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Strange Tudor Facts

Updated on October 28, 2013

Tudor Dressing Rules

Also known as Henry VIII's Sumptuary Laws, the rules regarding what you could wear during the Tudor times were very strict. Think about it, back then there was no way of telling who was really the king. Okay, so they had portraits, but in the absence of the mass media and travel there is today, nobody could really be sure who the king was.

Fortunately, fussy monarchs were able to work their way around this using the "Sumptuary laws", which dictated who could wear what. At one point, only Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon could wear purple and gold, strongly signifying that they were king and queen in the process. Breaking these laws could lead to strict punishments, which meant that Tudor civilians were quite happy to adhere to the royals' wishes.

Henry VII Made His Enemy Cook for Him

Although many people remember Henry VII for being a dour and frugal man, he did have a rather bizarre sense of humour. Following his rise to regency at the Battle of Bosworth, England was far from settled. Until the late 1490s, there were still multiple tangible threats to overthrow the Tudor king and re-establish the Lancastrian royal lineage.

One such man, like many, found that his plot was overthrown by Henry VII and his shrewd advisers. This man was Lambert Simnel, who was the son of a baker. After being convinced by a Yorkist priest that he was a prince, he chose to take part in a plot to overthrow the king.

When Henry VII discovered the plot, he chose to send the young man to his scullery to help the cooks. This is a fantastic insight into Henry's bizarre sense of humour, and somewhat demonstrates how he was a far cry from his son--who later boiled a cook alive as a punishment. The cook Henry VII subjected to a life of servitude was later made a page, who looked after Henry VII's falcons.

No Pillows, Except for Pregnant Women

During his reign, Henry VIII took a severe disliking to who was able to gain access to soft pillows. The staunch king promptly banned everybody from using them, with the exception of pregnant women. Fortunately, soft furnishings were able to re-appear during future monarchies, allowing everyone to rest their tushes just as they liked.

Wolsey the Christmas Miser

Poor old Wolsey, he didn't have much going for him in terms of popularity. However, when you consider how the man approached festivities, it is no wonder he was far from top of the court card list. As a pious Catholic, Wolsey did not believe in taking a luxurious approach to Christmas. He therefore chose to ban carols and overly festive celebrations.

While this may seem miserly, it is worth bearing in mind that he was only acting in the context of the religious troubles of the time. With the Protestants on one side and Catholics on the other, Wolsey most likely thought he was doing what he could to simplify the Catholic approach to religious holidays. After all, simplicity was what drove the Protestant reformers. As we now well know, that did not work!

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It Wasn't Unladylike to Spit

Okay, so this isn't just a Tudor fact per-se. During coronations, it was not unusual for a queen to have one person to cover her mouth and another to hold a bowl for her to spit in. The history books documenting Hampton Court and Kensington Palace have documented even grosser occurrences during the Georgian period, including the wife of one French diplomat "pissing" into a bucket "at least ten times a day".

Anne Boleyn's Falcon


The Great Hall's Glorious Ceiling

When Anne Boleyn became Henry VIII's queen consort, she became rather obsessed with the development of Hampton Court. One area that caught her eye was the Great Hall's ceiling. Today, you can still see the famous "HA" engravings, representing Anne and Henry's love for each other. This must have been somewhat awkward for his future queens, who were later to see a constant reminder of the first woman he beheaded.

Anne Boleyn was so dedicated to the ceiling's rejuvenation that she commissioned workers to complete the project by candlelight. If you ever get the chance to see Hampton Court's architecture and size, you will be able to appreciate what a difficult task this may have been.

Catherine Parr Was a Literary Prodigy

Too often, Catherine Parr is referred to as the "Nurse", who did little more than tend to Henry during his more gruesome years. While she was certainly a dedicated wife, her accomplishments were far greater than simply nursing. Catherine was the first queen of England to have a book published, which stands as a testimony to her intellect and literary achievements. Usually, queen consorts existed to do little more than be subservient and stay quiet. Catherine broke the mold in that respect, although many would like to believe it was Anne Boleyn and her forward nature.

Hampton Court's Ghosts

Jane Seymour's Ghost

Hampton Court's website certainly has some exciting tales about the Tudor ghosts that reside there, including that of Jane Seymour. According to popular legends, her ghost walks across Clock Court at Hampton Court every year on the anniversary of her son's birth, before looking up to his window and proceeding to ascend the Silver Stick Gallery to reach him. Whether or not you believe in such tales depends on your belief in ghosts, but if you visit the Hampton Court Palace website you may be able to catch a video by one of its curators detailing the full story.


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