Friday, April 3, 2009

Henry VIII and the British Library

In preparation and anticipation of my and my family's upcoming trip to London this summer, I have just started reading the book Henry VIII: The King and his Court by Alison Weir. She is the author of numerous books about British history. I recently finished her book Eleanor of Aquitaine and thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it because I didn't know anything about her other than what I had seen in the movie The Lion in Winter starring Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor. Eleanor was a particularly fascinating woman. She was extremely powerful in a time when women usually had no power at all. She was the wife of first the King of France and then the King of England. Great stuff.

Back to Henry. Our trip to London coincides with the 500th anniversary of Henry's ascension to the throne. Throughout the spring and summer, many of the places we will be visiting are having special Henry VIII exhibits. So, I decided it was time for me to get up to speed on Henry. We all know about the six wives and their ultimate dispositions (just remember, "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived"). But I want to know more Henry than the "eating the giant turkey leg and throwing it over his shoulder onto the floor" Henry (which probably never happened).

As I was reading the other day, I read about how Henry was very interested in maps. The book referenced several specific maps that hung on the walls of Hampton Court. They might still be there. I'll find out this summer! Anyway, I wanted to try to find them online. I was never able to find those specific maps, but I did find some really cool images and maps on the British Library website. They also have a virtual books section that lets you look at original manuscripts. Just make sure you have the right plugins to view them.

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