The Royal Palaces of Tudor England: Architecture and Court Life, 1460-1547.
The originality of this approach and of much of the material presented here is nearly obscured by the modest and even-handed tone. New discoveries are presented alongside well-known and accepted information as parts of a historical overview, and it is only by consulting the footnotes that one discovers how much material is taken from archival sources. The many illustrations, both color and black and white, complement the narrative by providing clear plans and contemporary views as well as images of surviving buildings and little-known details. The book is attractively and cleverly laid out to balance text and image, and this breaks up the large blocks of text which so often present a daunting prospect in a large-format scholarly book.
The book begins with a brief summary of royal domestic accommodations and household structure in the late Middle Ages. In chapter 2, Thurley explores the concept of magnificence and the influence of the Burgundian Court on English patronage and court culture in the fifteenth century. Thus, while the book focuses on the building activities and court of Henry VIII, the medieval background is considered in detail, and this provides a context in relation to which subsequent developments can be interpreted. Discussion of well-known sites like Whitehall, Hampton Court and Nonsuch are balanced by treatment of lesser known buildings.
While Thurley relies heavily on material published in the volumes of The History of the Kings Works (1962-1983), there is a great deal of new material here. Moreover, this book focuses on social history, material culture and the history of taste; the military and political significance of these royal buildings is only sketched in summarily. In early chapters, the sequence of activities at each site is presented, as well as the layout of rooms, their use and decoration. Later chapters shift the focus from individual buildings to an overview in which broad topics (e.g., "The Tudor Royal Kitchen," "Hygiene and Sanitation," "The Household Chapel") are taken up. General conclusions are proposed but the beauty of the book is in the details: from locks and keys, to bath tubs and hunting platforms (or "standings"), Thurley brings these buildings to life in a book which will become both the standard work on the subject and an interdisciplinary model for others to follow.
ALICE T. FRIEDMAN Wellesley College
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|Author:||Friedman, Alice T.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1996|
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