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Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy’s tomb recreated by University of Leicester

Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate male heir of King Henry VIII, would never ascend the throne, his tomb though was designed as if he were already King.

3D scan of 3rd Duke's monument, Framlingham Photo Credit: University of Leicester

3D scan of 3rd Duke’s monument, Framlingham Photo Credit: University of Leicester

In 2013, the dismantled tombs of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, were discovered. The tombs were being constructed at the Thetford Priory in Norfolk but dismantled during Henry VIII’s “Dissolution of the Monasteries” in 1540. From the years of 1536-1541, Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, friaries, and convents throughout his kingdom in order to appropriate their income. The original intent of this act was to increase the income of the Crown, but most of the money went towards his military campaigns before his death. Henry VIII was given this power by Parliament in 1534 through the Act of Supremacy. This act made him the Supreme Head of the Church of England and separated England from Papal authority, a constant burden to Henry VIII.

3rd Duke's monument virtual disassembly, east end . Photo Credit: University of Leicester

3rd Duke’s monument virtual disassembly, east end . Photo Credit: University of Leicester

The tombs were never completed. After the priory had dissolved, pieces were scattered. Some were stored at the Duke of Norfolk’s home in Kenninghall while he planned their new location. The Duke was in the process of rebuilding the parish church of St Michael in Framlingham, Suffolk for the tombs when Henry VIII’s reign ended in 1547.

The Duke fell out of favor and found himself imprisoned in the Tower until 1553 and the pieces of the tombs lost during the subsequent Reformation. After he was released from the Tower and pardoned by Queen Mary, the tombs were rebuilt in a different style, using different materials. The final resting place of the tombs is St Michael’s in Framlingham.

Duke of Richmond's monument, Framlingham. Photo Credit: University of Leicester

Duke of Richmond’s monument, Framlingham. Photo Credit: University of Leicester

In the 1930s, original pieces of the tombs were discovered during the excavation of the Thetford Priory. Through the use of digital technology, the world can finally see what the original intention of the tombs would have looked like

Dr Phillip Lindley from the University of Leicester has led a team to recreate the tombs. He used drawings found in 16th century manuscripts combined with 3D laser scanning and 3D printing.

Dr Lindley commented: “In 2006, I was called in to examine artefacts owned by English Heritage and stored in an East Anglian warehouse. There they had found a number of fragments of stone that had been excavated from Thetford Priory in the mid-1930s. We had reason to believe they related to the two monuments at Framlingham and wanted to find out for sure. Of course, we could not physically take apart the monuments at Framlingham to see if these ‘jigsaw pieces’ fit, so the only way to do it was virtually. Using 3D scans, we have virtually disassembled the two existing tombs at Framlingham, and reassembled them using the pieces at Thetford Priory to see what was originally planned for them.”

“3D technology is bringing cultural heritage to life. It is moving at an amazing pace, and while it’s usually being developed for scientific or commercial purposes, historians and archaeologists can now harness these tools,” added Lindley.

Photo Credit: University of Leicester

  • Lee

    I love this story and I have the utmost respect for the historians that pay such close attention to the smallest details. Their work allows the rest of us to appreciate these artifacts and the history of the times.

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