1536: Henry's Year of Change

Unique among most festivals, including renaissance festivals, the Maryland Renaissance Festival utilizes a storyline and progresses each year forward in the timeline of Henry VIII, through all his reign and all six of his wives.  This season the year is 1536, and as ever, the King’s love life is the source of gossip. The royal story is played out in stage shows and in improvisations throughout the festival grounds. 

Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509 as a handsome, athletic, intelligent and gifted young monarch. Early in his reign his contemporaries used the words 'noble', 'gentle', and 'brilliant' to describe him. Yet later in life you hear him described as ruthless, egotistical and prone to rages. Many historians view the year 1536 as when this change began to happen.

1536 started with the death of his first wife and queen Katherine of Aragon - unfortunately in Henry's mind that was considered a good thing. In later January he would suffer a fall in a Joust and lay unconscious for two hours. This accident marked the end of his jousting career, as well as pointed to the very real concern of who would follow Henry on the throne. At this point physical pain became a constant in his life and his weight gain began. In May his second wife Anne Boleyn was executed and later that month Henry married his third wife, Jane Seymour. His illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy died in July. In autumn Henry would see the most serious rebellions during his reign. Obviously 1536 could be considered Henry's annus horribilis.

Our story takes place after the marriage to his third wife, Jane Seymour. The King, Queen, and select courtiers are visiting Revel Grove to enjoy the Harvest Festival. Jane's family are enjoying the benefits of the royal connection. Her brother Edward has just been created Viscount Beauchamp. While this is an enjoyable visit with close family and friends, also in attendance is Henry's trusted minister, Thomas Cromwell, who recently was elevated to Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon. He also has been appointed Lord Privy Seal, and Viceregent over all ecclesiastical concerns in the realm. This elevation of a commoner is not sitting well with the old aristocracy! 

It also isn't popular with those in the north of England, who are putting the blame on Cromwell for the dissolution of the monasteries as well as reforms and practices in the church. Trouble is brewing and soon will explode to what is known in history as the Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage of Grace. 

The King is aiming to simply enjoy a lovely day in the village, but alas heavy is the head that wears the crown!

In the village, Sir Richard Mondes, Mayor of Revel Grove, and his wife, the Baroness Marney are much annoyed that the mayor's mother and brother, Audrey and Monty Mondes, seem to have extended their visit from a fortnight to permanently moving into their manor house. Monty has recently married the lovely but penniless Besse Bottomely and is pressing his brother for a prestigious job...which requires no work. But the mayor has little time at the moment to worry about his brother, for it is his responsibility to make sure the King, court, and all of the gracious guests have a fabulous day of feasting and merriment at the Harvest Festival!

            The Royal Intrigue is just one aspect of the Maryland Renaissance Festival, set in the Village of Revel Grove where visitors can find all manner of amusement, feasting and shops galore.  More than 200 performers fill ten stages and taverns as well as the streets of the village with continuous entertainment.  A three thousand seat jousting arena host authentic combat joust thrice daily as well as other large exhibitions.  More than 140 merchants fill their shops with their predominately handcrafted wares by the artisan in the shop, as well as various demonstrating shops creating treasures before your eyes.  Forty-two food and beverage emporiums and five taverns create a feast throughout the village to sate your appetite and quench your thirst.

            Special admission pricing reduces tickets for all customers the first three weekends from August 26 through September 10.  No coupons or special purchases required.  The remaining six weekends from September 16 through October 22 are peak season with full price admission in effect.  Visit for full information on tickets, special event information, scheduling and all your event planning needs.