Illuminated pedigree compiled by Thomas Gardiner, Monk of Westminster, showing the descent of Henry VIII from Cadwallader, Hugh Capet, Alfred and William the Conqueror, 1542/1564: MS. Eng. hist. e. 193

Notice the choice of a lion underneath Henry VIII, a symbol in heraldry symbolising courage, nobility, royalty, and strength. The Royal Arms of England contains 3 lions and was chosen by the Plantagenet kings who ruled England from 1154 until the House of Tudor.[1]

“Kynge Henry the VIJth in wysedome And ryches Equall to
Kynge Solomon he was sonne and Eyre to noble Edmunde
Erle of Rychemonde the ryght And trew Eyre to Holy
Kynge Cadwallyder / He maryed Quene Elizabethe the
Daughter and Eyre to Kynge Edwarde the IIIJth / After he
had openly in the ffelde obtayned Hys Ryghte he raigned
XXIIJth yere VIIJ monthes & XXIJ Dayes And he lyethe
Buryed in Westmynster where as he orderyd perpetuallye
to Endure the moste nobleste foundacyon that ever was
Harde of / He had by quene Elizabethe / Artur prince of
Wales / Edmunde Duke of Somersett / Elizabethe / & Kateryn /
All iiij Dyed wythe oute issu / Quene Margette of Scotlande
Quene mary of ffrance /”


Henry VIII (1491-1547) is without a doubt one of the best known English kings, mostly due to his penchant for wives, his break with Rome and the Catholic Church, and his role in the English reformation. The king reigned for 38 years, got through 6 wives, and “favoured then dispensed” of 3 chief ministers, all named Thomas.[2] But even this king, infamous now for his fickle attitude to marriage and his gluttony, had to prove his royal legitimacy in the 16th century. Henry VIII was, after all, only the second Tudor king. His father, Henry VII, had fought against the house of York for the crown, plotting their downfall from exile in Brittany for 14 years before his coronation in 1485.[3]

What is it?

This item, an illuminated pedigree, is a family tree/genealogy which served to provide evidence of Henry VIII’s legitimacy as king of England. It expresses the line of succession to Henry all the way back to the Welsh king Cadwallyder (633-682), also known as Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon. Cadwallyder ruled as king of Gwynedd from around 655 to 682 AD, when he is said to have died of a plague. There is not much information recorded on the Welsh king, aside from the fact he was the “laste kynge of that blode,” before the pedigree begins connecting him to Henry VI, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. There is no doubt left as to who the pedigree was attempting to legitimise.

The pedigree traces Henry’s lineage through such other rulers as Hugh Capet (d. 996), King of the Franks between 987 and 996, as well as William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. William ruled England between 1066 and 1087 after he had “slayne kynge harolde in the felde” and was succeeded by his son, William Rufus. The roll does not add much illuminating detail about each ruler, though tends to mention how they came to power, how they died, and any notable religious houses they founded.

The pedigree is dated internally as 1542, though on the outside is written “Pedigree of the Kings by Thomas Gardiner, Monke: 1564”. Alongside stitching and evidence of extra parchment being glued together, this may suggest that elements were added at different times, possibly by different people. The main author and artist of this piece does, however, seem to be Thomas Gardiner (or Gardyner), who was possibly the same monk of Westminster who wrote a chronicle of English history from Brutus to Henry VIII, called The Flowers of England.

Matthew Payne and Julia Boffey explored the life of Gardiner in their 2017 paper “The Gardyner’s Passetaunce, the Flowers of England, and Thomas Gardyner, Monk of Westminster.”[4] According to this research, Gardiner was born around 1479 in London. His father was a skinner and his mother may have been “the illegitimate daughter of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and the brother of Edmund Tudor, whose marriage to Margaret Beaufort produced the future Henry VII; Gardyner was thus, after 1485, the date of Henry’s accession, the king’s step-cousin once removed.”[5] This, if the same person, brings an interestingly personal element to this pedigree.

In around 1493, Gardyner was admitted a novice at Westminster Abbey. He studied at Oxford between 1497 and 1499 and even added a year at Cambridge. Displaying such intellectual prowess was probably part of the reason why he was chosen to create the pedigree. When he returned to Westminster in 1501, he was ordained a priest. Payne and Boffey point out that although the exact purposes of his book and the pedigree are unknown “their function as part of a programme of pious royal promotion seems unquestionable”. They were undoubtedly there to extol Henry VII and Henry VIII’s virtues as great kings, “proclaiming the justice of their claims to the crown.”[6]

Why did he need this?

Henry VIII undoubtedly led in a very different fashion to his father, Henry VII, who was known to be reserved and did not involve himself in foreign affairs. Much more ostentatious, Henry VIII was known for his lavish banquets and greed, and his inability to reconcile his own opinions and actions with the Catholic Church. By breaking from tradition and waging war in France and Scotland, Henry VIII would have needed documents like this to ensure the people knew he was rightly in power, and there was nothing they could do about it.[7]

You can view and request this item through the new Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts webpage.

[1] Garai, J., The Book of Symbols (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973); Jamieson, A. S., Coats of Arms (Pitkin Publishing, 1998)

[2] Cheshire, P., Kings, Queens, Chiefs and Rulers (London: Star Fire, 2003),  p. 132

[3] Ibid,  p. 129

[4] Payne, M., and J. Boffey, “The Gardyner’s Passetaunce, the Flowers of England, and Thomas Gardyner, Monk of Westminster,” The Library 18.2 (2017): 175-190

[5] Ibid, p. 177

[6] Ibid, pp. 178-182

[7] Brewer, J. S., and J. Gairdner. The Reign of Henry VIII from His Accession to the Death of Wolsey: Reviewed and Illustrated from Original Documents (London: John Murray, 1884)

4 thoughts on “Illuminated pedigree compiled by Thomas Gardiner, Monk of Westminster, showing the descent of Henry VIII from Cadwallader, Hugh Capet, Alfred and William the Conqueror, 1542/1564: MS. Eng. hist. e. 193

  1. We only see fragments of many of these people because much of their lives were erased from the historical record to support the greater and everlasting glory of the Royal Family..

    Both Henry VII and Henry VIII has a very close relationship Thomas Gardener appointed “King’s chaplain, son and heir, born in London say 1479”, Chamberlain of Westminster Abbey, as well as Prior Blyth and Prior Tynemouth for life, Son of William Gardyner and Ellen Tudor, Thomas is the grandson of the Duke of Bedford, Jasper Tudor, Thomas Gardener’s father, William Gardynyr and was with Gilbert Talbot on the Field of Battle at Bosworth Market in 1485. William Gardyner was found with Richard’s Crown and is now thought by some to be one of the men who dealt the mortal blow to King Richard III August 23rd 1485. Thomas Gardiner was also the nephew of the Father of the City of London, Mayor, Sheriff and Alderman of Walbrook Ward, Richard Gardiner.

    Alderman Richard Gardner was chosen head of the official city of London delegation riding to the country to greet his highest majesty Henry VII before he’d even entered the city walls.. Alderman Gardener was appointed by the common counsel to direct the cities official festivities to welcome of their new King..

    HRH King Henry VII had spent some years communicating his personal wishes for his Lady Chapel and Chantry to Westminster Monk Thomas Gardener. Upon Henry VIIs passing, HRH King Henry VIII personally took up every aspect of design and construction of the Lady Chapel and his fathers Chantry. The King and Gardener entered into a multi year project, , Henry VIII not only liked Thomas Gardener. He trusted Thomas Gardener and quickly and quietly dubbed him Kings Chaplain of the New Lady Chapel over the objections of many in court, the King insisting his cousin Thomas Gardener be made acceptable as head priest of his fathers sacred chamber and coincidentally very lucrative chantry, even though Gardener had never been intercepted in theology or had even come close. This was a very powerful position because Henry VIII and Thomas Gardner used the chantry as a back channel. Wealthy businessman and princes of the east could bypass court and protocol making tributes to Henry VII worthy of an audience with the sitting King.. This was a major pecuniary source of income for Henry VIII and the reason he put right trusty Thomas Gardener in charge of his fathers chantry.

    There have been claims through the years Thomas and his cousins were quickly placed for their safety in Westminster Abbey with other members of the Royal Families, when it was alleged after returning from Bosworth Market, William Gardiner was murdered by Yorkist supporters of Richard the III when leaving Maid of the Hoope a popular Poultry Cross tavern on the cheapside. . Thomas Gardiner just a boy in 1485 now living fulltime in Westminster Abbey.. He was young Prince Henry’s personal tutor, Thomas was also a proficient writer, Thomas Gardener was corresponding with Polydore Vergil giving background in the years prior to Vergil’s master works on Henry VII and Henry VIII (Anglica Historia) Thomas Gardiner was laid to rest in the monks vault of Henry VIIs Lady Chapel in January 1537.

  2. Thomas was my 10th Great Uncle. This was interesting to read. Thank you!

  3. Fascinating post! A tiny correction: the inscription on the shield reads HENRICUS, not HENRIEUS (noticed it because of my own name – the Latin equivalent to Henry is Henricus)

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