Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dr. Starkey Has Left The Building!

Courtesy of the Historical Association- Sheffield Branch, I was able to attend a free lecture by Dr. David Starkey. He is, of course, a renowned Tudor historian both in the UK and US. For the latter, the Showtime series "The Tudors" has revived interest in the period and most fans/ historians turn to him first. In the UK, his personal commentary on current events tend to land him in hot water. Given what I heard tonight, he does like to include witty humor in his lectures. If one is easily offended, then I can see why his reputation has taken a hit.

Anyways, Dr. Starkey is known first and foremost for his studies of Henry VIII. Here is a selection of his work and I recommend them all:
"Virtuous Prince" - The story of how Henry was shaped by his childhood
"The Six Wives of Henry VIII" - A detailed analysis of the queens under Henry. There are many authors who have published under this title. I would recommend in order: Starkey, Fraiser, Weir.
"The Inventory of Henry VIII" - Edited by Dr. Starkey, this massive tome recounts every item in the King's household when he died.
"Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant" - A multipart TV series that ties in with his "Virtuous Prince" book.
"Monarchy" - Another TV series recalling England's monarchy in chronological order.

Firth Hall within Firth Court (1905) University of Sheffield
The lecture tonight was entitled: "Henry VIII: The Great Divide". Usually Dr. Starkey tends to recycle some of his work, but I was surprised to hear a fresh take on Henry's turn from Rome. Starkey argues that we, as historians, try to look for big events to justify the great impacts that follow. In this case, Starkey points out the little minutia in Henry's life which caused the split from Rome.

Firstly, he submits a view of how fanatically religious Henry was. He recalls a prayer scroll that Henry read from as a child and how graphic the depicitions of the crucifiction are. The pictures and text were meant to put the reader into a fanatical fervor/ passion of similar self sacrifice. Continuing to maturity, Henry warred with France in 1513 for two reasons: first, to continue the Hundred Years War anew and second, to act as the Pope's holy defender against Louis XII of France who broke from Rome! Henry saw himself as a righteous crusader. Even his ship, the Mary Rose, is thought to be named after the Virgin Mary. When Martin Luther first posted his "Ninety-Five Theses", Henry was the only European monarch to defend the Pope. In writing his "Defense of the Seven Sacraments", Henry was encouraged, by all people Sir Thomas More, to tone down the rhetoric pertaining to the Pope's all encompassing power on earth. Quite ironic given the events of 1535/36.)

Second, as Starkey points out, was love. Henry and Anne Boleyn's romance is well documented (including a lecture by yours truly), but he goes a step further and picks a specific turning point. In the Love Letters of Henry VIII, the king receives a gift from Anne. This jewel, a ship with a maiden and diamond represented her submission to him and their agreement to marry. Starkey dates this to new years day, 1527 because of the way the french word for "gift" is interpreted. While I'm not fully onboard with his chronological placement, the notion behind it is universal: Henry was now fully devoted to Anne and would see his marriage through. This saw his split from Rome and the creation of the new church.

Henry's conscience ruled above all and in creating his new church, Henry was adamant in seeing his will be done per God's law. By the end of his reign, the Church of England was not yet fully developed but held many similarities with the catholic church with the all important exception of Henry being the supreme head rather than the Pope.

This all being said, I saw many comparisons pulled from his TV series "Mind of a Tyrant". If you would like to know more, Youtube is your best friend.

Afterwards, Dr. Starkey opened the floor for questions. With 400 people in the room, I managed to get picked! I asked him about Window #4 at King's College Chapel in Cambridge. It is quite obvious that Henry is depicted as Solomon but historians differ as to who the Queen of Sheba is (Anne Boleyn or Katherine Howard). He responded that he doesn't know who it could be but offered an additional interpretation: that it is not of the queen, but rather of the Virgin Mary and Henry's responsibilities to the new church of England (See Carola Hicks "The King's Glass" pg 160-161). I haven't been able to track down an installation date for window #4. Given that Holbein first presented Henry as Solomon in 1534, the turn around would need to be quick for the glass to represent Anne.
My photograph of Window #4. More info about Cambridge in my UK Tour section!

Someone else asked him if he liked historical fiction. He, like me, is not a big fan but said Hillary Mantell knows what she's doing unlike Phillipa Gregory. Haha glad I'm not alone.

Dr. Starkey even stayed afterwards to sign books and talk with people who couldn't get their questions answered. I managed to poke him about Part 2 of Henry's Inventory. Turns out, the first part was just released! He also showed sincere interest in my own pursuits. I must say he is a different person when he is not lecturing or in front of the camera. Hats off to him!
I'm not usually one to complain about my looks in pictures, but I'm not in top form at all. 
Ah, that's better. Carry on!

1 comment:

  1. You lucky dog! It's not often one meets a famous person! Does he speak as punctuated in real life as in his TV lectures? Hope you got his autograph!