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Sir Thomas Wriothesley (c. 1460-1534)

The Wriothesley Garter book  c.1530

Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios. | 30.8 x 22.2 x 5.2 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1047414

  • Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios, numbered in pencil (first four omitted); quire letters in bottom inner corners, various older pen foliations; fourteen folios removed, seven replaced, one inserted. Bound in brown calf, with worn gold-tooling round edges.

    Sir Thomas Wriothesley, who from 1505 to 1534 occupied the post of Garter King of Arms (doyen of the College of Arms), is known to have compiled many books and rolls of arms, pedigree and precedence. This manuscript contains a variety of records on heraldic matters, especially the Order of the Garter, and heralds' fees and oaths.

    The first image shown is what may be the first contemporary view of the opening of Parliament, at Blackfriars on 15 April 1523. Henry VIII is enthroned in the middle, with three earls in front of him bearing the Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance. To the King's left are Garter King of Arms (Wriothesley himself, wearing the distinctive tabard of a herald) and officers of the Royal Household. To the King's right are three bishops: Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, identified by the red Cardinal's hat, and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury are seated; behind Wolsey stands Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London. The arms of Wolsey and Warham are also shown. Below these, to the King's right, sit the Lords Spiritual, nine bishops with seventeen abbots behind; to his left and on the cross-bench sit the Lords Temporal, two coroneted dukes, seven earls, sixteen barons, and the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. The four woolsacks in the middle are a symbol of the wealth of England's wool trade, and accommodate two Chief Justices, eight judges, and four Serjeants of the law, behind whom kneel two clerks with their quills and inkpots. Behind the cross-bench, at the bar of the House (at the bottom of the page) stands Sir Thomas More, Speaker of the House of Commons, with thirteen Members of Parliament behind him. (Catalogue entry from 'Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration', London 2002)

    The second image, in watercolour and bodycolour with gold leaf, is a later addition to the manuscript. John, Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) is depicted fighting at the Battle of Blenheim, beneath a coat of arms. The Holy Roman Emporer, Leopold, was so pleased with Marlborough's victory at Blenheim that he created him a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. He died before the appropriate paperwork could be completed, so the patent was issued by his son, Josef I. The elevation to royalty of a man who had not even belonged to the peerage at birth was an event so significant that blank leaves in the Wriothesly Garter Book, written c. 1530, were filled in with copies of the patents granting the honour, as well as this illustration, in c. 1704. The Duke is shown wearing a red coat in accordance with his instruction of 1702 that all officers commanding troops during military campaigns in France should be clothed in red.

    Provenance

    Owned, and largely written, by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, with additions by his successors as Garter King of Arms; bought for the Royal Library in 1892
  • Medium & Techniques

    Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios.

    Dimensions

    30.8 x 22.2 x 5.2 cm (book measurement (conservation))

    30.8 x 5.2 x 22.2 cm (book measurement (inventory))

    35.0 x 5.5 cm (book in box)

  • Alternative titles

    The Wriothesley Garter book.

    Observations

    (From email EC to JR 30.11.11) The parliament before 1523 was 1515, just before Wolsey was made Cardinal; the one after was 1529, which was after Wolsey’s fall, so the presence of Wolsey as Cardinal means it must be the 1523 parliament. This was held at Blackfriars, which is why this scene must depict Blackfriars. Westminster was the most usual location for parliament, but it was held in Blackfriars every now and then. I’ve scoured the books here and Google and can’t find out why. Most of the sources merely refer to what John Stow in his 1598 Survey of London writes: in Blackfriars “divers parliaments, and other great meetings, hath been holden; namely, in the year 1450 ... a parliament was begun at Westminster, and adjourned to the Blackfriars in London .... In the year 1522, the Emperor Charles V was lodged there. In the year 1524 [1523], the 15th of April, a parliament was begun at Blackfriars, wherein was demanded a subsidy of eight hundred thousand pounds.... This parliament was adjourned to Westminster amongst the black monks, and ended in the king’s palace there, the 14th of August, at nine of the clock in the night, and was therefore called the Black Parliament. In the year 1529, Cardinal Campeius [Campeggio], the legate, with Cardinal Wolsey, sat at the said Blackfriars, where ... was brought in question the king’s marriage with Queen Katherine, as unlawful ... The same year, in the month of October, began a parliament in the Blackfriars, in which Cardinal Wolsey was condemned in the premunire.” Therefore Blackfriars was considered to be a suitable meeting place for large groups, particularly for legal matters. It is very frustrating that I cannot find why they moved parliaments between Blackfriars and Westminster, but it could well have been due to fear of disease. Parliament at this time was summoned when it was needed by the king, usually to raise taxes. What Stow refers to as the “Black Parliament” (the one depicted in Wriothesley) is when Wolsey, acting on Henry’s behalf, demanded the Amicable Grant as a way of raising money. Henry VIII denied consenting to this and snubbed Wolsey. So I think we can say that Henry VIII, though perhaps through representatives, did do more with parliament than just open it. Indeed, during his reign a development took place in the functions of parliament. It had existed mainly for the granting of taxation and for the receiving and promotion of petitions, and it had no role in decisions of policy, be they foreign or domestic. Henry’s need for the support of parliament during his divorce of C of A and all the consequences of that changed this as parliament started legislating over the succession, ecclesiastical jurisdiction etc.. Henry VIII : Court, church and conflict / David Loades (Kew, 2007) The Life and times of Henry VIII / Robert Lacey (London, 1972) Elizabeth Clark , 30 Nov 2011

    Regarding the eighteenth-century additions, including full-page watercolour of a coat of arms backed by a double-headed eagle. This page is displayed in the 'In Fine Style' exhibition, opening May 2013: This image is of the new coat of arms of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (1689-1702), accompanying the manuscript copy of a patent of 28 August 1704 creating him a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold, made Marlborough a prince very soon after the victory at the Battle of Blenheim, which is depicted in the background. Emperor Leopold died before the appropriate paperwork could be completed, so the patent was issued by Emperor Josef, in his father’s name. The elevation to royalty of a man who had not even belonged to the peerage at birth was an event so significant that blank leaves in the Wriothesly Garter Book, written c. 1530, were filled in with copies of the patents (see the contents at the beginning), as well as this illustration, in c. 1704. A later patent confirms Marlborough as Prince of Mindelheim, Bavaria. The arms are of Marlborough in 1704 but have a number of inaccuracies, indicating perhaps that they were drawn up by a herald unfamiliar with English arms – perhaps a German one. The patent granted Marlborough the use of the double-headed imperial eagle as an augmentation of honour to his arms. Elizabeth Clark , 6 Oct 2011