Foreign influences – Tudor Tuesdays

October 27 2020 | History

The theme for this week’s #TudorTuesdays with Historic Houses is foreign influences.

Harriet Waldron, Learning and Engagement Assistant writes about the Tudors and foreign influences.

Nowadays with our modern trains, planes and automobiles, it is easy for us to assume that the Tudors were much more ‘cut off’ from other nations, and therefore less influenced by styles and ideas from the continent and indeed, further afield.

However this is actually not true at all. Admittedly, they did not have the same 24 rolling news feeds that we do, but well educated Tudors would certainly have spoken one, two or more continental languages with a fluency that many of us today could only envy. Indeed, for young, wealthy Tudor daughters, it was considered advantageous to be shipped off to another household, in another country to continue the transformation from childhood (such as it was then) to womanhood, with particular emphasis on learning how to behave in high society and how to become an attractive marriage prospect.

Anne Boleyn for example, was sent away at the age of 12 to the household of Margaret of Austria, and a year later made the trip to France to take her place in the household of the new Queen of France, Mary, who was the younger of King Henry VIII’s two sisters. Anne did not return to the English Court until 1521, by which time her years on the continent, surrounded by some of the greatest musicians, painters and philosophers of the time (as well as her taste for French fashion) helped her to stand out from her English counterparts. Which eventually helped to catch the eye of King Henry himself.

The rest, as they say, is history!

However was not just Europe that influenced and penetrated Tudor life. Asia too was a popular trading partner, as seen in the case of ceramics and porcelain, the best examples of which came from China. Owning Chinese porcelain was a way to show all visitors to your home that you had the money to both purchase and transport exotic goods. They were statements pieces, not to be used, but to be displayed for prowess.

The Islamic world was another important trading partner as well, as seen in the pearls and rich silks that permeate portraiture of the time. Language too was influenced; sugar, candy, crimson, turban, and tulip all have Arabic or Persian roots, which helps us to understand how prolific and important international trading really was.

Therefore, while it may not have been as fast, or as interactive as today, the international transfer of goods, ideas and information was still very much a feature of Tudor life.

Particularly for those with the wealth to travel and the means to take advantage of foreign luxury goods.

If you enjoyed this item on Foreign Influences why not discover the previous #TudorTuesdays news items:

Water features
Orchards, topiary and mazes
Great Halls
Books and libraries
Films and TV sets
Elizabeth I
Tudor Chapels
Tudor Windows
Tudor Tapestries
Tudor Chimneys
Tudor Panelling
Tudor Knot Gardens
Tudor Childhood
Tudor Dining Rooms
• Tudor Rose Gardens
Henry VII
Henry VIII
Mary I