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 Continue reading “David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer”

Discussion Questions – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel


  1. What does Holbein’s portrait capture about Thomas Cromwell’s character that even Cromwell, himself, recognises? What kind of man is Cromwell? In the rapacious world of Wolf Hall, do you find him a sympathetic character, or not?
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

I think that Cromwell becomes more ambitious when he gets a taste of power. I think he likes to thwart those in power with his knowledge, like when Wolsey is demanded to give up the great seal. I think that Cromwell doesn’t come across as more sympathetic in ‘Wolf Hall’ than in other books featuring him, as we see the deaths of his wife and daughters, and the fall of his mentor in his own eyes, rather than the eyes of Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. I think he is a very caring person with a ruthless streak in his religious beliefs. I think Holbein’s portrait captures Cromwell’s essence in not flaunting his rising position, but still showing his power with the books and papers around him. It’s very clever that it’s not explicit, but it still shows the reined-in power.

  1. What effect did Cromwell’s upbringing have on his character and his later views about the privileged society that permeates the court? How does he feel about the aristocracy and its insistence on ancient rights?

I think that Cromwell’s relationship with his father affects a lot of his thoughts and actions now he is an adult. He seems to be very fixed on not ending up like his father, and having a better relationship with his children than his father had with him. He wasn’t brought up to a privileged way of life, so he can see more clearly than those at court the importance of promoting people for their abilities rather than their wealth and titles. He believes that, in the future, self-made men will have an important role in running the country, more so than the old nobility who represent the medieval period that has now been left behind – men like him represent the future. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 2


Henry VIII c.1542.
Henry VIII c.1542.

String of failed marriages and a religious revolution

Imagery and reputation

1533 Henry VIII anxious about the Tudor dynasty – no son to succeed him so ditched key advisors, split from Rome, divorced his wife and married Anne Boleyn

Powerful and controlling monarch, successful dynasty

Tapestry, art and palaces designed but plundered religious houses

New image had to be forged quickly as his future depended on it

Wrath of the pope and catholic European nations and English people – Rome refused to sanction divorce so Henry left it behind

Supreme Head of the Church of England

Henry vulnerable so built sea forts and the basis of the royal navy

Army of painters, builders and designers through palaces and paintings

Henry VIII interested in art by story – everything he commissioned told the story of his own self importance

Learn things about Henry from the art he commissioned Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 2”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 1


Henry VIII c.1520.
Henry VIII c.1520.

Jonathan Foyle.

April 1509 Henry VIII takes refuge in the Tower of London.

Public image – kills Empson and Dudley.

Coronation = cloth of gold, jewels on horseback, Hall’s Chronicle, Thomas More – lawyer commissioned to make a speech, “golden age”.

Humanism influenced More and Henry, also chivalry – Erasmus,

Eltham Palace – Henry was raised away from the centre of London.

Glenn Richardson.

John Skelton taught him Latin, French, etc. Influenced by Margaret Beaufort and William Blount Lord Mountjoy.

New learning – grammar, rhetoric, morals, history. History of his own ancestors.

1503 Prince Henry was betrothed to Katherine of Aragon.

Strength of the Tudor family – influence, wealth, power. Demonstrated by buildings like King’s College Chapel.

Propaganda. Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 1”