Uncovering the Tudors at the Mary Rose Museum

uncoveringToday we have a guest post from Miranda Murphy of the Mary Rose Museum. Over to Miranda…

The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth houses the remains of Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, alongside the artefacts found on board. Commissioned in 1509, the year Henry came to the throne, she was in service for 34 years before sinking in action in 1545. The wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered in 1971 and raised in 1982 thanks to the efforts of teams led by Alexander McKee and Margaret Rule. The Mary Rose is now housed in a new purpose-built museum within Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The wreck of the Mary Rose has been extremely important to our knowledge of the Tudor period, leading renowned historian David Starkey to describe the wreck as ‘Britain’s Pompeii’. At the wreck site many items found in situ with human remains. This has provided archaeologists with unrivalled insight into the realities of the daily material world for a community of men in 16th century England. From Tudor nit combs discovered with head lice still on them to the skeleton of the ship’s dog, lovingly nicknamed ‘Hatch’, one cannot fail to me moved by the personal possessions of these men and the knowledge of their tragic fates. Of the nearly 500 sailors estimated to be on board the day she sank, less than 40 survived.

The Mary Rose Museum
The Mary Rose Museum

The lifetime of the Mary Rose almost completely spanned both Henry’s VIII entire reign and his six marriages! It was commissioned in the year of his wedding to Catherine of Aragon, and by the time it sunk he was married to his final wife Catherine Parr. We therefore think the Museum is an ideal venue for a series of talks exploring various Tudor topics in our ‘Uncovering the Tudors’ series.

Pewter from The Mary Rose
Pewter from The Mary Rose

Tickets for all talks will be available both from the Museum and online. Tickets for our first talk are available now both in person from the museum shop and online at www.maryrose.org/alisonweirtickets. Besides admission to the talk, all talk tickets include time to explore the Museum after hours, full access to our Bridge Balcony, a glass of Prosecco (or a non-alcoholic alternative).

The Talks are as follows (all taking place at the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth, UK):

Speaker: Alison Weir
Date: Friday 27th June 2014
Title: The Marriage Game
Description: Their affair was the scandal of Europe. From the time of her accession in 1558, the young Elizabeth I, already reinventing herself as the Virgin Queen, and her dashing but married Master of Horse, Lord Robert Dudley, cast caution to the winds in pursuing their passion for each other.

The formidable young Queen was regarded by most of Christendom as a bastard, a heretic and a usurper, yet many princes sought her hand in marriage. Knowing her hold on her throne to be desperately insecure, Elizabeth encouraged them, to keep them friendly towards England. And thus she played what became known as ‘the marriage game’, appearing seriously to entertain these suitors while holding them off indefinitely.
Alison Weir discusses her new novel about Elizabeth’s marriage game, a dramatic, complex, often funny, and deeply poignant tale of intrigue, love and loss, tracing the highs and lows of one of history’s most extraordinary and controversial royal love affairs.

Speaker: Elizabeth Norton
Date: Thursday 21st August 2014
Title: Henry VIII’s Quest for the Perfect Bride
Description: Henry VIII is famous for his six wives, with the rhyme ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’ recalling their largely unenviable fates. In his old age, the king lamented his bad fortune in wives and, throughout his life, he sought to find a bride who could fulfill his exacting requirements. Henry VIII’s search for the perfect bride led to the break with Rome and brought England to the brink of war. It caused the execution of a queen and a disastrous attempt at a diplomatic marriage. It is perhaps no surprise that Henry’s sixth wife was rumoured to have said that she would prefer to be his mistress than his wife. Find out more about Henry VIII’s quest for the perfect bride – a search that spanned almost his entire reign.

Speaker: Amy Licence
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014
Title: The Discovery of Richard III: Archaeology, History and Controversy
Description: Exact details to be confirmed, but a talk on Richard III, the archaeology and myths/controversies surrounding his reign.

Speaker: Dr Miranda Kaufmann
Date: TBC
Title: The story of Jacques Francis
Description: The story of Jacques Francis the African diver who was part of a team employed to salvage items from the Mary Rose in the 1540s. A year later he became the first black person to give evidence in an English court, with the judges recognising his humanity and intelligence despite the claims of the Italian merchants he was testifying against that he had no right to speak at a European court.

View from the Bridge Balcony
View from the Bridge Balcony
Nit combs from the Mary Rose
Nit combs from the Mary Rose

Related Post