Henry VII: Out of the Shadows?
We eavesdrop on Ian Dawson as he interrogates the sources and wonders whether the first Tudor was really so mysterious.
Summarising human personality is a dangerous business. Henry VII is often caricatured as a dour accountant or as an enigmatic, elusive personality. But what of his love of tennis, hunting and his real anxiety in times of crisis? Henry's was a rich, intriguing personality if we can bring him out of the shadows.
'Good morning, could you open your cases?' Like all visitors to the Tower of London I have to be searched. Most people carry small bags. I have two large suitcases. The security guard looks a little concerned. Just how many cheese and tomato sandwiches does one tourist need?
I open the cases. No sandwiches, but a wig, boots and a long purple robe, crushed velvet with silver brocade. Clearly an explanation is required. 'I'm going to the Education Centre to, er, play Henry VII.
It's not a very eloquent explanation but it's enough or maybe I'm allowed in because my wig is not concealing a stick of semtex and maybe because I'm wearing a guest's official badge. After that the day becomes easier, just two and a half hours in role as Henry VII, conducting a council meeting with forty A level students as my councillors, proffering advice, arguing with each other, anxious not to offend or anger their stern, unbending monarch.
But was Henry VII stern and unbending? This was the problem I had tackled as I prepared to be Henry. I had to reflect Henry's character and personality because they played a vital part in determining his decisions and actions. Just what kind of man was Henry VII?
Beginning to explore