Trending Now (in 1523)

If Twitter was around in 1523 (the year the narrative of TARNISH begins), what would be on the trending topics list?  What would people have been thinking, discussing, wearing?

Treason—throughout Henry’s reign, this would have been a trending topic.  In 1521, he had the Duke of Buckingham executed for alleged pretensions to the throne.  In 1547 (right before he died) he had the Earl of Surrey beheaded for the same.  Not to mention all the wives, advisers, relatives and courtiers in between.

Erasmus--one of the leading humanist thinkers

Erasmus–one of the leading humanist thinkers

Humanism (and Classicism)—the trend throughout Renaissance Europe (at least amongst the elite and educated) was from focus on religious scholasticism to the philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome.  This, in turn, led to more autonomous thought and the kinds of philosophical discussions that these days only occur in ethics classes and late night dorm room drinking sessions.

Religious Reform—In the 16th century, there was a movement for the average (educated) person to form her own opinions about religion—to read religious tracts and even the Bible in her own language.  This desire to understand the workings of faith led to a desire to have more control of it instead of having faith dictated and rigidly imposed.

War (usually with the French)—Henry had hawkish political policies.  He wanted to recover the lands captured by his ancestor, Henry V.  He had to maintain English control of Ireland.  The Holy Lands (and even parts of Europe) needed to be rid of the infidel.  And Northern England always needed protection from the Scots.  Even when he was signing peace treaties, he could be scheming ways to break them, and an enemy could be an ally given the right conditions.

Fashion—almost since the invention of clothes, fashion has been trending.  In the Tudor era, it was fashionable for women to wear several layers of skirts, tight, buckram-stiffened bodices and long sleeves.  In England, they wore large hoods with stiffened gables (like a series of peaks from a baseball cap) around their faces.  Anne Boleyn helped bring into fashion the French hood—set smooth against the head and further back from the face, revealing an expanse of hair thought to be somewhat risqué. 415px-Lady_Wearing_an_English_Hood,_costume_study_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger

Men wore padded doublets with wide shoulders to accentuate the chest, sleeves with “slashings” revealing a second layer of color beneath them, “hose”, and often a surcoat with a thigh-length skirt.  This was also the era of the codpiece, meant to cover and accentuate (ahem) other parts of the anatomy.

Love—There wasn’t much time or scope for romantic love for the average person in medieval or early modern England.  But the Tudor court was fascinated by the ancient stories (King Arthur, Tristan and Isolde, etc.) and “courtly love”—a supposedly chaste form of flirting.  Henry, of course, raised this idea to new levels by marrying (5 times out of 6) for love.  Would other people—aristocracy or not—begin to want the same?  These days in the Western world, it’s expected that we will marry for love.

What was once an unusual trend (religious reform, self-determination, romantic love) has now become the norm.  Thankfully, some trends (beheading your friends, codpieces) have not.  What do you suppose the trends of today will give the future?


About Katherine Longshore

Katherine Longshore is the author of GILT (Viking/Penguin May 2012), a story of friendship and betrayal set in the court of Henry VIII, and TARNISH (June 2013), the story of a young Anne Boleyn. You can learn more about her

One thought on “Trending Now (in 1523)

  1. Such a fun post, Katy! I love that “treason” would have been a trending topic. And it’s always interesting to read about fashion and what’s scandalous in different eras – like, codpieces are cool, but how risque for a lady to show her hair!?

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