John Blanke and the Westminster Tournament Roll
In 1511, a lavish tournament was staged to celebrate the birth of King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon’s son Henry, Duke of Cornwall.
An extraordinary visual record of the tournament survives in the College of Arms. It was created by the heralds of the College, who organise ceremonial events on behalf of the Crown. Over 18m long and extremely light-sensitive, the roll cannot be on regular display.
At a time when little painted portraiture was produced in England, the roll provides an incredibly rare glimpse of some of the people who lived and worked at the Tudor court. These include the trumpeter John Blanke - the only black Tudor for whom there is an identifiable image.
Hear from Michael I. Ohajuru, founder of the John Blanke project, on the significance of the image of Blanke on the Westminster Tournament Roll and the creation of the John Blanke Project below.
About the John Blanke Project
The John Blanke Project is an art and archive project celebrating John Blanke, a royal trumpeter at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and, at present, the only Black Tudor for whom there is an identifiable image.
The Project began in 2015 and celebrates John Blanke, inviting artists and historians to reimagine him from the two distinct images of him in the Westminster Tournament Roll and his brief presence in the written Tudor court accounts found in the National Archives.
An anthem for the project has also been created, having been extracted from a major piece by the vocal musician Randolph Matthews, which interprets John Blanke’s journey to Tudor England from Africa.
About Michael I. Ohajuru
Michael I. Ohajuru is a fellow of the Royal Society and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, with honours degrees in Physics and Art History. He blogs, writes and speaks regularly on the Black presence in Renaissance Europe. Founder of Image of the Black in London Galleries, a series of gallery tours; Project Director and Chief Evangelist of The John Blanke Project, an art and archive project celebrating John Blanke the Black trumpeter at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII; co-convener of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies What’s Happening in Black British History series of workshops; founder member of the Black Presence in British Portraiture Network.