The second of our ‘Henry VIII in Love and War’ History Masterclasses was held in August 2017 in the fabulous Minster Library of York Minster. Built in the 1230s as the chapel of the former Archbishop’s Palace and the location of Richard III’s investiture of his son as Prince of Wales in 1483, the building now holds the entire and extensive printed collections of the Chapter of York totalling more than 120,000 books. A magnificent location for learning history, our Masterclassers barely managed to drag their eyes from the book collections lining the walls and heraldry in the stained glass windows to learn about the historical context and historical challenges of Henry’s life.
The joys of object biography were explored through a study of a bizarre 16th-century armoured helm and three suits of armour from different periods of Henry’s life; the challenges of researching Henry’s love life and particularly the biography of Anne Boleyn were explored through portraiture and letters; the Masterclassers were taught to read Tudor handwriting; Henry’s castle-building program was explored through the context of the break from Rome caused by Henry’s marriage to Anne and his changes to the Royal Navy were explained in relation to what happened before and after his reign.
This feast of learning was punctuated by an actual feast of cakes and tarts from one of York’s finest patisseries. Everyone left bloated with cream and jam, macaroons and…knowledge…the sweetest morsel of all.