Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (IV): Prince Henry’s Copybooks

Henry, Prince of Wales by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger oil on canvas, circa 1603,
NPG 2562, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Prince Henry Frederick (1594 –1612) was the son of James VI of Scotland (also later James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. In his short lifetime, he was regarded as a young man of great promise – the ideal Renaissance prince – but he died of typhoid fever at the age of only 18.

The boxed collection of eight copybooks, catalogued together as R.7.23*, date from around 1604-6 and provide a fascinating glimpse into the education of the young Prince. The most evocative book is perhaps volume 1 which contains handwriting practice:

r-7-23x_1_f001r
R.7.23*, Vol 1, f.1 r

On later pages, Henry also practised letters, Latin phrases, flourishes and his signature (left). The right-hand side begins with a passage of Latin adapted from Cicero. Henry copied it out three more times down the length of the page. At the bottom there are two lines of apparently original composition (probably by his writing master of the time, Peter Bales) which translate as “indeed, in my opinion, Prince Henry has such a childish hand that he is hardly worthy of even mediocre praise as a writer”. However, a letter written to Henry by his father in 1604 praises the improvement of his handwriting [The Lost Prince, nos 12 and 20].

r-7-23x_1_f005v-f006r
R.7.23*, Vol 1, ff. 5v-6r

The copybooks indicate that Henry had a fairly conventional early education. As well as practising Italic handwriting, he learned Latin, Greek and French and composed and translated Latin texts. Volume 6 contains a series of Latin exercises by the Prince, preceded by a letter from his tutor exhorting him to emulate the learning of Alexander the Great. Like most schoolboys, Henry’s pages sometimes included smudges and crossings out!

r-7-23x_6_f008v-f009r
R.7.23*, Vol 6, ff. 8v-9r

Volume 7 contains a printed volume, originally in French with an English translation and then translated by Henry into Latin alongside the printed text.

r-7-23x_7_f008v-f009r
R.7.23*, Vol 7, ff. 8v-9r

The French ambassador writing in 1606 described Henry as spending two hours a day studying, but the rest of his time in physical exercise [Strong, 66]. As he grew older, Henry’s education was broadened to include other subjects such as mathematics, music and history. He also showed great interest in naval and military matters, and enthusiasm for chivalric pursuits. Henry became a generous patron of the arts and his tragically early death was deeply felt and gave rise to much literature – particularly in sermons and verse – mourning the loss. Editions of some of these works can also be consulted in the College Library. After Henry’s death, his brother became heir to the throne and was crowned Charles I in 1626.

The copybooks were kept by Adam Newton (d. 1630) who was Henry’s tutor from 1599 and later his secretary. The volumes were bound, probably in 1610, in white velum and tooled with gold. They were given to the College by Newton’s son, Sir Henry Puckering (c.1619-1701) in 1691.

Further Reading:

Catherine MacLeod, The Lost Prince: The Life & Death of Henry Stuart, National Portrait Gallery (London, 2012)

Roy Strong, Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance (London, 1986)

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