Henry VIII was a significant figure in the history of the English monarchy. He was a larger than life figure infamous for the fact he had six wives. Henry has been portrayed many times on television and films. Ray Winston, Eric Bana and Charlton Heston have all played the part, but perhaps the most famous actor to portray him – at least for people of my age was Keith Michell. Who can forget his towering portrayal of Henry VIII in the TV drama series made in 1970 and also on film the following year albeit with a different set of wives.
Henry’s costume is both massive and very ornate which perfectly suits his over the top personality.
He would wear a fine shirt of white cotton lawn first – this shirt has a small collar trimmed with gold and fastens at the front by a gold cord with jewelled drops.
Over the shirt he wears a gold brocade doublet – It has been ‘slashed’ – that is to say cut to show the white silk fabric underneath this was a very popular form of decoration during the Tudor period. The panes or panels of fabric are joined decoratively by gold buttons set with ruby stones. The doublet and sleeves are fastened together by ties at the shoulder and padded to add shape. Gold trim, gold metallic ribbon and pearls complete this very regal garment.The doublets were usually slit in front to show off the codpiece. This codpiece has been made from gold damask. It has been stuffed with wadding and elaborately decorated with gold trim.
Over the doublet Henry’s servants would fasten his jerkin. This jerkin has been cut in gold and black brocade woven with a gold metallic thread. The body of the jerkin is cut with the typical ’U’ shaped front seen in many portraits of the King and has been lined with canvas for strength. The jerkin skirt was cut in eight pieces, hand pleated to the body and trimmed with black satin ribbon
On top of the doublet and jerkin is worn a gown. Henry’s heavy gown in the picture on the left has been made from burgundy satin. (I have also created a black velvet robe for Henry – this can be viewed in the photograph at the top of this post). The robes have been cut from eight pieces of fabric – two sides, two backs, two cuffs and two sleeves. The front and backs are sewn together and then the sleeves with cuffs attached. The sleeves have been lined with wadding and gathered at the top and bottom to create the large ‘puffed’ effect, this type of sleeve was very popular at the court of Henry VIII and can be seen in many portraits of the period. A lining of black satin and a large fur collar complete the gown.
Henry wears a gold medallion around his neck, period rings and a Tudor style dagger around his waist. The Collar of Office also known as a Chain of State is worn over his robe. The chain was inspired by a portrait of him painted by Hans Holbein. It has been made from rubies, black stones and pearls set upon ornate gold plated filigrees. A large ruby on a pendant setting completes the piece – a collar fit for a King!
His hat or bonnet as it was called has a brim made from buckram edged with wire and covered with velvet. The crown of the bonnet is created from a gathered circle of velvet lined with satin sewn to the brim. It is decorated with gold filigrees, pearls and rubies. A white feather attached to the brim completes this most attractive accessory.
I am sure you’ll agree this ornate and regal costume’s fit for a King of England