Here we have an eighteenth century engraving of a sixteenth century cast silver medal of Henry VIII, taken from the original that sits in the British Museum. The medal was commissioned in 1524, three years after Henry was awarded his papal title. Henry’s portrait features on the obverse of the medal, and on the reverse the inscription DEFENSOR FIDEI appears beneath the Tudor rose – another lasting example of successful Tudor propaganda. The inscription above, ODOR EIVS VT LIBANI, translates as ‘its smell [shall be] as Lebanon’, likening the perfume of the Tudor rose to the fragrant scent which emitted from the cedars of the valleys of Lebanon. Next to this is a 1534 proclamation issued on behalf of the King ‘concerning the price of meat’, issuing instructions to butchers to sell pork, mutton, and veal, at specific prices. The proclamation begins with a Latin heading that translates as ‘Henry VIII, King of England and France, defender of the faith…’.
Henry had worked hard to gain his title, and he wanted to make sure that it was acknowledged. In adding it to the proclamations, writs and medals that circulated throughout the realm, Henry ensured that all would know of his status and hoped that his subjects would view him as a unifying force. Henry had initially defended the Catholic faith against the developing threat of the Protestant Reformation. But when he turned against the Pope (or Bishop of Rome as he came to be known), Henry kept the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ and redefined it in his own image.
Learn More / Did you Know
The Tudor rose was created by Henry’s father, King Henry VII after he defeated Yorkist King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 – the final, and deciding battle of the famed Wars of the Roses.
The Wars of the Roses were so called because the opposing sides fought beneath banners bearing the heraldic badges of their houses: Lancastrian challenger, Henry Tudor fought under the banner of the red rose of Lancaster, against the ruling white rose of York. Upon winning the war, Henry Tudor became King Henry VII – and sought to strengthen his claim to the throne by marrying Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the deceased Yorkist King Edward IV, who was brother and predecessor to King Richard III.
Their marriage united the two houses and Henry VII began using the symbol of the Tudor rose to represent the peace and unity that their marriage had brought to the kingdom. The emblem appeared on coins, medals, buildings, and manuscripts. It still appears on the uniforms of the Yeoman Guard at the Tower of London, on the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, on the reverse of twenty pence coins, and on multi-various pubs that bear its name.
- Authored by Francis Perry
- Production Place
- London, England
- ink on paper