Most people have a rather blinkered view of what life was back in the Tudor time, in one word: grim.
Period dramas and Hollywood movies often enjoy painting a vivid, grubby impression of what life was like back then; employing a liberal sprinkling of craggy faced extras and emphasising the filthiness of the muddy streets.
These grim pictures are usually juxtaposed with images of pristine palaces and wonderfully dressed, beautiful people. As tempting as it is to believe that such a stark divided existed at the time, the truth is likely to be less dramatic.
Historical records do suggest that many people lived in poverty during these times, but it’s important to remember that there was a middle ground between the super-rich aristocrats and the downtrodden serfs. For those lucky enough to either have a trade or be in the service of a generous benefactor, it was possible to earn a living, pay your way and still have time to enjoy a few hours of leisure time a week.
Hare the kinds of things that a middle-class Tudor could have afforded with their time and funds:
It might be hard to imagine, but even the richest of the rich would share some of their wealth on certain days throughout the year. Special occasions, such as the celebration of a military victory or a royal wedding, would often be marked by the donation of food and wine from the richest in society. On these days work would be suspended and the streets would be opened for revels.
Sports & Tourneys
It’s hard to imagine a version of England without Football, but that world existed in Tudor England, as the sport was, curiously, under a ban at the time. Still, there were plenty of casual games for the average citizen to get involved in from the curious game of shin-kicking to watching a tourney featuring the finest fighters in the lands.
High Quality Woollen Clothes
It might seem like an odd addition to this list, but at the time England was producing some of the finest wool (in both it’s raw and processed form) in the world. The pasture and arable farming industries were both booming during the time of Henry VII who capitalised on the international popularity of this product by slapping large export duties on wool leaving the country. The every man was still able to purchase quality wool for his clothes and bedding at a very reasonable price.
One of the most famous playwrights of all time rose to prominence during the reign of the Tudor, signalling a golden era for British Art and Culture that would continue for centuries to come. That playwright was, of course, Shakespeare, whose plays could be seen for as little as a single penny. Shakespeare was not the only famous writer to have come out of this era though – writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Sir Thomas More also made their names during this culturally enriching time.
Good Beer and a Meal
Some things change and some things never change. You’ve been able to get a good pint of beer in England for centuries now, but it was only in the Tudor times that it was actually safer to drink than the water. Due to the risk of water-bound diseases, you were much better off simply drinking beer than the untreated water from the public fountains. This was very much the golden age of the English pub with hundreds crammed onto benches and wooden crates to sup down hearty meat stews with large glasses of weak ale.