Items not previously on display at Hever Castle form part of a major collection change guest curated by historian Dr David Starkey in the Castle’s Long Gallery.
The new permanent exhibition in Hever Castle’s Long Gallery, which has now been opened to the public, depicts the saga from the Wars of the Roses to the Reformation through its art collection.
Through 18 original portraits hung in dynastic order the story of the Tudors is told starting from Henry VI and ending with Henry VIII.
The Long Gallery, which was created in 1506 by Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, has been faithfully restored by a team of experts using innovative lighting, redecoration and the paintings themselves bordered by fabric (depicting whether they were from the York, Lancaster or Tudor families) in order for it to resemble what a typical long gallery would have looked like during the 16th century.
Dr Starkey’s attention to detail and demand for historical accuracy has seen the ornate plasterwork adorning the Long Gallery’s ceiling painted a softer off-white to give the effect of lime wash and full-length drapes have been reinstalled at the large stained-glass windows situated at each end of the 98ft (30m) room.
He explains: “The curtains that have been put back over the windows at either end of the gallery are part of Astor’s decorative scheme. But we have gone further, and followed the Tudors in fitting curtains for each picture. This is the real radical innovation and the thing that will set the display apart. These curtains were originally not only decorative, but also designed to protect the paintings from harsh sunlight.”
Visitors will also have a chance to see items not previously on display.
These include a portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, the grandmother of Henry VIII, who was an influential figure in ending the Wars of the Roses and thus the start of the Tudor dynasty. It is on public display for the first time ever. The painting is thought to have been owned by the same family for 400 years, so it has never been seen in public, and is a brand-new addition to the list of known portraits of Elizabeth Woodville. The oil painting of Elizabeth Woodville attributed to the English School depicts her in a widow’s veil. It will be displayed next to her husband Edward IV.
David Starkey says: “Elizabeth’s portrait reveals the cold, hard beauty of the woman. One of my favourites is that of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s older brother and heir to the throne, who died in 1502. It is positively jewel-like and the only portrait of Arthur painted in his lifetime.”
Pictures of Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Edward IV which were previously displayed in the Tudor Suite Dining Room and only seen by guests at the 5* bed and breakfast are also part of the Long Gallery exhibition.
Dr Starkey adds that the idea for the project was borne out of many visits to the Castle and working with Mould, the star of the BBC’s hit art show, Fake or Fortune?
“The paintings were displayed hither and thither around the Castle but through my work as the editor of Henry VIII’s Inventory of Works, I was able to access records of how royal portraits were displayed and after talking with Philip, I decided to give visitors a flavour of what the Long Gallery would have looked like at the time of Henry VIII.”
Also on show will be a 17th century Doge’s hat. A doge was the elected Lord of the Italian city-state of Venice. The hat, which will be in a glass cabinet, was one which belonged to former owner William Waldorf Astor and has not been on display in over a decade.
It will form part of a display of religious vestments which include a 16th century ceremonial gauntlet and a 15th century bishop’s mitre.
David Starkey will also be voicing a new multimedia device which will deliver an essential guide to understanding the impact that the Tudor family made on English history.
Hever’s CEO Duncan Leslie, Hever Castle’s CEO says “The new approach offers a chance to concentrate on the Tudor history of the Castle and the story of the sequence of tumultuous events that changed the course of Britain’s history, monarchy and religion,”
Dr Starkey has previously stated that “Hever Castle has one of the best collection of Tudor portraits after the National Portrait Gallery.”
He praised the current owners, the Guthrie family, for their ongoing acquisition of artwork: “Hever Castle now has one of the finest collections of Tudor portraits in the country. Since the Guthries took over Hever, they have bought historic portraits of the Tudors with the advice of Philip Mould. Their collection is an enormous achievement at a time when most country houses are diminishing theirs.”