It has been quite some time since I have posted a “Tudor Tidbit” rather than an “On This Day” post, but given the continuing enthusiasm for older posts like Archery in Tudor England, I clearly need to correct that…So today is Sudeley day!
Sudeley has rich connections to the Tudor era – Henry, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth (to name just a few) all stayed at the castle. But it is best known because of its connection to Thomas Seymour – who was named Baron Seymour of Sudeley in the land grab that took place upon Henry’s death. Sudeley Castle was where he and Katherine Parr retreated to after the episode with Elizabeth, and Sudeley is where Katherine gave birth to their daughter – and died just a few days later. This gave Sudeley its unique claim to fame: they are the only private castle in England to have a queen buried on its grounds.
Located in Gloucestershire in the middle of the Cotswolds, Sudeley has been called one of the most romantic and beautiful buildings in England, surrounded by a 1,200 acre estate and 10 award-winning gardens. After nearly 200 years of neglect after the Civil War (on Oliver Cromwell’s orders, since the castle had offered refuge to King Charles I…), it was rescued by two wealthy Worcester glove-makers whose ambitious restoration program was continued and expanded by their heirs, John and Emma Dent. As chatelaine, Emma also began to assemble the artifacts and other treasures that make a visit so special to Tudorphile (including the portrait of Edward Seymour that graces the cover of The Path to Somerset!)
Specifically, the Castle offers a Six Wives Exhibition in its 15th century West Wing, showcasing replica costumes from Dr. David Starkey’s TV series ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ (Dr. Starkey’s film, ‘The Life and Loves of Katherine Parr, Queen of England and Mistress of Sudeley’ is show alongside the exhibition). But that’s not all. Vitrines showcase Katherine Parr’s writings (her Prayers or Meditations book, published in 1545; her Lamentations of a Sinner, published after Henry’s death in 1547; and love letters to Thomas Seymour) and items taken from her tomb (pins and other jewelry, even a tooth and a lock of her hair…). But the treasure trove isn’t limited to Katherine – it includes things like a lace canopy said to have been worked on by Anne Boleyn and her ladies for the christening of the Princess Elizabeth…and a series of amazing portraits 😉
(They also have a great collection of textiles, and rooms devoted to the Civil War era but I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping over those!).
The grounds too are wonderful, with ruins that have been carefully incorporated into the experience. Right outside the castle is a space entitled “Queen Elizabeth’s Presence Chamber” – which would have been where Elizabeth received her emissaries, courtiers and loyal subjects during her visits to Sudeley and which is decorated with a “living sculpture” of Gloriana that towers over the space. And the ruins of a 15th century barn have been planted with primroses and hollyhocks surrounding a lovely carp pond.
And of course the formal gardens! These include the Queens Garden (named for the English queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I – that walked in it), the Knot Garden (based on a dress pattern worn by Elizabeth I in a portrait that hangs in the castle), and the White Garden which leads to St. Mary’s Church.
The Church is another highlight. Here you can see one of only a handful of surviving cresset stones, whose cup-shaped holes were used to hold tallow and a wick which burned to produce light (this was a common method of lighting churches and monasteries in medieval times)…and of course the tomb of Katherine Parr up front near the altar.
FYI, This is a great time to feature Sudeley – they are going to be holding an archeological dig over the weekend of October 13 and 14, 2018 to investigate the findings of a recent geophysical survey that revealed traces of what may have been a banqueting house and the ghostly outline of a Tudor garden. Then, depending on the results, there may be further excavations next year , in the hope of revealing some of the Tudor secrets hidden underground…
What else would you like to see in my Tudor Tidbits category? I’m planning on more castles, churches, pastimes – and portraiture – what am I missing?
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