The Tudor dynasty is one of the best known in history, popularised by the likes of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Edward VI, and of course, the Tudors TV series.

But there is a whole lot more too Tudor times than just the goings on at Hampton Court.

Here are possibly some other bits of interesting information about the Tudor times that you didn’t know.

Andreas Franciscius, an Italian visiting London in 1497, was horrified by what discovered. Although he admired the “fine” architecture, he was disgusted by the “vast amount of evil-smelling mud” that covered the streets and lasted a long time – nearly the whole year round.

“The citizens, therefore, in order to remove this mud and filth from their boots, are accustomed to spread fresh rushes on the floors of all houses, on which they clean the soles of their shoes when they come in.”

Franciscius added disapprovingly that the English people had “fierce tempers and wicked dispositions”, as well as “a great antipathy to foreigners”.

People in Tudor times didn’t eat with a fork – they ate using knives, spoons and their fingers.

There were few books in Tudor schools, so pupils read from “hornbooks” instead. Pages displaying the alphabet and religious material were attached to wooden boards and covered with a transparent sheet of cow horn.

Some of the board games the Tudors played are still enjoyed today, such as chess, backgammon and card games!

Executions, and there were plenty of them, would either be by beheading, hanging, boiling, burning or being crushed.

The average person in Tudor times could expect to live only until their mid-30s.

Tudor society was divided into four broad groups. At the top were the nobility who owned huge amounts of land. Below them were the gentry and rich merchants. Gentlemen owned large amounts of land and they were usually educated and had a family coat of arms. Most important gentlemen never did any manual work. Below the gentry were yeomen and craftsmen. Yeomen owned their own land. They could be as wealthy as gentlemen but they worked alongside their men. Yeomen and craftsmen were often able to read and write. Below the yeomen were the tenant farmers who leased their land from the rich. There were also wage labourers. They were often illiterate and very poor.

In Tudor times. a toilet was called a jakes. For toilet paper, rich people used rags while poor people sometimes used a plant called woolly mullein.

In the 1500’s London probably had a population of between 60,000 and 70,000 and by 1600, its population was over 250,000.

In October 2003, security at the Palace checked their surveillance tapes to see why one of the fire doors kept opening. As they watched, a strange figure appeared in the doorway and closed the doors. The figure appears to be wearing period dress. If Hampton Court is haunted, it’s with good reason: Jane Seymour died there after giving birth and fifth wife Catherine Howard was arrested there in 1542 for cheating on King Henry (which was treason at the time). When she found out she was being arrested, she fled down the long Gallery screaming for the King to save her.

Henry VIII is famous for being rather large. But it was only in later life that he gained weight. Through most of his life, he was in good shape. A suit of armour that he wore towards the end of his reign reveals that he had a whopping 52 inch waste. It is thought that he weighed about 28 stone (392 pound or 178 kilograms). He still lived to the ripe old of 55, 20 years more than the average life expectancy at the time.

Consider yourself fluent with the English language?

Here are some common Tudor words and their current meaning, courtesy of the Pirate King and The Tudors Wiki


Bonaire cheerful and pleasant; it was a part of a wife’s vows to promise to be “bonaire and buxom in bed and at board”
Boss A fat woman
Buxom obedient, lively, yielding
Carpet-Knight a contemptuous term for a knight whose achievements belong to the carpet of a lady’s boudoir rather than the field of battle
Codpiece an inverted triangular piece of material sewn into the hose around a man’s groin and held closed by string ties. Later it would become padded and boned and over sized and used to carry a small weapon or jewels. (hence the term “family jewels”).
Derrick a hangman
Duckies breasts; Henry in one of his letters to Anne Boleyn refers to her “pretty duckies”
Dutch Widow a prostitute
Good fellow a thief
Leche, or leech physician, healer
Knacker’d broken
Distemper drunk
Drab, Harlot whore
Ecstasy madness
Gawk To look at
Tickle brain Strong liquor

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