Project theme: logistics

The Logistics theme will use archival sources to establish Henry VIII’s itinerary and map the various progress routes and venues over the course of the reign, bearing in mind progresses never happened completely as planned: there were disruptions (notably plague) and unscripted elements (as when Henry followed his own secret plans).

Our main focus is on their implementation, the organization and advanced planning for which there is some evidence of the arrangements for accommodation and stabling, the tailoring of clothes and fashioning of furniture, orders for repairs to castles and royal manors, as well as instructions for purveyance to ensure food, drink and fodder for the horses was obtained. Masterminding transportation (by land and water) of the royal household with its substantial baggage train (possibly around 500 people) and supplying and billeting its courtiers, servants and animals was a massive undertaking with challenges that varied with the location.

We will examine the type, layout and footprint of the buildings used and how accommodation compared to that with which members of the royal household were familiar in the London-based ‘standing palaces’. The role of tents and temporary buildings as well as the craftsmen creating them will be factored in as a means of answering the question as to how the court was accommodated at smaller residences.

A large red medieval tent in a green field surrounded by hedges.
A reconstruction by Historic Royal Palaces of a royal tent similar to those depicted in the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Image: Historic Royal Palaces.

The Chapel Royal was a significant part of the royal household that accompanied the king on progress. Since the ‘riding chapel’ was half-strength on tour, we will assess augmentation of the sacred and secular forces by recruiting musicians (both singers and instrumentalists) from outside royal circles not only within the local communities but from noble households. The black trumpeter, John Blanke’s service is already well-known, but there is scope for investigating further the multiple ethnicities of Henry’s musicians, particularly those poached from Continental rivals as a result of diplomatic encounters and musicians of Moorish or Nubian descent coming from the Aragonese kingdom.

Using names appearing in the Wardrobe accounts enables some sense of the musicians, servants and artisans involved in royal progresses and the opportunity to explore hidden histories related to the world below stairs and in the various industries supplying the royal household thereby adding a ‘from the ground up perspective’ to the more pervasive king and courtiers downwards view. Studying the logistics therefore offers a prime opportunity to unearth untold stories of subaltern groups, women, artisans and others who provided services both in the royal household and local communities.