Finding Plantagenets and Tudors at the British Museum
No trip to London is complete without a visit to the British Museum. Since 1759, visitors have been strolling through its hallowed halls to view the history, culture and artifacts of the world. The museum’s most famous artifact is perhaps the Rosetta Stone – the 2,200+ year-old tablet that cracked the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Granted, the most eye-popping exhibits are the Parthenon marbles from Ancient Greece, the mummies from Ancient Egypt, the imposing sculptures and temples from the Middle Eastern cities of Nimrud and Ninevah… just to name a few.
These are all jaw-droppingly amazing and not to be missed. BUT you may wonder … is there anything to see of the world of the Plantagenets and Tudors? The answer is yes…if you know where to look. So head up to the Upper Floor and to Room 40 where you’ll find the treasures of Medieval Europe from 1050 to 1500. Afterwards, step in to Room 46, Europe 1400 to 1800.
In these rooms, we did manage to come upon a few artifacts related directly to our favorite Plantagenet and Tudor monarchs. For instance …
The Plantagenet Casket was most likely a betrothal gift from Queen Margaret, second wife of Edward I to her niece, Isabella of France, who married Edward II, Margaret’s stepson. The casket has Margaret’s Coat of Arms.
The Royal Gold Cup was created in 1391 and originally given to Charles VI of France. During the Hundred Years War, the cup came into the English royal household in 1435. Henry VIII added the Tudor Roses on the stem. James I gave it to Spain in 1604.
Richard II’s Quadrant is engraved with a crowned and chained white deer, Richard II’s badge. Quadrants were used to measure the sun’s altitude and to tell time. It’s believed that Richard took this quadrant with him to the Tower of London after he was overthrown by Henry IV.
A Medal of Henry VIII, 1545
A medal of Mary I celebrating England’s return to the Catholic Church. The figure of England kneels before the Pope, and Mary and Philip of Spain are to the right.
The museum also has a nice collection of tiles from the Middle Ages as well. Here is a tile dating back to 1250-1260, showing Richard I and his Third Crusade opponent, Saladin, sultan of Syria and Egypt. It’s a purely fictional depiction as the two never actually met.
Known as The King’s Pavement, this tile was laid in the private chapel of Henry III at Clarendon Palace around 1244. This was a new style in flooring. Prior to decorative tiles, palace floors were normally madeof stone or wood covered in rushes. Tile flooring became very popular as it is today.
The Queen’s Pavement graced the ground floor of the personal chambers of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, at Clarendon Palace.
This tile panel is thought to represent Phillipa of Hainault, wife of Edward III. Tile panels such as these were often displayed as wall panels inside of niches.
These are just a few of the many artifacts from this time period that you will find at the British Musem. Our favorite Plantagenets and Tudors touched them, walked upon them and admired their beauty. It truly is a wonder to gaze upon the everyday, as well as the spectacular, objects that bring the Middle Ages to life. For more on what to see at the British Museum, click this link here.