Thursday, November 04, 2010

Question from Orla - Henry VII's coloring

Just started reading Garrett Mattingly book on Catherine of Aragon and I came across a description of Henry VII (on page 29) anyway Mattingly states that he had 'blond good looks' I always thought Henry VII was dark haired from his portriats, anyone else come across the description of Henry VII as a blond?


Lara said...

The only detailed description of Henry that I know of comes from late in life and his hair is described as thin and white (and his eyes are blue). The Torrigiano bust looks like it could be blond though. The portraits seem to be all over the place in coloring , and it's possible that any with lighter hair were showing his coloring after it had grayed.

reptilegrrl said...

Henry was red-haired. It is possible that as he aged his hair faded to a sort of peachy-blonde, as happens with many redheads.

Anonymous said...

maybe...he is one of those people with brown hair and a ginger bear.

Lara said...

Just to clarify, the question is about Henry VII, not Henry VIII, which I think it what some people are reading it as.

Foose said...

Hall's Chronicle describes Henry VII as the Earl of Richmond on the day of Bosworth:

"...his heare [hair] yelow lyke the burnished golde; his eyes gray shynynge and quick ..."

Hall was writing quite some time after Henry's reign, but since he died in 1547 it's not impossible that he talked to people who had seen Henry VII in 1485. On the other hand, John Leland's Collectanea described Elizabeth of York at her coronation with her "faire yelow hair" hanging down when the contemporary portrait appears to indicate her hair was red. Laynesmith's The Last Medieval Queens suggests that queens of this period may have been given blond hair by chroniclers to fulfill a courtly-literature tradition and imitate popular images of the Virgin; there may have been a similar protocols governing descriptions of aristocratic or royal men playing a knightly role.

Henry's own historiographer, Bernard Andre, praised his "angelic countenance" but Andre was blind and a fairly blatant Tudor propagandist who contrasts his master with the evil Richard III. Grafton's Chronicle (Grafton died in 1572) describes Henry only as "of wonderful beauty and fair complexion"; Francis Bacon, writing a century after Henry, says his countenance "was not strange or dark." Collectively, these descriptions, and the appearance of Henry's children (no brunettes among them), might point towards the king having a lighter coloring.