Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Tudor Year: January

Theme: food, leisure

King Henry VIII jousting before his first queen, Catherine of Aragon, to celebrate the birth of their son Henry, Prince of Wales, on New Year's Day, 1511. This much desired infant, whose survival would have forestalled so much interesting history, died at six weeks of age. Picture from Tudor History.

January 1, 1511 -- birth of Henry, Prince of Wales
January 6, 1540 -- marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
January 7, 1536 -- death of Catherine of Aragon
January 15, 1559 -- coronation of Queen Elizabeth
January 25, 1533 -- secret marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
January 29, 1536 -- burial of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn's last miscarriage
January 29, 1547 -- death of Henry VIII

January was the month of holiday pageantry and New Year's gifts for the royal court, and of the search for winter work for the common man. Beef and pork slaughtered and salted at Martinmas (November 11th) would still provide whatever meat the countryman was eating now; staple foods for all were rough breads made of a mix of grains and sometimes including acorns, and the "white meats" of eggs, cheese, and butter. Indoor amusements for the gentry included music making and gambling at cards or dice. The lower classes were forbidden to gamble except at Christmastime. They were expected to practice archery instead, for the sake of military preparedness.


Fussell, George Edwin. The English Rural Labourer: His Home, Furniture, Clothing, and Food from Tudor to Victorian Times. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975, p. 5 (winter work). Originally published by the batchworth press, London, 1949.

Trevelyan, G.W., England under the Stuarts, quoted in Fussell, p. 27 (slaughtering of animals on Martinmas)

Emmison, F. G. Tudor Secretary: Sir William Petre at Court and Home. London and Chichester: Phillimore & Co., 1970, p. 134 (staple foods). First published by Longmans, Green, and Co., 1961.

Ibid., p. 214 (music)

Ibid., p. 218 (gambling, archery)