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The English Renaissance: England under the Tudors

28 September 2023 - 16 November 2023

10.45 – 12.45 Thursdays

£73.00 – £488.00

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In just 3 generations, the upstart Tudor clan not only produced some of the more dramatic personalities and legends of the monarchy but took the country from the Middle Ages into the great artistic “rebirth” of the Continent, from stained glass and manuscripts for Henry VII to Renaissance portraits for his son and grandchildren, from militaristic fortresses to sumptuous architectural stage sets for the choreography of display. In an age of intense religious conflict, church commissions were followed by the destruction of monasteries and their heritage and as successive rulers imposed their allegiances on the people, the arts trumpeted their chosen Faiths. For the monarchy, paintings by Holbein, Horenbout and Hilliard and palaces to overawe European rivals transmitted the Tudor message and became prestige models which transformed the face of England.

“A fascinating exploration of the influence of an era of which I confess to having a nebulous grasp on art and architecture which I will now see in a new light – I bow to none in my admiration of Nicole as a speaker – fluent, precise and authoritative”

Course Outline

28 Sept 2023 – The Inherited Throne  

The country which Henry Tudor conquered in August 1485 had been torn by civil war, and this took its toll on the people and on the arts. English craftsmen, once in the vanguard of medieval style, had lost touch with contemporary models, and the nobility therefore began to look abroad for artists to realise their ambitions for Renaissance glory. The concerns of the king himself, however, were for stability and moral justification and his patronage reflected these distinctive objectives.


05 Oct 2023 – A Renaissance Man

For the handsome, young, athletic Henry VIII all was possible. His country was politically and financially secure and his ambition was to enhance his standing among European monarchs through an aura of classical magnificence and discernment.  By the time of his death Henry VIII was the possessor of 55 palaces, the largest-ever collection of tapestry, panel paintings, canvases, terracotta, plate and nearly 2,000 books. We will look at some of the sumptuous secular creations of Henry VIII and at his incentives to capitalise on the arts.


12 Oct 2023 – The Face of The King – Horenbout and Holbein

Henry VIII had no one to celebrate and disseminate his personal image until, in the 1520’s, the Horenbout family brought to his court the most avant garde of European form and style. So successful were they that their contemporary fame was to outshine even the man whose name has become almost synonymous with the royal image, Hans Holbein. We will examine and contrast the art of these great portraitists through images of the king and his circle.


19 Oct 2023 – Division and Destruction

The extraordinary artistic creations of the age sit side-by-side with tragic campaigns of destruction. The palaces and personal magnificence of Henry VIII were funded, at least in part, by the wealth of the Church that he pillaged and his secular creations supplanted the lost treasures of 5 centuries of church building and decoration. We will look at the spirit and legacy of iconoclasm, and at art under Edward VI and Mary I, often inspired by the politics of religious schism.


26 Oct 2023 – The Model of The Queen- Elizabeth and Elizabethan Portraiture

Elizabeth I was an unlikely monarch.  Declared illegitimate at the age of 2, she survived her 2 siblings to become not only the longest reigning and most charismatic of Tudor monarchs, but the one who used the arts, and portraiture above all, to weave propaganda. Through miniatures and large-scale portraits, through ritual and literature, “Gloriana” created and diffused her own image as a semi-divine figure, above mere human beauty or even mortality, and the portraiture of the age reflects the language of allusion which the Queen herself inspired.


02 Nov 2023 – “Elizabeth I Stayed Here” – Elizabethan Architecture

Elizabeth did not, of course, stay in all the hundreds of buildings which boast of having sheltered her, but the claim does illuminate a particular characteristic of her reign. Unlike the frenzied building of her father, Elizabeth built virtually nothing, preferring, in her shrewd way, to call on the hospitality of others. Thus, in the hope of winning her favour, it was her nobility who built ever more sumptuous prodigy houses, including Longleat, Burghley, Hardwick.


 09 Nov 2023 – Conflict and Costume

This week we focus on two separate areas of the Elizabethan experience. The threatened invasion of the “Invincible” Armada in 1588 galvanised the country and brought into open conflict the superpower Catholic Empire of Philip II and the embattled island of Protestant England. We will examine the Spanish moment of hope and the English response of triumph. This is also the age when, under the influence of the monarch, fashion became the quintessential marker of social status – new textiles, jewellery, styles, colours, even cosmetics, became fine indicators of aspiration and were lavishly used to transform life into art.


16 Nov 2023 – What did the Tudors do for Us?

The Tudor monarchy ended with the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, but how had 118 years changed England? What, if anything, was their legacy, both to their Stuart successors and, indeed, to the more distant future? This lecture will look at the global context in which the Tudors worked and the transformation of their country.


28 September 2023
16 November 2023
£73.00 – £488.00
Course Category:


Nicole Mezey
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