Aside from the current Windsor family, the Tudors are arguably the most well-known English kings. However, the public's perception of the dynasty is largely shaped by Henry VIII's violent and extreme marital practices and his daughter Queen Elizabeth's "Merry England." The House of Tudor had an equally dramatic beginning. Henry VII became the first Tudor king after the Roses' civil war broke out in the middle of the fifteenth century.
It was difficult to establish legitimacy; some advertising and self-promotion were necessary. An exquisite wall painting with royal symbols has been found at Christ's College, University of Cambridge, in England. This is an example of what scholars refer to as early 16th-century "royal branding."
Established in 1505 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, Christ's College. She was the affluent and powerful daughter of the Duke of Somerset, with royal ancestry dating back to King Edward III. She wed Edmund Tudor at the age of twelve. Tudor was the half-brother of the unfortunate Henry VI, who got involved in the War of the Roses and was eventually overthrown. The elite nobility of the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions engaged in decades of unrest and "king-making" during this time. Because of his ancestry from King Edward III, Lady Margaret's son Henry VII went on to end the bloody civil war by ascending to the throne.
In addition to being a benefactor of the college, Lady Margaret was a formidable political strategist and mother. She and her family's new status was probably honoured by the early 1500s mural on the high wall of the library building, which depicted it as derived from their bloodline and legitimate. During First Court building renovations, the painting was found, well preserved behind an existing wall. "This is a really exciting and unusual discovery, revealing the ways that the College celebrated and advertised its royal patron during the early years of the 16th century, following its re-founding," says Dr Christina Faraday, an art historian at the University of Cambridge.
A red Lancastrian rose, crowned like Henry VII, the person who first used the symbol, is the focal point of the design. A portcullis, or set of gates that were raised and lowered at castle entrances, is shown to the left. It is also crowned, serving as a symbol of the Beaufort family. A sizeable emblem to the right is either the Prince of Wales's feathers or a fleur-de-lis. The former would show the historical relationship between the English and French thrones, but by Henry VII, any claim to the French throne was essentially vanity and tradition. The artwork is in excellent condition, and the etchings in the plaster that served as the painters' guides are still discernible.
“Such survivals are extremely unusual,” said Dr. Faraday. “Wall paintings were a relatively cheap and disposable form of decoration, and so were rarely deliberately preserved. Now we can appreciate them for their historical value and what they reveal about Tudor art beyond the more traditional portraits.”
The College is working on the best ways to conserve, promote, and study the painting even though it is not in a place where it can be readily viewed by the public. The paintings have been hidden since roughly 1738, according to a search of college records, so their reappearance is a royal surprise.