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The Westminster Tournament Challenge (Harley 83 H 1) and Thomas Wriothesley's Workshop

Alison Tara Walker (notes)


On the twelfth and thirteenth of February, 1511 Henry VIII held a tournament to celebrate the birth of his first son, Prince Arthur. The tournament is famously immortalized in the Westminster Tournament Roll (London, College of Arms, Westminster Tournament Roll) – a 60-foot long vellum roll that was painted soon after the tournament by the workshop of Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms. The roll illustrates the tournament’s festivities and depicts notable families who attended the event.

The British Library’s Harley Collection contains another, less studied, remnant of the Westminster Tournament: the formal Challenge (Harley 83 H 1). The Challenge describes the events that took place during the tournament, puts forth the rules of the Tournament in the form of a charter, and outlines the allegorical structure of the Burgundian-style Tournament.

The present article focuses on the Westminster Tournament Challenge and suggests that the Challenge was created by Wriothesley’s workshop and, in part, written by Wriothesley himself. It compares decorations in the Challenge to those found in the Tournament Roll and also examines extant examples of Wriothesley’s script to the hand that wrote the Challenge, and comments on the hand’s distinctive features. Further, this article shows the Challenge was displayed and used during the tournament itself, making Harley 83 H 1 an important extant record of the ways in which challenges were used in the Tudor period.

The Westminster Tournament Challenge (Harley 83 H 1) and Thomas Wriothesley's Workshop (PDF format) 3.89MB

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