Project theme: kingship and queenship

Painted portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Public domain

The dominant Holbein image of Henry VIII can create quite a static impression of the king. In fact Henry was almost constantly in motion, whether in ritual procession from his privy apartments to the Chapel Royal, travelling between his own residences or those of favoured courtiers, hunting in the field, or embarking on longer progresses westward to Acton Court or north to Hull and York. Often he was accompanied by his wife, turning royal journeys into vehicles of queenship as well as kingship; Katherine of Aragon sometimes pursued her own itinerary.

Welcomed by pageants and gift-giving, Henry VIII’s progresses were a point of contact between the splendour of the court and the English counties (though never Wales or Ireland). Their value in ‘selling’ the monarchy through ritual and display – and in 1541, a show of force – demands to be investigated.

But other questions are also raised by Henry VIII going on tour: how government functioned on the move, and in the king’s absence; the impact of progresses on the architecture of Henry’s many houses, as preparations were made to receive the royal party; the hierarchy of access to the king and queen on progress, and who had the chance to see them as they passed.

My own research asks what progresses have to tell us about Henry VIII’s religious faith both before and during the Reformation, and his notion of sacred kingship as practised in the ceremony of touching for the king’s evil.