Sunday, October 26, 2008

Questions from Daniel - Accuracy of portraits, etc.

Just a bunch of random questions!

1) Is it possible to know how accurate holbeins portraits were of henry v111 and others?
2) Is there any information on anne boleyns executioner?
3)What was the main meal for the rich and poor?
4) What was the most popular instrument?
5)Was anne boleyn and kath howard originally buried in st peters ad vincula or moved there years later?
6)What was the main cause of henry v111 passing?

[Ed note- yeah, I know, I'm breaking my rules about one or two topics per post, yet again]


Anonymous said...

Sorry, the only question I know the answer to is #5. Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard were always buried in St. Peter's ad vicula. They were originally in unmarked graves but during renovations they were reinterred and their graves were marked. I've read that they are actually buried under their grave markers, but I've also read that all of the bones were tossed together and buried in a mass and that the markers are merely just placed near the locations that they are supposed to be buried. I'm not sure which is right.

djd said...

AB's executioner came from Calais, and that's all I know. H8's cause of death cannot be determined for sure, but most likely a combination of health issues like obesity, diabetes, high BP, some say syphilis, etc. Also could be septicemia (blood poisoning) from his recurring leg ulcer infection. The treatments they used on him were also quite toxic. I don't know how accurate the portraits are, as to me the women look all alike except for subtle changes. Please forgive my opinion Tudor experts - but the women look like they could all be sisters. I enjoy reading the opinions of the Tudor historians on this site and they are much better appraisers than I. I have learned so much here.

PhD Historian said...

1) No and yes. Absent a photograph of the person in a given painting to which we can compare Holbein's portraits, we really cannot know with absolute certainty how accurate they are. However, because he became so successful and popular within his own day as a portrait painter, and because most commentators of the day remarked on the high quality of his work, we can assume that they must have been pretty accurate. It seems unlikely that he would have had so many customers if his portraits appeared very different from the people they depicted. I imagine his popularity and success were a measure of his artistic ability and realism.

2) Check Ives' biography of Anne. If anything is known about her executioner other than his town of origin, Ives will probably say so or have it in a footnote.

3) Do you mean which meal of the day? For the less wealthy and for laborers, it would have been an early meal. For the poor, perhaps a mid-day or evening meal.

4) Music history is not my forte, but if I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that while no single instrument was "most" popular, certainly among the wealthier folk two stand out: the lute (a stringed instrument vaguely similar to a guitar) and the virginals (a keyboard instrument related to the harpsichord and a forerunner of the piano).

5) Anonymous has answered this one.

6) Henry VIII's exact cause of death cannot be determined today, but was likely the result of multiple problems and diseases, as DJD notes. He was only about 55 years old when he died, not terribly old for an English monarch (daughter Elizabeth lived to be 70). His reported obesity suggests the possibility of both Type II diabetes and congestive heart failure. His chronic leg ulcer also suggests diabetes, as well as osteomyelitis and septicemia. Chronic alcohol consumption may have played a role as well (cirrhosis of the liver). Kidney disease is also likely. When I was still working in medicine, we used to call it "TBD" ... "Total Body Disaster," more properly called Multiple System Failure. And DJD is again correct to note that the treatments and "medicines" used in the period were often worse than the disease, so accidental poisoning is also a possibility.

(Just an aside to DJD: If you want to see a bunch of women that end up looking like sisters because they were all painted by the same artist, look at the works of Peter Lely in the 17th century! Every one of them is bug-eyed and many have an exposed left breast, used to comic effect in the modern film "Stage Beauty" with Claire Danes.)

djd said...

Thanks! I will be sure to check that out. I always wondered if alcohol played a major role in Henry's TBD. Regarding the portraits, I suppose that Holbein would not have been used if he wasn't capturing the correct likeness of his subjects. I thought that either the artist was not that good, or, the people of that era were just plain unattractive. Perhaps Plain or homely are better words. Actually, I should not generalize like that as there are some portraits that are quite interesting, like Christina of Denmark, who Henry was pining for before he selected Catherine Howard, but was already promised to someone else. If I am not correct about this, please feel free to correct me.

Anonymous said...

One note about the accuracy of portraits - Holbein was sent to paint Anne of Cleves, and created a beautiful portrait. But when Henry saw her in person he declared her ugly. Makes you wonder who was right...

TudorRose said...

1.Holbein was employed to work at Hampton court as king Henry vIII's painter and he was also responsible for painting all the other people at the palace.I think Holbein painted the king accurately but when he was sent by the king and cromwell to germany to paint Anne of cleves Holbein made her look pleasing for the king's eye. He made her look different and more attractive than she was and this ended up with disasterous consequences on cromwell and Holbeins part. So any court painter at the time had the abillity to paint the sitter of the portrit as he or she wanted them to.
2.Anne Boleyn's executioner was called Jean Rimbaud he was a skillful swordsman he was employed by the french king who was Francis Ist of france to execute the heads of french heretics.The swordsman of calais as he was known this is what earned him the nickname.when Anne was tried for treason she asked if she could be executed by the sword not by the axe and her wish was granted the king ordered that Rimbaud be sent over from france to england to carry out the execution.
3.The main meal for the rich was meat.Meat was their everyday meal. Their meal consisted of chicken,pork,lamb,beef and peacock. what they used to do was put the head of each animal on top of the table whether served on a bare plate or on top of a cooked meat pie so that the person at the table knew what they were eating followed by a goblet of wine and sometimes a supply of fruit like apples.see the cobham familly portrait. for a snack they would have wafers. King Henry was a big meat eater and he liked eating strawberries and cherries and also he loved his lemon tart and quince marmalade.Anne boleyn was also fond of the two fruits that I named above.
For the poor they were lucky enough to get something to eat.
what the king used to do was after dinner was served at Hampton court what was left remaining after Henry and his nobles had eaten would be passed down to the servants and then what was left then would be given to the poor people hanging around outside the palace gates.
4.The most popular instrument of the time would have to be the lute followed by the virginials and then the spinet.
5. Anne boleyn and Catheine howard were buried in the chaple of st peter ad vincula after their executions and that is where the remain until this day.
6.There are a few resons why king Henry vIII may have was syphillis another was scurvy gangrene or over eating.But the most probable is syphllis. The king had two riding accidents during his lifetime and after began complaining of headaches and sorre leggs Henry had developed ulcers on his leggs now wether this was as a result of the syphllis or because the king had a diet rich in meat and their was a lack of vitimins in his diet he did not eat vegetables.
I would say it was definately the first or both.

PhD Historian said...

TudorRose, I am curious. Where did you read that the name of Anne Boleyn's executioner was Jean Rimbaud? I do hope it was not C.C. Humphrey's The French Executioner, since that book is total fiction.

I have checked every primary source I have at hand, and every online scholarly database I can think of, including quite a few that are by subscription only. Yet I find absolutely no indication that the name of Boleyn's executioner was ever recorded. Even those writing in the 1530s and 1540s refer to him as simply "a swordsman from Calais" or "the executioner of Calais."

And it makes logical sense that his name was not recorded ... to protect his identity and guard against retribution coming from his victim's families.

Also, on Henry VIII supposedly dying of syphilis. That is entirely a modern myth created as a moralizing reaction to perceptions that Henry was promiscuous. Henry almost certainly did not die of syphilis. Thet disease was rapidly fatal in the 16th century (death came in weeks or months), whereas today it can linger for decades before causing death.

On the food question, readers should consult the link Lara has just provided in her Blog section to an article about Tudor food:

Foose said...

Per Anne's executioner, there is an interesting comment from the Queen of Hungary (the Emperor's sister) at the end of May 1536:

I hope the English will not do much against us now, as we are free from his lady, who was a good Frenchwoman. That the vengeance might be executed by the Emperor's subjects, he sent for the executioner of St. Omer, as there were none in England good enough.

I've heard the more usual story that the executioner was from Calais and therefore a French subject. Could it have been meant that the executioner travelled to England from Calais, and that he was actually an imperial subject? On the other hand, there was a lot of rumor and gossip flying about, so possibly Queen Mary was misinformed or just mistaken.

Melisondre said...

PhD Historian: Jean Rombaud is the executioner in C.C. Humphreys book The French Executioner.

On a (sort of) related side note, some of the reviews people wrote on Amazon about that book made me giggle. Here is a sample of one: "The starting point of this fine historical novel is the execution of Ann Boleyn. From three known facts: that she was beheaded by a French swordsman, that his name was Jean Rombaud and she had an extra finger on one hand...."

Here is the link to the book on Amazon, if you want to read the full reviews.