Henry's Women

Henry's Women

Henry women

King Henry VIII’s wives unite at Hampton Court Palace for historic 500th anniversary exhibition

Press release

Temporary exhibition Henry’s Women runs 10 April - 3 August 2009
Press preview: 9 April 2009

As part of a year-long series of events commemorating the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, Hampton Court Palace is opening the Tudor King’s Council Chamber, never before accessible to visitors, to host a unique exhibition of portraits of, and historic objects associated with, Henry’s six wives and two daughters.

The Henry’s Women exhibition represents the first time in history that portraits of the mighty monarch’s wives have been displayed together at Henry’s favourite royal residence, Hampton Court Palace. In his Council Chamber they will come face-to-face with one another in the form of six little-known portraits, alongside two of the most important paintings of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. One of the best surviving contemporary portraits of King Henry VIII, based on Holbein’s Whitehall Mural, will complete the scene of this somewhat unconventional Tudor family.

Some of the paintings have never before been publicly exhibited, and none have been previously displayed at Hampton Court Palace, creating a fascinating collection of images of Henry’s family united together in one room. Two of the portraits will have been specially restored and conserved for the exhibition. Highlights include the earliest surviving panel portrait of Katherine of Aragon which incorporates symbolisms of the Queen’s struggle to remain Henry’s wife; a possible contemporary portrait of Anne Boleyn, last publicly displayed in the 1940s and currently dated to the reign of her daughter, Elizabeth I; a portrait of Anne of Cleves, possibly offered to envoys in 1539 prior to her meeting the King which has never been displayed outside of Trinity College, Cambridge; and a portrait recently re-identified as Catherine Howard. The earliest full-length portrait of Elizabeth I as queen will be shown alongside one of the most important portraits of her half-sister Mary I, thought to possibly be a marriage portrait for her marriage to Phillip II of Spain.

Each wife will be united with a personal object related to their fate, shedding light on their story and their relationship with England’s most matrimonial of monarchs. King Henry VIII’s own rare and beautifully crafted rosary is displayed as a hugely pertinent reminder of the King’s ongoing commitment to his faith, despite his break from Rome. An illumination from a music manuscript, compiled for Anne Boleyn and possibly owned by her supposed lover Mark Smeaton, tellingly shows a pomegranate, Katherine of Aragon’s badge, being consumed by a falcon, Anne Boleyn’s badge.

The exhibition touches on Henry’s insatiable desire for a son: a commemorative medal, with the only definite surviving contemporary image of Anne Boleyn and inscribed with her motto, ‘The Most Happy’, possibly issued to commemorate the expected arrival of a prince, is exhibited with one of only three surviving letters announcing the birth of Prince Edward at Hampton Court Palace in 1537.  Other objects include a lock of Kateryn Parr’s blonde hair taken from her corpse in 1817, the marriage annulment document of Henry and Anne of Cleves, and the only surviving letter of Catherine Howard, written to her alleged lover Thomas Culpepper.

King Henry VIII’s Council Chamber
From April 2009 Henry’s Council Chamber, one of the first rooms to be built by the king when he took possession of Hampton Court Palace, will be dressed in rich silk fabric hangings decorated with golden Fleur de Lis and the Tudor rose, and opened to visitors for the first time ever. Visitors will be able to stand in the very room where Henry engaged in numerous pivotal political debates and made historic decisions.

After Henry’s Women exhibition closes (3 August 2009), the King’s Council Chamber will become a ‘virtual’ multimedia debating chamber, immersing visitors in the experience of debating and counselling the King over some of the difficult issues of 1543, including religion, Henry’s successor, his marriage with Kateryn Parr and general domestic affairs.

Henry VIII: heads and hearts
Henry’s Women is part of an unmissable, year-long programme of spectacular celebratory events at Hampton Court Palace marking the 500th anniversary of the mighty Tudor monarch’s accession to the throne, under the banner title Henry VIII: heads and hearts. Henry’s Tudor palace has been transformed to bring the story of the King, his family and his royal court to life for visitors in a way never before seen at Hampton Court Palace. Exhibitions, displays, performances, special events and a brand new visitor experience based around the Tudor court and the Henry’s wedding to his sixth wife, Kateryn Parr will take place throughout 2009. 

Further information

Notes to editors
For further information about the exhibition Henry’s Women and Henry VIII: heads and hearts at Hampton Court Palace and for further information about the press preview on 9 April, contact Ruth Howlett or Cat Steventon in Historic Royal Palaces Press Office on 020 3166 6166 or email Ruth.Howlett@hrp.org.uk or Catherine.Steventon@hrp.org.uk
Generic Historic Royal Palaces images can also be viewed and downloaded immediately and for free by registering on the website http://hrp.newsteam.co.uk/

Exhibition information
Open daily Monday to Sunday 10 April – 3 August 2009
Admission to the exhibition is included in the palace ticket.

In 2009 a joint ticket for the Tower of London (where the Henry VIII Dressed to Kill exhibition will be open 3 April 2009 to 17 January 2010) and Hampton Court Palace is available offering a 20% discount on the combined price of both attractions.

Historic Royal Palaces
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles.  Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world.  Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work.    


You may also be interested in...