Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Question from Michelle - Henry VIII's accent and books on History of the English Language

I'm wondering if there is any academic information on what type of accent Henry VIII would have had? What regional accent would it be most similar to in today's world?
Also, can anyone recommend a book about the history of the English language (written and spoken)? I'm hoping for something specific to Tudor times, but a broader scope would be just fine too.
Thank you!

Lara - I searched the blog because I thought I remembered reading something about Henry's accent before, but all I managed to find was a post about Henry VII's accent. Thanks for your help!

[One related link below for general Tudor accent information. - Lara]



Anonymous said...

I don't know about Henry VIII's accent, but a great book about the English language is Melvyn Bragg's "The Adventure of English". It was also produced as a TV series. It's really interesting to be able to hear the language evolve over time.

shtove said...

Thanks for the link to that thread, Lara - very interesting.

I recall reading that Walter Raleigh had a Devonshire accent - "ooh arrr!" - (and spoke in parliament in a "high piping" voice).

It seems his accent was looked down on by aristocrats (that might be the author's assumption). I doubt the aristos used received pronunciation. Probably more French influence in those days.

I've come across the odd reference in the state papers of people from one end of the country unable to understand the spoken english of people from the other end. That may be down to diction - today's Brits just have to think of Paul Gascoigne (Newcastle) or Rab Nesbitt (Glasgow - fictional but true to life) to get the point.

There is a story of an English judge sent to Ireland in the 16thC, who asked for a translation of a witness' testimony, and was told the witness had been speaking english.

For a clear example of phonetic writing check out Ben Jonson's version of Irish accents in his Irish Masque (1613) - should be a quick google. To a modern reader it's a familiar lampoon. No idea if anyone has come up with a serious study of it. Seems clear the Irish accent was considered very different, so I wonder about the affinity some scholars see with the English West Country.

Anonymous said...

Henry VII was a Welsh landowner and made his money in the wool trade, before defeating Richard III at Boswell Hill. So I would hazard a guess Henry VIII would of taken an accent close to his father and mother.
So perhaps he had a slight Welsh accent.