Includes newly discovered portrait of Elizabeth Woodville on public display for first time
Visitors to Hever Castle will from 4 October 2018 be able to experience what a typical Long Gallery would have looked like during the reign of Henry VIII and trace the turbulent history of the Tudors.
Curated by Tudor history expert and broadcaster, Dr David Starkey, eighteen original portraits will form a new exhibition that not only chronologically depicts the dynastic saga – from the Wars of the Roses to the Reformation – but also reveals how such a gallery was intended as a teaching aid for young Prince Edward (later King Edward VI).
The reign of King Henry VIII (who ruled England from 1509 to 1547, right) and the Tudor period (1485 to 1603) remain one of the most universally fascinating eras in English History. Using his unrivalled insight and knowledge of this era, David Starkey has organised a series of Hever’s treasured Tudor portraits into successional order, beginning with Henry VI and concluding with Henry VIII himself.
Also included is a newly acquired portrait of Elizabeth Woodville (left), the grandmother of Henry VIII, on public display for the first time ever. Woodville was a hugely influential figure in ending the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor dynasty. 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 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 in the Long Gallery, while pictures of Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI will also be part of the exhibition.
“Elizabeth’s portrait reveals the cold, hard beauty of the woman,” Starkey observes. “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.”
The Long Gallery, was created in 1506 by Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father (Anne pictured, below right), and has been faithfully restored by a team of experts using innovative lighting, redecoration and the paintings themselves in order for it to resemble how it would have looked during the 16th century.
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. As he points out: “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.”
“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,” says Hever’s CEO Duncan Leslie.
Dr Starkey explains that the Castle’s present owners, the Guthrie family, have made an almost unique contribution to British art history: “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.”
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 in the exhibition will be a 17th century Venetian doge’s hat. The hat, which will be in a glass cabinet, belonged to the Castle’s former owner, William Waldorf Astor, and has not been on display for 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.
Dr 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.
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