Back to school Tudor style

By Hannah Silverman

It’s back to school time today, and thankfully not in a Billy Madison kind of way. Instead of an apple I have a Mac and instead of recess I have lunch reservations, so study is looking a lot more fun this time around. My playground of choice is Cambridge University’s short course in Early Tudor History 1485 – 1558 where I hope to bring to life the stories that took place on my English doorstep.

This time studying isn't all about boy talk and gossip.
This time studying isn’t all about matchmaking and gossip. Or is it… Welcome to Tudor History.

It’s a funny thing going back to school or university later in life. When I was younger I couldn’t wait to get out of the education system. It wasn’t that I had a negative experience at school or university or found education challenging, quite the opposite, but there is a misconception among us Bambi-eyed kids that there’s a big world out there to be explored immediately if not sooner. Patience, it seemed, was not on-trend for Gen Y. While years ago I was guilty of the ‘Are We There Yet Syndrome’, I’m fortunate to now be in a position to realise the value of knowledge. Study is no longer an appetiser, it’s the main course.

But I digress, why Tudor History? I have always had an interest in English history which in part drew me to the Mother Country in the first place. The romance, the scandal, the politics, the psychology, the traditions – Tudor history has it all while being both decadent and disturbing. The best part is that I can visit many of the sites on self-directed excursions during my studies and beyond.

Perhaps this fascination with the Tudor dynasty began the way all good stories start, in a kingdom far, far away. Here, in a land called Australia, I was like many young girls who adored the Disney-fied concept of Princes and Princesses (also singing dwarves and magic carpets, but that’s not so relevant). As I grew older I discovered, a little reluctantly at first, that life isn’t a fairytale and princes aren’t disguised as amphibians the way pop culture would have us believe. Still, the concept of royalty and bygone eras continue to strike a cord. History isn’t all about happy endings and on these pages most of them close instead with betrayal and beheadings, but it’s a fascinating storybook nonetheless – even more so, because it’s real.

More than anything I hope that this path of learning will help colour the blank canvass of my future travels and lead me to discover some historic sites that would otherwise been ignorantly overlooked. I also hope I can write off Henry Cavill’s Tudor marathons as homework.

Am I going back to school to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool (that’s another Billy Madison reference right there)? No. It seems I’ve come full circle and contrary to what little Hannah thought a couple of decades ago, I’m going to prove nothing other than knowledge is one of the life’s most rewarding luxuries… and I’m not even there yet.

A quick guide to key Tudor sights in London

Tower of London: This famous castle features prominently in Tudor history. It was the location for the beheading of three of Henry VIII’s wives and housed famous prisoners including Elizabeth I, Thomas Cromwell and Sir Thomas More. The prison was also the alleged scene where the little Princes in the Tower were murdered.

National Portrait Gallery: Included in this impressive collection of portraits past and present are original paintings of the Tudor family. The weathered frames give them a particularly authentic vibe and the accompanying facts are easy to digest.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Although the original site is now an apartment block, this accurate replication of the Globe Theatre 200 yards away is a must see. You can visit the museum as well as watch various performances which are staged regularly in this Elizabethan-style theatre.

Westminster Abbey: There are many significant reasons to visit Westminster Abbey, culturally and artistically. For Tudor purposes, Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon were coronated here while Elizabeth I, Mary I and Anne of Cleves are buried on site. You can also see Henry VII’s death mask. 

It is also within this post I would like to introduce you to Not in Kansas Anymore’s new Culture page. Our team will be posting a series of Q&As, reviews and experiences relating to different cultures around the world, including Tudor history. You can check out the currently empty page here, but blink and you’ll miss the emptiness it because I’m uploading some exciting new content very soon. Check in if you are interested in history, not so much if you’re planing a trip to Disneyland. That’s for another post.

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