By Nathen Amin
It is often stated that King Henry VII is regarded as the overlooked Tudor, a king who has long loitered in the shadows of his infamous progeny. When one considers the Tudor dynasty their collective 118 year reign the names that are often put forward are monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth, events such as the Reformation and the Spanish Armada, and an added dash of scandal and romance from the likes of Anne Boleyn and Robert Dudley. This is without considering the enduring presence of Shakespeare.
By comparison, the original Tudor king is often considered tame at best by the causal observer, a dull accountant-type miser who just happened to be the father of the larger-than-life egotist that was ‘Bluff King Hal’. The more seasoned academic of the Tudor family know this is not an accurate depiction of a man who won his crown on the battlefield, united the kingdom through marriage and spent untold fortunes on jewels for his wife and palaces for his dynasty.
It may be a possible that the popular stereotype of the first Henry Tudor is the reason why his depiction is often difficult to come by when one thinks of pub signs, street names or other modern forms of tribute to personalities of the past. This is not a man who is often openly commemorated throughout the nation he once ruled over, although the enduring usage of insignia and symbols connected to him such as the Beaufort Portcullis and the Tudor Rose is perhaps a more subtler legacy.
I have previously campaigned for a statue of Henry Tudor to be erected in his birthplace of Pembroke and whilst such a venture has proven popular with local dignitaries, this request is as yet unfulfilled. Nonetheless it does lead to the question, just where exactly are there statues of King Henry VII in his erstwhile kingdom?
The South West town of Exeter played a crucial role in the reign of Henry VII as it was the location of the capture of the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck had long been attempting to land in England with an army and usurp the crown for himself, claiming to be one of the princely sons of Edward IV. His capture was a momentous moment for the king and Henry visited Exeter in 1497 to thank the city for its support. He presented the city with a sword and a cap of maintenance which is still held in the Guildhall.
The East Gate, a traditional entranceway to the city and through which Henry had passed in 1497, was rebuilt in 1511. A large stone statue of the recently deceased king was placed upon the gateway, depicting the king holding a sceptre and a globe. Accompanying the statue was the royal coat of arms, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters and a Beaufort portcullis.
The gateway was pulled down in 1784 and the statue was replace on the front of a new building in the town. It remained in place until it was redestroyed by bombing raids in during the Second World War. The 431-year-old statue was ruined.
A new fibreglass statue was created in the 1950s to replace the traditional sculpture which had been lost and was placed on the exterior of the modern Eastgate House. This building was pulled down around a decade ago and the statue has yet to be resited.
Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican communion and has been considered the premier holy seat of England for over a thousand years. It is fitting that the kings and queens of England are commemorated outside a cathedral most if not all would have visited during their reigns. Henry VII is no exception.
His statue is situated amongst other Tudor monarchs such as his son Henry VIII and granddaughter Elizabeth I and is placed about 10 feet from the ground. The statues are generally of Victorian origin.
City Hall, Cardiff
Cardiff serves as the capital city of Wales and the city hall in particular is known as the seat of its local government. The building was erected in 1906 and is a grand masterpiece of Edwardian Baroque style. The first floor landing of the hall is designated the Marble Hall and features 11 marble statues depicting famous figures from Welsh history. As well as statues of Owain Glyndwr, St David and Hywel Dda amongst others, stands Henry Tudor.
The statues were chosen via a newspaper poll in the Western Mail and were unveiled by future Prime Minster David Lloyd George in 1916. The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king on the battlefield in a suit of armour with his fist defiantly clenched. Evident is a banner bearing his red Welsh dragon symbol which was present at the Battle of Bosworth. The second figure in the statue is considered to be his Welsh ally, Rhys ap Thomas.
Hay-on-Wye is renowned as the quaint ‘town of books’ and home to the Hay Book Festival, an annual soiree which draws visitors from around to globe to the small mid-Welsh border settlement. Due to its historically precarious position in the Welsh March, Hay-on-Wye both prospered and suffered during the medieval period as generation upon generation of Welsh and English battled for regional supremacy. That being said, the town played no major role during the Tudor period yet does possess one sixteenth century-related attraction of note.
In 1995 a large white statue of King Henry VII was unveiled on the end wall of the old market hall, affording this inanimate Tudor monarch commanding views across Castle Square in a place of utmost prominence. The six foot figure is looking to his left whilst adorned with a crown upon his head, an orb in his left hand and a sceptre in his right hand. It is a portrayal of Henry Tudor in all his majestic glory and currently the only of its kind in Wales. The plaque below the statue proudly boasts ‘Henry VII first Welsh king of the English’.
City Hall, Bradford
Bradford City Hall has a wonderful collection of Victorian statues adorning the exterior of the building, each one depicting the kings and queens of England and then Britain since the Norman Conquest in 1066. The statues were erected in 1873 after construction of the hall was completed.
The statue of Henry Tudor depicts the king as a peaceful monarch, wearing a similar long tunic and robe as shown in various contemporary portraits of the king. He holds a sceptre and an orb and is wearing a cap rather than a crown.
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Bath is one of the most spectacular cathedrals standing in England and contains many features from the Tudor period.
On the magnificent west front stands a large statue of Henry VII in all his majestic glory, a crowned king holding his sceptre and orb. Beneath the king is the royal coat of arms of Henry, complete with dragon and greyhound supporters. On the same Western Front of the abbey is a ladder which reaches towards the top of the church, climbed by a collection of angels. The building of this front was overseen by Bishop Oliver King, appointed to the bishopric during the reign of King Henry VII in 1496. The statue is thought to be Victorian in origin.
If you are interested in reading more about my previous efforts to have a statue of Henry VII erected in Pembroke, you can read about it here – Statue Campaign