Tudor Times at Old Warden Church



If you followed the launch of ‘In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’ back in March, you will be aware of the story of the set of oak panels, adorning the interior of Old Warden Church, which folklore said belonged to ‘Anne of Cleves’ chapel in Bruges’. As part of my research on Anne of Cleves, I could not help but delve deeper into the enigma surrounding them.


Anne of Cleves’ Panels of St Leonard’s Church, Old Warden

There was considerable media interest in our adventure in time, concluding as we did that all the physical, visual and circumstantial evidence placed the panels as being contemporaneous to Anne’s life. Renowned architectural historian, Jonathan Foyle, stated that the collection was a ‘nationally important historic collection’ and a ‘vanishingly rare’ example of a royal interior associated with a period in the 1550s known as counter-reformation classicism’. For more on the story, click here.

However, I can reveal here for the first time that this is not quite the whole story! A new piece of evidence has come to light in the last two weeks that allows us beyond any question to place them as sixteenth century royal relics. This last piece of the jigsaw will be made public on 3rd July, when the parish council of Old Warden church is holding a charity day to raise funds. It is a Tudor themed afternoon; Jonathan Foyle and I will be speaking about Anne of Cleves, her life, the places she called home, Tudor relics and, of course, the story of the panels. To entertain, there will be ladies in Tudor costume, music and hopefully some Tudor nibbles to taste. The full programme can be viewed by clicking the link below:

Programme Tudor Times

The event will be held on Sunday 3rd July from 2pm. Tickets for adults are £5; children are free. There is no need to book in advance, just turn up on the day. I hope to see some of you there in person. Please spread the word and come and be among the first to hear our announcement.

Adieu for now!


‘In The Footsteps of the Six Wives’ is now available…


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What a day yesterday was! The news of the Anne of Cleves heraldic panels seems to have spread far and wide across the social media network. It is so important that these panels take their place as rare and treasured Tudor artefacts; it will help protect them and ensure funds are available for their preservation. The grand, royal manor house they once decorated may well be long gone, but these survivors have made it through the centuries and we have another chance to preserve a piece of history.



One of three designs of the Anne of Cleves Heraldic Panels (copyright Dr Sarah Morris)

I am aware though that the article in The Independent does not tell the full and remarkable story of how we came to identify these artefacts as sixteenth century originals. The whole tale – with some unbelievable twists and turns – is recounted in the book. The good news is that we have just found out that it has now become available on The Book Depository (with a 23% discount on the price), so you don’t have to wait any longer to read it. Our last In the Footsteps book, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, sold out in  two weeks. So, if you want to be amongst the first to get your hands on a copy, I wouldn’t wait around.

In the meantime, I will be sharing a little more of the story in the forthcoming book launch blog tour, which starts on 15th March at Queen Anne Boleyn.com and lasts for 8 days. More information on what Nat and I will be covering will follow.

Thanks for all your support and words of good wishes yesterday.



Press Coverage 5th March- Update



Good morning, everybody! Yesterday, I got off the phone to another journalist. He is also going to be covering the story of the artefact(s) that I mentioned the other day, this time writing for The Independent. The article will be published on Saturday 5th March, and this time will focus not only on the artefact but on where we, ‘the team’, feel they were most likely ‘installed’. I can’t say anymore at the moment but do keep a look out. For those who can’t pick get hold of The Independent or the FT (Interiors), I will try and post coverage online if I can.


To pre-order your copy of the new book, In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, where the full story is told, you can follow this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Footsteps-Six-Wives-Henry-VIII/dp/1445642913/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456989222&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+footsteps+of+the+six+wives+of+henry+viii

A New Tudor Artefact to be Revealed


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Perhaps once in a lifetime – if you are lucky – you have the chance to say you were part of discovering a new Tudor artefact. But that is exactly what has happened during the course of researching ‘In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’, (due to be published by Amberley Publishing on 15th March in the UK, and on the 10th May in the US). You can, of course, read about the whole story in the book, but I wanted to give you all a heads up that the discovery will be revealed this coming Saturday 5th March, when it is being covered in at least one major newspapers here in the UK.

Part of the team that we assembled to look into the true provenance of the artefact included architectural historian, Jonathan Foyle. He has writen an article that will be in the FT (Interiors). Do look out for it!


Jonathan Foyle

   We are really excited to be able to finally reveal the story, which was one of incredible synchroncity – and those synchronicities you will be able to read about in our forthcoming blog tour, which starts on 15th March. More details on that will follow very shortly. I look forward to hearing all your feedback.



The Countdown Begins…

It is just over a month to go until In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII is published. The reason for my silence is that Natalie and I have been deep in reading the proofs for the book with, as ever, a tight deadline for getting them returned to the publisher. It certainly is uplifting to see all the elements of the book in one place for the first time. Things start to become very real after so many months of being cosseted away…and a little bit of nervous excitement creeps in as you realise people will soon be reading it – and having an opinion!



Buckden Towers, Cambridgeshire. Site of exile for Katherine of Aragon, and one of the locations covered in the new book.

   Anyway, it’s all part of the fun of creation. As before, we have had maps commissioned to show the geography of the locations. This time round though, we have also included illustrative timelines recording the key events related to Henry’s Principal Royal Residences and his respective wives. We are certainly excited to share with you many more, new locations this time around, with a veritable cornucopia of images, floor plans and maps of the different properties; a seventeenth century plan and elevation of Rye House, where Katherine Parr lived as a child; a detailed street plan of Tudor Calais and The Exchequer, where both Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves lodged during their visits to the town; and a reconstruction of the Archbishop’s Palace at Alcala de Henares, where Katherine of Aragon was born, are among the many treasures waiting to be enjoyed.



The Chertsey Cartulary: This shows Chertsey Abbey and its environs during the Middle Ages. It is one of four newly researched locations related to Anne Boleyn that we are including in the forthcoming book.

Furthermore, we have a very special story to share with you. We will be revealing a new artefact associated with one of Henry’s wives. As a result of the research undertaken for this book, for the first time we can definitively place the artefact as being contemporary to the sixteenth century and the lady in question. Exciting times, don’t you think? A virtual blog tour is currently in the making, timed to coincide with the book’s UK release on 15th March (USA release date. 19th May). More details on this will follow shortly.



The book can be pre-ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Footsteps-Six-Wives-Henry-VIII/dp/1445642913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453887009&sr=1-1&keywords=in+the+footsteps+of+the+six+wives+of+henry+viii


New Year, New Ways, New Book!

So with this new venture underway, I have been thinking about how to best make use of ‘This Sceptred Isle’. Historically, I have always seen blogs as a place where ‘articles’ are posted. With time at a premium, that was one of the upsides to FB; a quick way and effective way to keep in touch. However, I have such a love for historic sites and English culture that I’d also like to write something a little more substantial from time to time, so I can share that love with you all. As a result, I have decided on a hybrid. Some of my posts will be more ‘Facebook like’ in there informal chattiness. Other times I will be writing those articles about historic houses and my travels around historic England. I hope you enjoy the blend.

In the meantime, now Christmas is behind us, I have thinking about the release of the new book. Natalie and I will writing articles, sharing snippets from our adventures and discoveries both before and after its launch (which is currently planned for around March / April). So I wanted to ask you, which web sites and / or magazines do you turn to for all your Tudor news. I’d like to know what’s hot right now!



Me in London’s Guidhall, 2014.

(NB: This post is automatically posted in FB/ Twitter. Please reply directly on the blog if possible as both these sites are no longer reviewed.)


I posted on Facebook today that I would no longer be using the site, or indeed other shared social media portals. Instead, my aim is to cultivate my website and blog as an alternative way of keeping connected with you all. I think the good news is that for those of you who like to be on FB, posts from this blog will automatically be posted to both there and onto Twitter (which I had forgotten was possible)! This I hope will bring us all to a win-win situation.

I feel reinvigourated by the idea of creating a cornucopia of historical treasures here over the coming year; news about the forthcoming book, In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, as well as articles about historic houses I visit, or historic walks I go on with my faithful four-legged friend, Milly. With the book launch in the Spring, there will no doubt be much to talk about. I hope you will all sign up to keep in contact. I always enjoy reading your comments and hearing what historic adventures you are planning. Much love, Sarah


Inside the Tudor Court, by Lauren Mackay – Book Review


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Tudor Court JACKET.indd

Inside the Tudor Court is the debut publication by Australian author and historian, Lauren Mackay. It recounts the story of Henry VIII and his six wives through the writings of the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys.

For many, Chapuys symbolises the perennial thorn in Anne Boleyn’s side, working constantly to undermine her position as queen by doggedly refusing to acknowledge her as Henry’s lawful wife. He has been linked with the conspiracy which brought about Anne’s downfall, and in his dispatches, at times seems almost gleeful at the prospect of her bloody end. As a lifelong servant of Anne Boleyn, and the memory of her innocence, Chapuys has never been top of the list of my dinner guests! However, like many of the characters at Henry’s court, sound bites extracted from surviving papers, repeated over the centuries like Chinese whispers, has left us with a biased and often monochrome image of a man, who Lauren argues, deserves to be seen in a more discerning and holistic light. Believing that we surely all deserve such grace, I was looking forward to getting behind the veneer of most controversial of characters.

EustaceChapuysEustace Chapuys

Indeed, it is this aspect of the book that I enjoyed most; encountering Eustace Chapuys anew, the man, the friend, the schemer, the ambassador, the reluctant participant of Henry’s court. In this, I think the book is a triumph. Alongside the well known and often dramatic machinations of the Henrician court, we are introduced to such things as Eustace’s personal taste in conversation, his lodgings in the city and his endeavours to leave behind a legacy in his native homeland. Gradually, I found myself drawn into the colourful, multi-dimensional character that emerges. I began to empathise with the ambassador’s almost constant desire to be released from his embassy and the king, who Chapuys clearly came to view with considerable distain, if not disgust. I was intrigued by the unexpected respect and intimacy shared with Cromwell – on the face of it, oftentimes his natural adversary; touched by his constant devotion to the Lady Mary, and amused by his desperation to cultivate a successor so that he might leave behind England’s shores forever.

The prose is easy to read. As I know Lauren personally, I also recognised her personal style in the author’s reflective moments of ironic wit and cynicism – something of which I am sure Chapuys would have enjoyed and appreciated. I also particularly liked her determination to call Chapuys, ‘Chapuys’ when discussing the man in his professional context, but ‘Eustace’ in those passage referring to his personal affairs. It seemed somehow respectful and an inspired choice.

Perhaps what I was left wondering at the very end was: ‘What do we know of Chauys’ reaction to the succession of Mary Tudor to the English throne?’ What is clear from the book is just how close the relationship between the two became during Chapuys’ fifteen years at the English court. In so many ways, he was one of the very few people Mary could absolutely trust. It is evident that he became like a father figure to her. Chapuys died in 1556, three years after Mary inherited the throne. Yet this event is only mentioned in passing on the final page. I am assuming that no correspondence remains but confirmation of that in the text would have been of interest and somehow comforting, completing the picture.

Overall, I found that the nature of the account, with Chapuys as the key protagonist, means that fragmented shards of information that we so often have to make do with, are finally brought together in one coherent narrative; Chapuys, that infuriating, patient, resilient, mercenary, educated, ruthless and caring individual emerges afresh in a mirror as a whole, a person we might not naturally all want to be bedfellows with, but certainly someone whose resilience, intelligence and loyalty we can admire.

A hugely enjoyable and very satisfying read. Well done, Lauren!

Lauren-MackayLauren Mackay

Inside the Tudor Court was published by Amberley Publishing on 11th February, 2014. You can purchase your copy via the Book Depository, which gives free worldwide delivery on all orders, on Amazon UK, or Amazon US.



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Today, I am delighted to be posting an extract from Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen by Amy Licence. This is day seven of Amy’s virtual book tour, which has been running throughout this week. As many of you already know, I have a particular interest in the places associated with key historical figures and so I am posting this, an extract from the chapter, Castle Life, 1456-1458, which touches upon Anne’s time, firstly at Warwick Castle, and then at Calais. Of course, there is huge recent interest in Richard himself, but the story of his wife is perhaps as equally fascinating. In this book, Amy brings some flesh and blood to Anne’s story in her own wonderfully accessible style. For a chance to win a free copy of the book, just leave a comment and I will ask Amy to select a winner on Monday.

I visited Warwick for the first time in about 25 years just recently, and came away with mixed feelings about how the castle is currently being presented to the public. However, the town of Warwick retains a number of historic gems that are well worth exploring. I will be posting about my visit there over the next couple of days. But for now, let’s go back to a time when Warwick was dominated by The Kingmaker, it castle symbolic of the Neville family’s power and status…


Warwickcastle_WestsideWarwick Castle


‘As the spring of 1457 approached, Anne was released from her swaddling bands and encouraged to take her first steps in the safety of her chambers. An illustration from a 1440 book of hours completed for Catherine of Cleves, showing the Holy family at work, places a toddling Jesus in an early walking frame. Made from twelve pieces of wood, in the form of an open box or cube, it is narrower at the top than the bottom where four large wheels help the child move, while giving some protection in an environment where carpentry and weaving is being done. Anne may have learned to walk inside a similar frame or else been guided by her nurse. Her world would have encompassed little more than the great chamber, the solar and the family’s private living quarters, usually on the first floor above the Great Hall where servants and other castle employees were fed and slept. The medieval manor house of Stokesay Castle in Shropshire has a well preserved solar of this type, reached by an interior wooden staircase. Warwick Castle had been extended during the late fourteenth century and the domestic buildings date from then, hung with tapestries and warmed by large fireplaces. A bed, recorded among the castle descriptions of 1400, was made of red damask embroidered with ostrich feathers, with a coverlet and dressings, three curtains of red tartarine, eighteen matching tapestries and six red damask cushions. When improvements were made in the 1420s to these rooms, plaster of Paris was used to enhance the whiteness of newly built walls. As the daughters of an earl, who had access to the rich diversity of London’s international trade, the girls would have been surrounded by the best-quality furnishings and fashions of the day.

Anne wouldn’t have remembered her early months at Warwick. In any case, the family were about to relocate and the world she knew would be left behind. Before her first birthday, her father was appointed to the prestigious position of Captain of Calais, an important strategic territory which had been in English possession since shortly after Edward III’s victory against the French at the Battle of Crécy in 1346. The eleven month siege, described by the chronicler Froissart, had resulted in the famous capitulation of the burghers of Calais and the town’s transference into English hands. Froissart records that one of the first ‘conquerors’ of the town was the then Earl of Warwick, so Anne’s father’s position had historical precedence, although he would not have been wise to emulate the previous earl’s record. In 1347, the first English rulers of Calais were commanded to expel the town’s men: ‘Take here the kayes [keys] of the towne and castell of Calys … putte in prison all the knyhts that be there and all other soudyours [soldiers] that came there symply to wynne their lyveng, cause them to avoyde the towne and all other men, women and children, for I [Edward III] would re-people agayne the towne with pure Englysshemen.’8 Such national cleansing was common in conquered territory but hardly made for an auspicious start, helping to exacerbate the conflicts which followed. Calais was still a much-desired territory, coveted by the French and Burgundians on either side, creating an uneasy tension for the English inhabitants, which Anne and her family now became. Packing up the household, they waited for weather conditions to be favourable before embarking on one of Warwick’s own ships across the Channel. Perhaps the six-year-old Isabel was old enough to be excited at her first glimpse of her new home, the walled medieval city with its imposing churches, towers and castle.


27. View of CalaisView of Medieval Calais

   This ‘brightest jewel in England’s crown’ covered an area of about 20 square miles, including the fortified town and surrounding marshland, with the defensive castles of Guines and Hammes. Although Calais lies only 20 miles from England as the crow flies, the Channel crossing could represent considerable difficulties for a fleet of wooden vessels in bad weather. This meant that, although it was technically English territory, the geographical distance represented a real political limbo and sanctuary for its inhabitants, which Warwick would exploit. By 1400, as many as 12,000 people lived within the city walls, while one map of 1477 shows the ‘pale’ extending north to include Ghent and Bruges and south beyond Arras and encompassing those residents too. Placed between the warring King of France Louis XI and Phillip III, Duke of Burgundy, it allowed England to maintain a European gateway for the staple trades of wool, tin, lead and cloth as well as relationships with both countries, neither of whom wished to see the area fall into enemy hands.

Calais itself was an impressive city. The manuscript illustrations from Jean de Waurin’s Chroniques d’Angleterre make a feature of the town’s high, smooth defensive walls and pointed turrets which the Warwicks would have glimpsed as their ship approached. A later map, drawn in the reign of Henry VIII, shows the walled town in some detail with its castle, church and marketplace, while the Cowdray engravings of 1545 give a vivid flavour of the port, forts and buildings. The crenelated town walls with their many towers are passable through an impressive gateway, giving out into the closely packed streets where a significant number of smooth and crowstepped gable roofs are visible. In the picture, the thirteenthcentury Calais Castle is also drawn, outside the walls, a solid, square structure clearly built for defence with a tower in each corner. Its windows are tiny and high, along with a number of the traditional arrow slits. Although the castle no longer stands, replaced by the sixteenth-century citadel, the comparable Castle Olhain north of Arras may give an impression of its appearance, with squat, round towers and drawbridge. Fort Risban, standing at the entrance to the harbour, was a reminder of the Crécy siege that could scarcely have been forgotten; then the fort had been a wooden structure; by Anne’s day it was walled and mounted with cannon. Much of medieval Calais was destroyed in the conflicts of the twentieth century, but a description of the visiting Paul Hentzner in 1598 lists the still extant St Mary’s church, or Église Notre-Dame, with its early fifteenth-century tower. The twelfth-century Watch Tower is another rare survivor, despite being split into two by an earth tremor in 1580!’


5327822Amy Licence

Thanks to Amy for dropping by today, and for Amberley Publishing for permission to reprint an extract of the book. You can purchase Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen from Amazon here. If you want to catch up with more of Amy’s book tour, visit the Amberley Facebook page here.

Synopsis of the book from Amazon:

Shakespeare’s enduring image of Richard III’s queen is one of bitterness and sorrow. Anne curses the killer of her husband and father, before succumbing to his marriage proposal, bringing to herself a terrible legacy of grief and suffering an untimely death. Was Anne a passive victim? Did she really jump into bed with the enemy? Myths aside, who was the real Anne? As the Kingmaker’s daughter, she played a key role in his schemes for the throne. Brought up in the expectation of a glorious marriage, she was not the passive manipulated pawn of romantic legend; in fact, she was a pragmatist and a survivor, whose courage and endurance were repeatedly pushed to the limit. Her first marriage, to the young Lancastrian, Prince Edward, should have brought her riches and a throne, but when she returned to England to claim her right, she found herself fatherless and widowed. Her second marriage, to her childhood friend Richard of Gloucester, proved to be a successful and peaceful union. Then, in the spring of 1483, everything changed. Anne found herself catapulted into the public eye and sitting on the throne beside Richard. The circumstances of their reign put an unprecedented pressure on their marriage; amid rumours of affairs and divorce, Anne died mysteriously, during an eclipse of the sun, just weeks before Richard’s death on the battlefield. This fascinating and elusive woman is shrouded in controversy and unanswered questions. Amy Licence reassesses the long-standing myths about Anne’s role, her health and her marriages, to present a new view of the Kingmaker’s daughter.

Publishing Details:

  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Amberley Publishing (23 April 2013)
  • Language: English


Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay; In Search of Eustace Chapuys


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   I am delighted to be hosting the very first guest post to this blog, particularly since this post is the final stop on the Inside the Tudor Court book tour. Inside the Tudor Court is the début book by Australian historian, Lauren Mackay, and I shall be reviewing it more fully in due course. However, suffice to say for now that it is fascinating and eye-opening account of the man who somewhat reluctantly found himself at the centre of one of the most dramatic periods in English history; that man is Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador to the English Court between 1529 – 1545. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book….

    Since this blog is all about historic travels, I asked Lauren to take us on a journey, to seek out the origins of Chapuys, so that if you wish, you to can get up close and personal with this most wily of characters. So, it’s over to Lauren to tell us more.


   The story of Chapuys the man begins in his hometown of Annecy. The town boasts a population of 500,00 and is the capital of the department of Haute Savoie. In Chapuys’ time, the region formed the western half of the duchy of Savoy, which straddled the Alps between France and the Piedmont region in North West Italy. Annecy at the heat of one of the most sought after regions, from the 10th century onwards.


15.Annecy: The Venice of France

  Annecy is a lovely and yet formidable town. Known as the Venice of France, the town is divided by a canal, winding down from the turquoise waterers of Lake Annecy. The lake is considered to be the jewel of the Savoy Alps, and the canal carries these waters right through the centre. In the middle of the canal stands the Palais de Isle, a 12th century fortress, shaped like a stone galley with a gable structure and towers, anchored in the canal. The building was once the administrative centre of the Council of Geneva, and was also a court, mint house and prison. Today it houses a museum, and at night, the warm lights from the windows light up the entire canal, and can be seen throughout the town. Overlooking the town, perched at the top of a steep, stone hill, is the Musee Chateau de Annecy, where some of Chapuys’ portraits reside. Annecy was untouched by both world wars, and remains much as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries. Tracing the line of the canal away from Lake Annecy, you come across the Town Hall Eustace Chapuys and his family frequented. The family owned several properties in what we would now call salubrious neighbourhoods —residences which still stand. We can trace Chapuys and his family clearly, walking through the dark cobblestone streets, framed by Tuscan yellow buildings, their balconies spilling out over the path. Walking past the Palais de Isle, towards the main street that sweeps around the lake, known as Quai Eustache Chappuis, you come across a simple, unadorned stone church, where the family attended Mass. The building has not changed; these were the steps Eustace knew. He may have spent over 15 years in England, but one gains a glimpse of Chapuys, in Annecy, more than anywhere else. Beyond Henry, Charles V, and Katherine of Aragon, in Annecy you begin to understand the man beyond the ambassador.


13The medieval town that Chapuys knew remains largely intact


A Game of Politics

The search for Chapuys the man begins in the charming old city of Annecy at the foot of the Alps in south-eastern France, near the border with Switzerland, about 40 kilometres south of Geneva. It was here in the late fifteenth century that Eustace Chapuys (sometimes spelt Chapuis or Chappuis) was born to Louis and Guigone Chapuys (maiden name Dupuys). The family name has, in the past, been recorded as a French word for carpenter, but there is no evidence that charpentier, French for carpenter, can be linked to it.

The exact year of his birth is uncertain, as we lack the equivalent of a birth certificate. It was 1499, according to a copy of the Latin numerals inscribed on his tomb in the chapel of the Collège de Savoie. Chapuys founded the college in 1551 in his retirement at Leuven (Louvain), Belgium, where he died and was buried in 1556. However, 1499 is clearly too late, as we know Chapuys entered university eight years later. Historian Garrett Mattingly suggests that the stone cutter, or whoever copied the inscription before the tomb and chapel were demolished in 1807, inadvertently included one ‘X’ too many, therefore the birth date should have been 1489. This makes Chapuys a more plausible eighteen years old on entering university. Another just plausible date in the literature on Chapuys is 1491–92, making him a precocious fifteen-year-old on commencing university; unfortunately the day and month of his birth are unknown.


36-37-lac-annecyLake Annecy today

   Annecy, with a population of about 50,000, is the capital of the department of Haute-Savoie, which abuts the department of Savoie. In Chapuys’ time the two regions formed the western half of the Duchy of Savoy, which straddled the Alps between France and the Piedmont region in north-west Italy. The duchy’s capital was first Chambéry and later Turin in Piedmont. Because of its strategic location and rich agricultural potential, the region has inevitably been involved in a tug of war between kingdoms, principalities and city states. From the tenth century, Annecy became the property of the counts of Geneva, and from 1401 of the counts and later the dukes of Savoy. The town gained importance during the Reformation when Geneva expelled its bishop in 1533, and he fled to Annecy. It was also in Annecy in 1728 that sixteen-year-old Catholic convert Jean-Jacques Rousseau arrived, in flight from his engraver’s apprenticeship in Geneva. There he met his benefactress and subsequent lover, Baronne de Warens, also a Catholic convert; she and the philosopher later cohabited in Chambéry.

Savoy was incorporated into France in 1792, and then fell in turn under Sicilian, Sardinian, Spanish and Austrian rule. In 1860, the King of Sardinia asked France for military aid against Austria, in return offering Savoy and Nice to Napoleon III. Lured by the prospect of peace and firm government, the Savoyards voted overwhelmingly that year for reunification with France under the Treaty of Turin. This was a prelude to the Italian Risorgimento; the last Duke of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel II, became king of the newly unified Italy.

Annecy today is a popular winter gateway to the ski resorts of the French Alps. In the abundant sunshine of summer, tents and caravans dot the idyllic countryside, and pleasure craft and swimmers enjoy the clear turquoise waters of Lake Annecy, on whose north-western edge the town lies. Looming over all of this is the mountain range known as the Dents de Lanfon (Teeth of Lanfon), whose jagged peaks remain snow-capped in summer.


chateau-d-annecy-annecy-1319716292Château d’Annecy

   For visitors uninterested in skiing or aquatic sports, Annecy offers a picture-postcard medieval centre dominated by the extensive hilltop walls of a late medieval castle, Château d’Annecy. It was occupied by the counts of Geneva from 1219 and later by the dukes of Genevois-Nemours. It now houses Annecy’s main museum, La Musée-château d’Annecy. The River Thiou, which feeds waters from Lake Annecy to the River Fier, a tributary of the Rhone, winds through an extensive cobblestone pedestrian precinct; its stonewalled embankment gives it the appearance of a canal, and tourist brochures characterise Annecy as ‘the Venice of France’. At one point the river is divided by a twelfth-century stone fortress, the Palais de l’Île, shaped rather like a stone galley, with a gabled superstructure and towers, and anchored in the river. The building was once the administrative centre of the counts of Geneva, and later served as a courthouse, mint and prison; today it houses a small history museum.

Warmer weather attracts throngs of tourists to old Annecy’s narrow lanes and river embankment. There they visit the Gothic and Baroque churches, and enjoy the fashionable cafés, bars and boutiques that now occupy the leaning medieval stone buildings. The city’s remoteness from destructive wars, and its generations of history-conscious city fathers, have ensured that the old town that Chapuys knew has survived largely intact; in fact today’s tourists are walking in Chapuys’ footsteps.

Annecy has not forgotten this humanist, intellectual and esteemed Imperial ambassador to the Tudor court. The wide and busy main street, Quai Eustache Chapuis, sweeps around a large park on the lake. Nearby is the Rue du Collège Chappuisien, where the college he founded for underprivileged boys in his retirement in 1549 once stood. In 1888 it was converted into a high school, the Lycée Berthollet, and relocated to its current site; the original college building eventually became a military barracks and was demolished in the 1930s.


EustaceChapuysEustace Chapuys

   Appropriately, Annecy houses the only known portraits of Eustace Chapuys. The four paintings, none of them on public display, were produced after Chapuys’ death, but are possibly copies of contemporary portraits. They are welcome replacements for the grainy, black-and-white image – head and shoulders cropped from one of the paintings – that has long been used to represent Chapuys in the literature.

Two of the paintings, each titled Portrait d’Eustache Chappuis, are stored in the Annecy museum, La Musée-château d’Annecy. The three-quarter- length portrait is described in the museum catalogue only as seventeenth century, by an unknown artist. Typical of paintings of scholars and clerics of the time, a dignified-looking Chapuys in dark, bulky, possibly silk outer clothing sits in three-quarter profile with his left elbow on a table covered with a red cloth. He is looking rather blankly to his left beneath a tricorne hat, against a background of dark red drapes hanging in folds. Apart from his long face and prominent nose, our eyes are drawn to his slim hands and long, delicate fingers, a feature the artist clearly wished to emphasise. A second portrait, also undated and unattributed, may be related to the first, judging from the angle of the sitter’s head and the style of clothing and hat. The nose and mouth however are somewhat different, and the fingers on the right hand are exaggerated almost to the point of deformity. The small scroll in Chapuys’ left hand possibly indicates his tenure as the Imperial ambassador; it might also be connected with his founding of the colleges in Annecy and Louvain. The anonymous painter has depicted a curling page on the left with a Latin inscription and the date 1711, presumably when the work was completed. According to the museum catalogue, the painting once belonged to the collection of the Académie Florimontane, described as a learned society founded in 1606 and dedicated to the research (presumably historical) of the ancient states of Savoy. The Latin inscription on the curling page reads,

Pre nobilis, Et Spectabilis vir D’Eustachius Chapuis, V. D. Annesiensis, Laba Collogii Louvinny Ex gratia Sabaiseloy et huims fondator. Vis it s.b Obiit 21 Januarii 1556, Atatis 32 Sepicus.
Eustace Chapuys, of Annecy, aged thirty-two, a noble and remarkable man, who founded a college in Louvain, and died in January 1556.

   Above the page is Chapuys’ family coat of arms, consisting of two white or silver lions separated by a silver band on an azure field. Above this are the Imperial eagles of the Holy Roman Emperor, possibly signifying Chapuys’ fealty to Charles V, whom he served. A third portrait of Chapuys was used in a brochure for an exhibition organised by Annecy Municipal Archives in 2006, entitled Dans le Miroir D’Eustache Chapuys: Un diplomate annecien entre humanisme et Reformes. The Annecy Municipal Archives understands this portrait is stored in the museum but, when I visited, the museum was unsure of its whereabouts or provenance.

A fourth portrait, today housed in the Lycée Berthollet, is also by an anonymous artist and is simply dated to the seventeenth century. Here we have yet another different-looking Chapuys, not only in facial features but in the bright-red robes he is wearing. This portrait was found hidden in the attic of the local Hôpital de la Providence, which was demolished in 1971. To his left, just beyond the curtain, is the Collège Chappuisien, which presumably means this was painted for the college that Chapuys founded in Annecy.

We have no way of knowing how accurately any of these portraits represent Chapuys; we can only hope that one or more are reasonably true to originals painted during his lifetime. While we have various descriptions of him from observers – fretful, foppish, shrewd, manipulative, intelligent and highly strung, to name a few – somewhere in between lies the real Eustace Chapuys. I must state that throughout the book I alternate between his first and last name. To me it separates the man, Eustace, and the ambassador, Chapuys.

There were claims in the seventeenth century by one branch of the Chapuys family that they had old ties to nobility. It is more credible, however, that the family actually emerged from a community of farmers or artisans around Bonne, in the Faucigny region of western Switzerland. Judging from official records, their upward mobility in Annecy society was due entirely to their own efforts rather than to aristocratic connections. The first Chapuys recorded in Annecy is Eustace’s great-grandfather Pierre, a stonemason who worked on a tower on Annecy’s city wall in 1445. Documents show that it was his son, Anthoine, who took the family’s first step up Annecy’s social ladder. The family must have valued education, as Anthoine became a notary (notaire) in 1450 and was a thriving landowner. Anthoine successfully managed the family’s property portfolio by consolidating and increasing its holdings in Annecy, as well as in the newer districts being developed. The purchases of these properties and the deeds of title have survived in various archives. They give us a detailed insight into the real estate business dealings of the city’s fifteenth-century burghers, a surprisingly large number of whom were, like Anthoine, acting as notaries.

Anthoine married three times – all to women named Jeanne – and produced three sons: Pierre and Louis (Eustace’s father) from his first marriage, and Bernardin from his second. The date of Anthoine’s death is uncertain, but his name is missing from Annecy’s tax roll of 24 May 1478. He would have died confident in the knowledge that his talent for property acquisitions had secured the family’s financial and social position. One son, Bernardin, became a monk at the Abbey of Entremont in the Duchy of Savoy, and records indicate that the other sons, Pierre and Louis, were living at the time in the recently extended family home. Both were ambitious and career-minded, and became notaries like their father. Pierre was also a municipal official, while Louis was elected twice to the Syndicus, which represented Annecy at the Savoy court, and sat on the town council. His letterhead bore the coat of arms of the Count of Geneva – two blue lions on a white background – a privilege conferred only to a select few. The Chapuys family adopted an inverted version of this coat of arms, as seen in one of Eustace’s portraits. The town hall building that Louis frequented is today a presbytery of the church of Notre Dame de Liesse.

Louis and Guigone had three daughters – Bartholomée, Françoise and Louise – and three sons – Jean, Eustace and Philibert. Louis clearly had an aptitude for law, acquiring a law degree and various legal titles – a talent he passed to Eustace. Louis soon encountered problems.

One occurred in January 1487, when Imperial troops en route to Berne and Fribourg in Switzerland broke their journey in Annecy. In order to spare the populace the burden of housing them, members of Annecy Council elected to fund their billets from their own pockets. It would take Louis Chapuys some time to recover from this considerable expense. When Annecy received a charter to create a town market in 1492, Louis Chapuys was appointed the Market Overseer. Regrettably, there was general dissatisfaction with his administration and he lost the support of the shopkeepers. After an official from Lausanne met the merchants in the summer of 1492, Louis was forced to relinquish his position as Overseer. It was a humiliating affair, but surprisingly the townspeople of Annecy appear to have harboured no ill feeling towards Louis. He continued to make himself indispensable in the court of law, and his counsel was highly sought after. Despite his mismanagement as Market Overseer, he was appointed as the prime contractor, maître d’oeuvre, for the construction of a new road from Albigny to Pierre Mageriaz – a fortunate appointment, as Louis had a number of properties that would benefit from the road.

Although by all accounts a very charming person with great enthusiasm for civic projects, it seems that Louis could never quite focus on the task at hand. On 23 May 1488, a progress report found the project was a shambles: great stones lay on the roadside waiting to be laid, and there were few workers or carts about. Louis somehow avoided being severely reprimanded and the report merely noted: ‘ipsia visio non perfecte potuit fieri’ (the vision has not yet been perfectly realised). Although we have no accounts written by Louis himself, he was clearly charming and adept at extricating himself from messes of his own making. However, like his father, Louis was financially astute and continued to expand the family’s holdings, no doubt greatly assisted by his position on Annecy’s council. Pierre and Louis are recorded as owning a house in the medieval centre of Annecy in 1484, and on 23 April that year Louis purchased properties in the flourishing new district around Notre Dame de Liesse, then considered the ‘premier’ neighbourhood of Annecy.

This then was the social milieu into which Eustace was born: a provincial middle-class family, probably regarded as enterprising commoners by local nobility, but financially comfortable as long as their properties provided an income and could be mortgaged or sold to raise money. Garrett Mattingly, in his biography of Katherine of Aragon, describes the Chapuys family as ‘a clannish, unadventurous breed, sticking stubbornly to small gains, pushing their way by inches up the narrow social ladder of their little native town’. This seems a harsh judgement on a family whose only resources for improving their lot were their wits and careful preservation of their modest financial gains. To this, Ursula Schwarzkopf retorts that as a result of ‘the bourgeois persistence … to nag the council into allowing the family to increase its ownership and thereby its prestige … then the family’s fortunes grew as the vines in a vineyard’. This is hardly ‘pushing their way by inches up the narrow social ladder’.

As for the political and cultural milieu in which the future Imperial ambassador was raised and educated, this was of course that of late fifteenth- to early sixteenth-century Humanism and the Renaissance. The old political, religious and scholarly regimes were coming into question. Old feudal structures were beginning to weaken, city and ducal states were jockeying for power, and the Church of Rome was beginning to struggle to maintain its hold on European society. The shock of the Reformation was about to be unleashed. Scientific and scholarly inquiry were making advances, driven largely by secular men of letters. These men took advantage of Gutenberg’s new printing press to distribute and absorb the New Learning and meet demands for works (including religious texts) in vernacular languages rather than Latin. It was to such intellectual influences that the young Eustace was increasingly exposed.


Lauren-MackayHistorian, Lauren Mackay

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Inside the Tudor Court was published by Amberley Publishing on 11th February, 2014. You can purchase your copy via the Book Depository, which gives free worldwide delivery on all orders, on Amazon UK, or Amazon US.