March 2010

One of the most-prized exhibits in the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre is the reconstructed Tudor stained glass window, which shows the coats of arms of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The stone frame of the two-light mullioned window uses a mixture of original stone from the Tudor palace at Greenwich, which was demolished in the late 17th century, and new stone from Caen in northern France.

The Tudor stone was excavated on-site during archaeological digs in Grand Square (1971) and the east end of the site near where the Royal Chapel was located (2005). Until this reconstruction, the stone had been languishing in a store room.  Research established the appearance of the original window, and the new stone was shaped by stonemasons from DBR (London) Ltd to fill the areas where no Tudor stone was available.

The stained glass was designed and made by stained glass expert Alfred Fisher and his team. The colours, glass and lead were carefully chosen for authenticity. The lead lines are very narrow, just 5mm, and the glass is extremely thin, based on examples from the early 16th century. In order to reproduce the movement and texture of Tudor glass, the new glass underwent a special process in the kiln, known as 'slumping.'

The coats of arms were based on styles fashionable in 1533 – the year Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn – and are an amalgamation of features and motifs rather than a direct copy of any one original. Henry's Royal arms in the left hand light are topped by a Tudor crown and encircled by a wreath incorporating the white and red roses of York and Lancaster.

The arms of Anne Boleyn are some of the most complex ever devised at the time, and result from the desire of Henry to reflect the highest possible status on his new bride. Several noble families including her own, Lancaster and two from France – Angouleme and Guyenne – show an international status. At the bottom of the wreath, there are interconnecting initials of 'H' and 'A' taken from an example at King's College, Cambridge.

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