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Kisby, Fiona

The Early-Tudor Royal Household Chapel in London, 1485-1547

Ph.D. Royal Holloway, University of London, 1996

This thesis deals with a sub-department within the early-Tudor royal household, a group of clerics and lay clerks collectively known as the Chapel Royal. It fills a major lacuna in the recent historiography of the Tudor domus which, whilst drawing attention to the central importance of the establishment in the political and administrative life of the nation, has largely disregarded the members of its chapel. This study shows that far from being a marginal institution, the chapel played a prominent role in early-Tudor representations of kingship and in the cultural life of the court and nation at large, and its senior officers were active participants in national government, politics and diplomacy.

Beginning with a description of the royal household and a survey of the documentary sources used to reconstruct the operations of the chapel, it proceeds with an analysis of the chapel's membership and institutional structure. The important role of the chapel in the ceremonial, religious and cultural life of the court is then described. This is followed by a chapter on the household of the Lady Margaret Beaufort, matriarch of the Tudor dynasty, who, owing to the ceremonial needs arising from her wealth, political prominence and constitutional position, maintained an independent chapel of "royal" dimensions and musical standard.

A fresh interpretation of the chapel's constitutional development, based on new evidence concerning the interdependence of its ceremonial role and the royal itinerary, is presented in the final chapters. The chapel's main centres of activity at Westminster and Greenwich are identified, and the private and professional activities of its members, particularly its musicians, within these societies are explored in detail. Biographical data discovered using this new historiographical framework reveals a hitherto unsuspected degree of assimilation of its personnel to the religious, economic and cultural life of these surrounding communities.