David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer


Talk at Whitley Bay Playhouse on 6th May 2018

  • The first Brexit was the Break with Rome
  • England was a pariah state – an enemy of Europe
  • Henry VIII fortified the coastline which was the largest scheme of fortification
  • Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
    Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
  • Cartography and maps became important
  • Holbein’s image – the Whitehall mural shows Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
  • When Jane Seymour died it was the “smartest career move in history”
  • Anne Boleyn was “brilliant as a mistress but catastrophic as a wife”
  • The words in the middle of the Whitehall mural say that Henry VII was a good king ending decades of civil war but Henry VIII was better as he released England from papal bondage
  • The mural was displayed in Henry VIII’s private rooms
  • Appetite for fame
  • Importance of Erasmus and education “virtue, glory, immorality”
  • Foreign influence – Henry VIII’s astronomer was French, his painter was German and his armour came from Italy
  • France = sex and sophistication, Anne Boleyn raised there
  • Media revolution – printing, books, Caxton’s printing press
  • In the early 16th century typography was introduced
  • Representational painting explains why we are so interested in the Tudors – we knew what they looked like
  • Images make things real
  • Henry VIII is at the centre of England’s history – England different after Henry VIII
  • The Reformation was the greatest change between the Norman conquest and the present day, Reformation partly undoes the conquest
  • English Channel not a barrier but a means of communication
  • Easy to invade England with her natural harbours
  • Henry VII sailed from Honfleur in 1485 – French invasion with tactics, ships, money and army
  • Was Henry VIII a great revolutionary? Least expected
  • Nothing suggested he would do anything revolutionary
  • The reformation began in Germany in 1517 with Luther and the 95 theses
  • Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach 1528.
    Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach 1528.
  • God absorbed in human life
  • Printing and painting – everyone knew what Luther looked like. He is the only non-royal everyone knew what he looked like
  • “Legitimate use of the present to make us think of the past”
  • Religion is a central element in the 16th century
  • More and Cromwell were fundamentally the same with a religious difference
  • Hilary Mantel takes her Cromwell and More from G.R. Elton
  • Salvation = this world is short and unimportant, what matters is eternity
  • Purgatory – purged of sins – money could buy you out
  • St Peter’s Basilica was paid for out of indulgences, no biblical foundation
  • Luther spreads the word – vernacular bible and destruction of cities
  • Henry VIII horrified by Luther at first, brought up as a traditional Catholic
  • 1513 war was a crusade – Louis XII of France got divorced and broke with Rome
  • Tunstall at the diet of worms
  • Luther wants to print in the vernacular and denies the 7 sacraments
  • Assertio Septem Sacramentorum – Henry VIII writes his own book, named ‘Fidei Defensor’ (defender of the faith)
  • Wolsey completes Henry VIII’s education = trained in theology
  • Anne Boleyn and the divorce 1527
  • “War of Henry’s willy” – love letters undated
  • Katherine of Aragon had no sons – knew she wouldn’t have a son for a decade
  • Woman in charge in a love affair, only changes in marriage
  • Henry VIII thought the Pope would grant his divorce, until the sack of Rome when the pope moves to Orvieto in 1527
  • Charles V is Katherine’s nephew
  • Henry VIII spends 2 years arguing with Europe using money and jurisdiction
  • Divorce requires the break with Rome
  • Henry VIII creates a think tank and reforms the royal library
  • Supreme head of the church = Henry VIII uses the same techniques as Luther, based on the Bible, no reference to Pope or clergy
  • 1530 got ideas and parliament won’t do what he wants
  • Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
    Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
  • 1533 marries Anne Boleyn and breaks with Rome
  • WATERSHED
  • Propaganda, re-inventing England, imperialism
  • “Profoundly absolutely divisive”
  • Pilgrimage of Grace 1536 – dissolution of the monasteries, Medieval art destroyed
  • Thomas More executed 1535
  • Unity of Christianity lost
  • More condemned on false evidence – act of parliament illegal, act of parliament can’t declare Henry head of the church
  • Parliamentary sovereignty invented under Henry VIII to break with Rome
  • Resonate with Brexit – unconventional
  • Head of the church “only under Christ”
  • Quality and force of argument more explored in the 16th century than in the current Brexit referendum
  • Break with Rome wouldn’t have happened without Anne Boleyn

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