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The Elmbridge Hundred

posted on 2023-06-08, 10:17 authored by Alistair Grant
Henry VIII (1491 - 1547) acquired Oatlands Manor in 1537. A year before, on 30th May 1536, Henry had married Jane Seymour. Two months after they married, the king's illegitimate son by his mistress Elizabeth Blount, Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond, died at the age of 17. Jane Seymour, who was never crowned queen, died on 24th October 1537, shortly after giving birth to Henry's only legitimate son, Edward. Henry buried Jane in the tomb he had prepared for himself in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, making Jane the only of his six wives to be buried with him. For over two years after her death Henry remained single, perhaps genuinely grief-stricken for Jane Seymour. Therefore, Henry's motives for acquiring Oatlands Manor were twofold: After Jane's death, he threw himself into his second favourite manly pursuit, hunting, and began creating a vast chase called 'The Honour of Hampton Court'. Oatlands Manor was ideally placed to be a luxurious lodge at one end of the chase, with Hampton Court in the middle, and Nonsuch Palace at the other end. However, a second and more pressing domestic reason soon emerged for developing Oatlands when Henry needed a new palace for his next queen. Following his marriage to Anne Boleyn (the one before Jane) the split from Papal authority in Rome, and the Catholic powers of France and Spain, had left England isolated and vulnerable. On 6th January 1540, Henry married Anne of Cleves, whose brother the Duke of Cleves was seen as an important ally in the event that France and the Holy Roman Empire decided to move against England. Henry wanted a separate palace to keep the new queen's German entourage away from the political intrigues of Hampton Court, and keep the prying eyes of the queen's spies from his courtly affairs and dalliances. Despite Hans Holbein's flattering portrait of her, Henry failed to find Anne attractive in the flesh, and quickly moved on to the fifteen year-old 'bon-air and buxom' Kathryn Howard. Nevertheless, Oatlands was transformed into a palace quite literally fit for a queen. Henry married Kathryn in the chapel at Oatlands on 28th July 1540. So, Oatlands, and thereby Elmbridge, was fundamentally shaped, like all of English society, by the great division between Protestant and Catholic begun by (Kathryn's cousin, and Henry's second wife) Anne Boleyn. Despite speaking fluent French, and having great taste in French clothes, poetry, music, and courtly lovemaking, Anne almost certainly introduced to Henry to ideas of religious reform.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • lecture

Event name

Edgar Royston Pike Memorial Lecture

Event location

Weybridge, Surrey

Event type


Event date

9th March, 2011

Department affiliated with

  • Art History Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


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