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John Blanke’s Pay Rise Petition to the King

John Blankes Pay Rise Petition To The King
© Miranda Kaufmann

So what evidence do we have for the story of John Blanke? Now we have looked at John Blanke’s portraits in the Westminster Tournament Roll, we’d like you to examine the written historical evidence more closely.

There are a series of records of John Blanke being paid wages in the Royal exchequer accounts, beginning in December 1507. There are also records of him being bought special clothing to wear at the funerals of Prince Arthur and Henry VII, and the coronation of Henry VIII.

When he got married in 1512, the King bought him ‘a gown of violet cloth, and also a bonnet and a hat’.

16th Century Manuscript Showing the Wages of John Blanke
Record of John Blanke’s Wages December 1507 © The National Archives

One of the most fascinating documents we have is a petition from John Blanke to King Henry VIII with a request for a pay rise.

Before looking at the transcription in the next step, take a look at the image of the original manuscript and see if you can decipher any of the words.

A sixteenth century hand written manuscript
John Blanke’s Petition to the King © The National Archives (Click to expand)

Reading sixteenth century manuscripts can be challenging. The language and spelling differs from modern English and the handwriting can be difficult to read accurately.

Some documents are in such bad condition that they are very difficult to read now, for example the record of John Blanke’s wedding present. Luckily we have a Victorian transcription of this record.

The art of interpreting historical handwriting in manuscripts is known as palaeography. You can find hints and tips for reading historical manuscript sources in the links and resources below.

Understanding a little about how historians understand and interpret historical records accurately will be valuable in this course, since conclusions about the past are based on these interpretations. This is especially important for an accurate understanding of the lives of Black Tudors, where the evidence is fragmentary.

Explore and Reflect

Once you have looked at the manuscript, see if you can note down a few words and share them in the comments, then take a look at the transcription.

Were you able to decipher any of the words in the manuscript? Did you find the writing illegible or could you make out a few sentences? Share your experiences and any other observations about original primary sources in the comments.

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These resources provide tips on reading 16th century handwriting:

For a wide range of example handwritten manuscripts with guidance, see the English Handwriting Online 1500-1700 website from Cambridge University.

For tutorials and tips in reading manuscripts see Palaeography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500 – 1800 from the National Archives.

© Miranda Kaufmann
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Black Tudors: The Untold Story

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