Henry VIII and Tudor Times

Tudor Pastimes

Among the king and his court, certain activities were expected ways to pass the time. These included dancing, playing instruments such as the lute and virginals, singing, jousting (for men,) needlework (for women,) and playing cards. Anne of Cleves found herself wanting as a queen due to her inability to perform these courtly duties. Henry VIII was himself a celebrated composer and musician.  Two of his most famous compositions, Green Grow'th the Holly and Pastyme with Good Companye can be heard below.  Popular history also credits him with writing Greensleeves, but historians do not believe this to be true. Henry VIII was also an athletic man in his youth, despite the corpulent appearance of his later years.  The ulcer on his leg was caused by a jousting accident.  Of course, religious duties were also an essential and important part of Tudor life.  Tudor monarchs attended mass daily, sometimes more than once a day. The Tudor court gathered for mealtimes only twice daily, at midday and in the evening.  A delicious feast of wild game, fish, candied fruits, boiled custards, and perhaps some exotic fruits from the New World would be served.  Queen Mary I had a taste for spicy food and her ladies-in-waiting kept spices for her to add to her food.

     Lyrics:  Green Grow'th the Holly
1. Green grow’th the holly
So doth the ivy
Though winter blasts blow na’er so high
Green grow’th the holly

2. Gay are the flowers
Hedgerows and ploughlands
The days grow longer in the sun
Soft fall the showers

3. Full gold the harvest
Grain for thy labor
With God must work for daily bread
Else, man, thou starvest

4. Fast fall the shed leaves
Russet and yellow
But resting buds are smug and safe
Where swung the dead leaves

5. Green grow’th the holly
So doth the ivy
The God of life can never die
Hope! Saith the holly

        Lyrics:  Pastyme with Good Companye

Pastime with good company
I love and shall unto I die;
Grudge who list, but none deny,
So God be pleased thus live will I. 
 For my pastance
   Hunt, song, and dance.
   My heart is set:
 All goodly sport
      For my comfort,
        Who shall me let?

Youth must have some dalliance,
Of good or illé some pastance;
Company methinks then best
All thoughts and fancies to dejest:
      For idleness
      Is chief mistress
            Of vices all.
      Then who can say
      But mirth and play
            Is best of all?

Company with honesty
Is virtue vices to flee:
Company is good and ill
But every man hath his free will.
      The best ensue,
      The worst eschew,
            My mind shall be:
      Virtue to use,
      Vice to refuse,
            Shall I use me.

Tudor Dance