Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Question from Danielle - Social impact of layouts of castle and palaces

I've just had a lecture on the interiors and layouts of 15th-17th century houses and it got me thinking about Castles and Manor Houses. Does anything one think that the interior layouts of Henry VIII's Castles/Palaces had any cause and affect on his relationships/marriages. For instance, if there was no secret passageway to his chambers, would he have stayed with Catherine etc or would he have just met the others in his chambers and let them walk through publicly to get there?

Any other interesting thoughts about the role of the palaces/castles in Tudor England? Thanks :)


myladyswardrobe said...

Hello Danielle,

The main role of a Royal Palace/Castle (let us ignore mere "manor house" as they are not "royal") is to present an image of authority and kingship to the people in the country and also to those who come from foreign countries on official business - e.g. Ambassadors etc.

The Palaces were a huge bustling community and the absolute centre of government. Where-ever the King (or later, the Queen) was, that was where the government was.

To understand how the Palaces related to the monarch's marriages/personal relationships, one has to understand how these palaces were roughly laid out.

This plan of Hampton Court Palace in 1547, may help you to visualise what the rooms were like:
The King's Chambers largely still exist at HC. The Queen's were rebuilt by Wren in the later 17th century but archeological evidence indicates where they were.

As a visitor in 1547, you would see the largest and most impressive rooms such as The Great Hall and The King's Watching Chamber. Most people would never see any more of the King's apartments than those two rooms.

If one is close to the King - such as a body servant or high ranking noble - then they would be able to go through more or all of the King's chambers and if you follow that plan, you can see they get progressively smaller in size. Doesn't mean they get "poorer" or less grand. The decoration will still be rich. Wolsey's rooms in HC are all pannelled and decorated and give an idea of what Henry's rooms would have been like.

In HC, the King even has a dedicated bathroom, he has a "state" bedchamber. Follow into the King's Long Gallery and you see it attaches to the Queen's apartments - where there is another King's Bedchamber! The King can walk from his directly to the Queen's and he enters into the most private apartments. Follow these and you can work "backwards" as it were to the Queen's Presence and Watching Chamber. Again, if one had a request of the Queen and was not of her inner circle, the only room they would see is that one.

Note, that the Queen's Public Rooms (Watching, and Presence Chamber) are much smaller than the King's equivalent. Though they would still be impressive.

Look further again, and both apartments allow for individual access through their respective Public Rooms to the Chapel Closet for that Monarch.
As you can see no "secret passages" or anything - though there are probably many around. The King does not creep around in secret.

Look for the Council Chamber further to the Right of the plan. The King has pretty much direct access to this chamber, from his public rooms, as does the Prince of Wales, young Prince Edward. His apartments back onto it. This is important as he will become the next King and as such must learn the machine of Government.

This rough layout would be replicated in all the Royal Palaces to a lesser extent. Maybe a greater extent at Whitehall, which was the biggest of the Tudor Palaces and also at Greenwich and Nonsuch.

Other suites of apartments would exist as well and it is known that both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour were installed in apartments of importance just before they became Queen in their own turn. Once Queen, they would moved into the Queen's apartments.
The King would have had private access to those apartments as would the lady in question have private access to the King's apartments.

Elizabeth I, would probably have used the King's Apartments when she was Queen. As mentioned these are the most impressive and fine and are designed to impress and make the person entering feel small in the surrounding grandeur. It is likely the vast majority of visitors would never see more than the Great Hall. Their access to the Chapel would have been on the floor below.

Hope that helps with your question?

Kind regards

Bess Chilver.

myladyswardrobe said...

Couple of visual additions to my post:

Other Tudor Palace plans:
Whitehall in 1680 - zoomable version with annotation of rooms and apartmemts:
Not a floor plan but a modern model of Nonsuch Palace based in extant images of the palace and I think also a rough plan of it, plus archeological evidence:

I am sure I did see a plan of the original Richmond Palace and Greenwich but can't find them now.

kb said...

@myladyswardrobe - Thank you for the images.

@Danielle - The social interactions of royal residences were also dictated to a certain extent by the assignment of rooms - who got to be where. In Elizabeth's reign this was determined by the Chamberlain. There are a couple of tidbits that you might find interesting. (I'm an Elizabethan not a Henrician - sorry)

A sense of family closeness is clear from details like the room assignments at Theobalds (Burghley's large manor house) for the queen’s May 1583 visit. Charles Howard and Katherine Carey Howard, sharing with Ambrose Dudley and his wife Anne Russell Dudley were assigned rooms in the Tower. The earl of Leicester had his own room at the end of the Queen’s Gallery next to Henry Carey and his wife Anne. Other members of the court were placed further away under the gallery but the nearest rooms were reserved for the Dudleys and the Careys.

Mary Dudley Sidney lobbied hard and effectively for her rooms at court. After an absence from court, she was asked to return (1574) but the new Chamberlain did not assign her the rooms she wanted which were closer tot he Queen's chambers. She refused to return unless she got the rooms she wanted.

Both these tidbits reveal that the layout of the building where the monarch lived influenced social relationships.

Catherine said...

I was just wondering if anyone could recommend any useful books or articles on this topic (i.e. the impact of the lay out of Tudor palaces on the accessibility of the monarch)?