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Sir Thomas Wriothesley (c. 1460-1534)

The Wriothesley Garter book c.1530

Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios. | 30.8 x 22.2 x 5.2 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1047414

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  • Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios, numbered in pencil (first four omitted); quire letters in bottom inner corners, various older pen foliations; fourteen folios removed, seven replaced, one inserted. Bound in brown calf, with worn gold-tooling round edges.

    Sir Thomas Wriothesley, who from 1505 to 1534 occupied the post of Garter King of Arms (doyen of the College of Arms), is known to have compiled many books and rolls of arms, pedigree and precedence. This manuscript contains a variety of records on heraldic matters, especially the Order of the Garter, and heralds' fees and oaths.

    The first image shown is what may be the first contemporary view of the opening of Parliament, at Blackfriars on 15 April 1523. Henry VIII is enthroned in the middle, with three earls in front of him bearing the Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance. To the King's left are Garter King of Arms (Wriothesley himself, wearing the distinctive tabard of a herald) and officers of the Royal Household. To the King's right are three bishops: Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, identified by the red Cardinal's hat, and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury are seated; behind Wolsey stands Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London. The arms of Wolsey and Warham are also shown. Below these, to the King's right, sit the Lords Spiritual, nine bishops with seventeen abbots behind; to his left and on the cross-bench sit the Lords Temporal, two coroneted dukes, seven earls, sixteen barons, and the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. The four woolsacks in the middle are a symbol of the wealth of England's wool trade, and accommodate two Chief Justices, eight judges, and four Serjeants of the law, behind whom kneel two clerks with their quills and inkpots. Behind the cross-bench, at the bar of the House (at the bottom of the page) stands Sir Thomas More, Speaker of the House of Commons, with thirteen Members of Parliament behind him.

    Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002

    The second image, in watercolour and bodycolour with gold leaf, is a later addition to the manuscript. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) is depicted fighting at the Battle of Blenheim, beneath a coat of arms. The Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold, was so pleased with Marlborough's victory at Blenheim that he created him a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. He died before the appropriate paperwork could be completed, so the patent was issued by his son, Joseph I. The elevation to royalty of a man who had not even belonged to the peerage at birth was an event so significant that blank leaves in the Wriothesly Garter Book, written c.1530, were filled in with copies of the patents granting the honour, as well as this illustration, in c.1704. The Duke is shown wearing a red coat in accordance with his instruction of 1702 that all officers commanding troops during military campaigns in France should be clothed in red.

    Owned, and largely written, by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, with additions by his successors as Garter King of Arms; bought for the Royal Library in 1892

  • Medium and techniques

    Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf, brush-and-pen linear work. 127 folios.


    30.8 x 22.2 x 5.2 cm (book measurement (conservation))

    30.8 x 5.2 x 22.2 cm (book measurement (inventory))

    35.0 x 5.5 cm (book in box)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Wriothesley Garter book.