I was asked to prepare a colour scheme for the painting of the soffit of the Great Gatehouse at Hampton Court Palace (which can be seen in the centre of the above photograph).
Towards the end of the nineteenth century a number of restoration projects were undertaken by the architect John Lessels at Hampton Court Palace. Repairs were carried out on Anne Boleyn’s gateway and on the Tudor Astronomical Clock. To the west, Base Court was grassed over and the Great Gatehouse was restored.
The western entrance to the Palace was reformed and a new stone vault was designed for the soffit of the Gatehouse. The original wooden doors were found in the carpenter’s workshop and restored to their previous position.
The design for the soffit went through several drafts before the existing one was selected with the approval of Mr de Havilland of the College of Arms. It incorporates the Royal Arms and includes Queen Victoria’s cypher as well as many references to Cardinal Wolsey.
Thomas Wolsey’s rise to prominence began when he was appointed royal chaplain by Henry VII. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 he continued his father’s favour towards Wolsey, naming him Royal Almoner, which gave him a seat on the Privy Council. Soon he was also made a Canon of Windsor, then Registrar of the Order of the Garter.
Henry VIII had little of his father’s interest or talent for administration, but he was quick to recognize Wolsey’s abilities and gave the churchman an increasing number of administrative tasks. While this in itself may have been enough to earn him the enmity of the nobility, fuel was added to the fire when Henry began entrusting Wolsey with political power, both domestically and in international affairs.
Wolsey used his increasing wealth to indulge his love of pomp and lavish living; he maintained a huge household, and lived with a great show of expense. He built a superb palace beside the Thames beyond Richmond, called Hampton Court (later Hampton Court Palace). However, his extravagant lifestyle and displays of wealth and power contributed to his growing unpopularity.
In 1514 Wolsey was created Archbishop of York and in the following year the Pope made him a Cardinal. Honours continued to accrue, for at the end of that year Henry made him Lord Chancellor of England.
The King desperately wanted a son and argued that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, with whom he had a daughter, was not lawful. He asked Wolsey to use his influence in Rome to get a papal annulment of Henry’s marriage so that he could re-marry.
Wolsey was unable to accomplish this, partly because Catherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, dominated the Pope at the time. Wolsey was widely disliked, particularly among those around Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s prospective new bride. With Wolsey’s failure to arrange an annulment for Henry, his downfall quickly followed. He was forced to surrender the Great Seal of England, and more painfully perhaps, to cede his possessions, including Hampton Court, to Henry.
Although in disgrace, he was allowed to retain his living as Archbishop of York. However, when news reached the King that the Pope had categorically forbidden Henry’s remarriage Wolsey was charged with treason and on the slow journey south from York to stand trial he died at Leicester Abbey on 29th November 1530.
copyright Sam Styles
The vault was carved in Bath Stone (Corsham) and was finished in early 1882.
The soffit has the Royal Arms in the centre and twelve bosses in a circle around them. Working clockwise from the 12 o’clock position they are as follows:
a) A Cardinal’s Hat;
b) The monogram TC;
c) A mitre;
d) The Tudor Rose;
e) The cypher VR;
f) The Tudor Crown;
g) A Cardinal’s Hat;
h) The monogram TC;
i) The Archbishop of York’s Pallium & Processional Cross;
j) The Tudor Rose
k) The cypher VR;
l) The Tudor Crown.
a) Central Boss
The Central Boss features the Royal Arms that were adopted by Queen Victoria and that have been used by all Sovereigns since 1837. The official blazon of the Royal Arms is:
Quarterly, first and fourth Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure (for England), second quarter Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland), third quarter Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland), the whole surrounded by the Garter.
This translates as – England represented by three golden lions on a red field and this occupies the first and fourth quarters. Scotland is represented by a red lion in a yellow field in the second and Ireland, represented by the harp, occupies the third quarter. The Arms are surrounded by the Garter.
The Garter is a buckled dark-blue velvet strap, and bears the motto in gold letters. The colour of the riband has varied over the years, the Stuarts having a light blue, the Hanoverians a dark blue. The colour was last altered in 1950 to kingfisher blue.
b) A Cardinal’s Hat
A Cardinal’s hat features at the half-past-twelve and half-past-six positions.
The hat, which is called a galero was granted in red to cardinals by Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyon in 1245, and was adopted by heraldry almost immediately. The heraldic galero is ornamented with tassels (also called houppes or fiocchi) indicating the cleric’s place in the hierarchy. Under Pope Pius VI (1775-99) it became the custom to set fifteen tassels in five rows (1:2:3:4:5).
c) The Monogram TC
The initials “TC” can be seen at the half-past-one and the half-past-seven positions. They stand for Thomas Cardinalis and refer to Thomas Wolsey’s position as Cardinal, Archbishop of York. Many of the manuscripts and books that made their way into the Royal Collection after Wolsey’s death displayed the monogram TC, which has been identified as meaning “Thomas Cardinalis” by James Carley.1
d) A Mitre
An ecclesiastical mitre can be found at the half-past-two position.
The Mitre is a folding cap of two halves worn by bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church. They are divided into three types (1) ‘mitra pretiosa’ formed of silver laminae gilt, and adorned with precious stones and clusters of pearls; (2) ‘mitra auriferata’ of cloth of gold or white silk embroidered with gold and silver thread, and (3)‘mitra simplex’ of white silk, damask or linen. Two infulae, or ribbons (also termed labels or lappets) and fringed at the ends are attached to the rim at the back part of the mitre and hang down on either side.
Heraldically there is no distinction between the episcopal and the archiepiscopal mitre, and that of the period is gold, jewelled Azure and Gules. The lining and infulae are both pink. The last tasselled gold.
e) The Tudor Rose
A Tudor Rose can be found at the half-past-three and the half-past-nine positions.
The Tudor Rose is the traditional floral heraldic emblem of England. The red rose borne by the supporters of the House of Lancaster and the white rose by those of the House of York were united into the Tudor Rose by Henry VII.
f) Queen Victoria’s Cypher
Queen Victoria’s cypher “V.R.” (for Victoria Regina) can be found at the half-past-four and half-past-ten positions.
g) Tudor Crown
The Tudor, or Imperial Crown can be seen at the half-past-five and half-past-eleven position.
It should be noted that whilst the cap of the real crown is of purple velvet, the cap of the heraldic crown is always represented as of crimson. The use of crimson can be seen in several drawings in Prince Arthur’s Book, an early sixteenth century manuscript in the College of Arms (see below).
NB two Tudor crowns with crimson cap. The colour of the cap is clearly different to the Gules (red) employed on the impaled arms of King Henry and Queen Jane.
h) Wolsey’s Pallium & Processional Cross
A pallium and archiepiscopal staff are represented at the half-past-eight position.
It is thought that this may represent the See of York ‘Ancient’ (pastoral cross with a pallium on a blue background). This first appeared in 1396 and fell out of use by the sixteenth century, being replaced with the See of York ‘Modern’ (keys of St. Peter with a crown) when Cardinal Wolsey was Archbishop in 1520.
The arms of the see were originally:
But subsequently another coat was used:
This boss depicts the pallium that Pope Gregory gave to Augustine in 587AD as a vestment of authority. The pallium was a mantle made of a circular strip of white lamb’s wool about two inches wide and placed over the shoulders. Two vertical bands, extending from the circular strip in the front and back, gave the pallium a Y-shaped appearance.
The pallium probably developed from the ancient Greek himation, called pallium by the Romans, an outer garment formed from a rectangular piece of cloth draped around the body as a mantle or folded and carried over the shoulder when not needed for warmth. Gradually the pallium became narrower and resembled a long scarf.
In heraldry, the azure background (not included on the boss) represents the vestment (the chasuble) to which the pallium was pinned and the four crosses paty fitchy represent the pins once used to affix it to the garment. Behind the pallium is the Archiepiscopal staff. The gold cross is seen at the top, and the bottom of the staff shows just beneath the fringe of the pallium. Arms with the pallium first appeared in this form on those of Archbishop Simon Islip 1349-1366.
It is also possible – bearing in mind that the See of York ‘Modern’ was used by Wolsey – that this boss refers to the Arms of the Archdiocese of Canterbury and could be understood to represent Wolsey’s earlier appointment as chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Deane.
The Arms of the Archdiocese of Canterbury are blazoned:
Archiepiscopal and Papal Cross
“It is not easy to determine with certainty at what period the archiepiscopal cross came into separate use. It was probably at first only an ordinary processional cross. In the tenth “Ordo Romanus” we read of a subdeacon who is set aside to carry the crux papalis. If this specially papal cross had been in existence for some time it is likely that it was imitated by patriarchs and metropolitans as a mark of dignity which went with the pallium. In the twelfth century the archbishop’s cross was generally recognized, and in the dispute regarding the primacy between the Archbishops of Canterbury and York the right to carry their cross before them played a prominent part. In 1125 Pope Honorius II admonished the Southern bishops of England that they should allow Archbishop Thurstan of York crucem ante se deferre juxta antiquam consuetudiem. In all ecclesiastical functions an archbishop in his own province has a right to be preceded by his cross-bearer with cross displayed. Hence an archbishop when solemnly giving his blessing gives it with head uncovered out of reverence for the cross which is held before him. An ordinary bishop, who is not privileged to have such a cross, blesses the people with his mitre on. As regards form, both the papal and the archiepiscopal cross consists in practice of a simple crucifix mounted upon a staff, the material being silver or silver gilt. The crosses with double and triple bars, which are sometimes termed distinctively archiepiscopal, patriarchal, or papal crosses, have for the most part only a heraldic existence. An archiepiscopal cross is borne with the figure turned towards the archbishop.”3
A better image can be seen HERE
1 James P. Carley, (ed.). The Libraries of King Henry VIII. British Library. 2000.
2 J.G. Storry. Church & Heraldry. The Nettlebed Press. 1983.
3 William Wood Seymour. History of the Cross. Kessinger Publishing. 2003.
Robert Noel, Lancaster Herald
Over the years I have carried out a lot of other work at Hampton Court – see also:
a) The Tudor Garden;
b) The Tijou Screen.;
c) The King’s Staircase;
d) The Queen’s Staircase;
e) Fountain Court;
f) The Cumberland Art Gallery, and
g) Numerous other smaller projects.
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