Photo Credit: Wdejager / CC BY-SA 4.0

“The 15th century Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire was rebuilt in the late 1540s by Lord Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the brother of the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to Edward VI; their sister, Jane, had been Henry VIII’s third wife, who had died giving birth to Edward in 1537, making the brothers the young king’s uncles.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.363)

After the king’s death, Thomas Seymour married Henry’s widow Katherine Parr. Thomas and Katherine moved into Sudeley Castle where she gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 30 August 1548. Katherine died there from puerperal fever a week later and was buried in St. Mary’s Church near the castle.

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr