Landmark British Library exhibition to be guest-curated by David Starkey
Sponsored by PACCAR Inc
In April 2009, to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne, historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey will guest-curate a major exhibition at the British Library, London. Important and rarely displayed items from the British Library's unrivalled Henry VIII collections, including correspondence, key official documents, maps and books from the King's own library, will be exhibited alongside loans from other national museums and collections.
Through a fresh interpretation of rich original source materials provided by leading Tudor scholar Dr David Starkey, the exhibition will examine the extraordinary transformations - personal and political, intellectual and religious, literary, aesthetic and linguistic - that took place in the reign of Henry VIII. It will draw on the British Library's rich and unique collections to explore the beliefs and motives behind Henry's actions, telling the story of his reign from his own perspective.
This approach will reach beyond the myths and stereotypes around Henry VIII and encourage visitors to reassess their perceptions of this great Tudor monarch who continues to cast a spell over the public imagination 500 years after his accession.
British Library treasures - books, manuscripts and correspondence written or annotated by Henry VIII - will be accompanied by portraits, tapestry, armour, plate, jewellery and sculpture on loan from other national museums and collections to create a visually stunning exhibition that offers new insights into Henry VIII's way of thinking and the huge changes that took place during his reign.
Among the 250 exhibits are:
" The Psalter of Henry VIII - Henry's own Prayer Book, heavily annotated by the King. The book includes seven exquisite miniature scenes, two of which portray the King in his favourite role as King David; in one he is slaying Goliath, and in the other he appears as a penitent David among the ruins. Other miniatures show him playing the harp with court jester Will Somers in attendance and reading in his bedroom.
" Portrait of Henry VIII, 1513. Artist unknown. The earliest surviving portrait of Henry. The painting, which depicts him as a young man, is on loan from Denver Art Museum, and is on display for the first time in the UK.
" 'Pastyme with good companye' by Henry VIII. Manuscript containing a number of musical pieces ascribed to Henry himself, probably composed in the years following his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, where musical entertainments were very much part of the court festivities.
" Henry and Katherine's marriage contract, 1504. Just five months after marrying Katherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur died of the sweating sickness. In order to preserve the Anglo-Spanish alliance, Katherine was offered as a bride for Prince Henry, the new heir to the English throne and a treaty of marriage was concluded at Richmond on 23 June 1503. This, the ratification of that treaty, signed by Henry VII on 3 March 1504 and beautifully decorated with the royal arms and the red rose of Lancaster, will be loaned to a UK exhibition for the first time by Archivo General de Simancas, Spain.
" Book of Hours owned by Anne Boleyn c.1528 from a Paris workshop. Henry VIII and the court regularly attended Mass in the royal chapel, sometimes more than once a day. The King often used the time before the consecration to transact business but this manuscript shows inscriptions from both Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, perhaps entered as the book was passed clandestinely between the two.
" Valor Ecclesiasticus (Church Valuation). The survey of monastic wealth ordered by Henry VIII in 1535 as a prelude to the Dissolution of the Monasteries - on loan from The National Archives.
" Announcement of the birth of Elizabeth I, 1533. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn expected their first child would be a boy. However, on 7 September 1533 Anne gave birth to a daughter. This official document announcing the birth, evidently prepared in advance, shows the word 'prince' amended to 'princess'.
" List of people executed during Henry's reign. Henry executed more English notables than any other monarch before or since: 2 wives, 1 cardinal, more than 20 members of the peerage, 4 prominent public servants, 6 of the King's close attendants and friends, 3 mitred abbots and various heads of major monastic houses.
" Henry's prescription book, containing various receipts for treating ulcers and 'restraining humours', some of them by the royal physicians and some of them ascribed to Henry himself, records (ff. 43v-44): 'An Oyntment devised by the kinges Majesty made at Westminster. And devised at Grenwich to take away inflammations and to cease payne and heale ulcers called gray plaster'.
" The diary of Edward VI. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour records the death of his father and his own coronation in the first pages of his journal.
" Post-mortem inventory of Henry VIII. Henry died in debt, but owned an enormous number of possessions. The remarkable inventory made after his death lists nearly 20,000 items.
Audio guides will steer visitors through the exhibition, allowing them to follow the key milestones in Henry's reign. The exhibition will also include audio recordings, interactive features and film footage from the Channel 4 documentary, Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant, presented by David Starkey and due for broadcast in April 2009. A selection of pages from the Psalter of Henry VIII has been digitised and will be available to view in the British Library's award winning Turning the Pages™ technology in the exhibition and online at www.bl.uk/turningthepages.
The accompanying events programme will offer a rich mix of performances, talks, family events, screenings and more. Highlights include Henry VIII Day (Bank Holiday Monday 4 May 2009), an open house for all the family featuring Tudor re-enactments, sports, games and workshops; a celebration and late opening with glorious live music by Alamire, specialists in medieval and Renaissance music, marking 500 years since the coronation of Henry (24 June 1509) and a series of three lectures by David Starkey exploring different aspects of Henry's reign.
The British Library will be offering a range of learning activities to accompany the exhibition, including workshops for primary and secondary schoolchildren and further-education students, and guided tours for those in higher education and adult groups. The exhibition is free to under 18s and also offers discounted entry for full time students.
In addition, a touring programme tying in with the exhibition will travel to eight locations around the UK. It will offer a host of activities, including workshops and talks for school groups and families, along with an interactive Turning the Pages™ kiosk allowing visitors to examine books from Henry's own library.
An accompanying book, Henry VIII: Man and Monarch, edited by David Starkey and Susan Doran, will be published by the British Library in April 2009. It will include contributions from notable scholars including Eamon Duffy, James Carley, John Guy, Diarmaid McCulloch and Eric Ives, with colour illustrations of all 250 exhibits. The Psalter of Henry VIII will also be made widely available for the first time in a fine facsimile edition published by the British Library and The Folio Society.
Describing the exhibition, David Starkey commented: "Henry is not only England's best-known king - with his wives, his girth and his bloodthirstiness - he is also our most important single ruler. When he came to the throne, Henry was the Pious Prince who ruled an England at the heart of Catholic Europe; when he died, he was the Great Schismatic, who had created a national Church and an insular, xenophobic politics that shaped the development of England for the next 500 years. This exhibition draws on the British Library's rich collections - including the books that Henry himself chose, read and annotated - which outline the revolutionary change in ideas that took place during the reign of Henry VIII and take us, as nothing else can, into the King's own mind."