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Record revealed

John Blanke’s petition for a pay rise

This parchment records John Blanke, a Black Tudor in the royal court, asking King Henry VIII for a pay rise and a promotion in his role as a trumpeter.

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Grey parchment with nine lines of handwritten old English in ink beside a faint signature.

The full parchment of John's petition

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Grey parchment with nine lines of handwritten old English in ink.

The details of John's petition


To the king our soveraign lord

In most humble wise besecheth your highnes your true and faithfull servant John Blake oon of your Trompetors That where as his wages nowe and as yet is not sufficient to maynteigne and kepe hym to doo your grace lyke service as other your trompetors doo. It may therefor please your highnes in consideracon of the true & faithfull service whiche your servant daile doeth unto your grace and so during his lyf entendeth to doo, To yeve and graunte unto hym the same Rowme of Trompete whiche Domynyc desessed late had. To have and enioye the said Rowme to your said servaunt from the fyrste day of December last passed during your moost gracious pleasure with the wages of xvj d by the day. And that this bill signed with your moost gracious hand may be sufficient warrant and discharge unto John Heron, Treasurer of your Chamber, for the payment of the said wages accordingly. And he shall dailie pray to god for the preservacon of your most noble and royall estate longe to endure.

Modern English

To the king our sovereign lord

Humbly beseeching your highness, your true and faithful servant John Blake, one of your trumpeters, that whereas his wages are not now sufficient to maintain and keep him to do your grace service as your other trumpeters do. It may therefore please your highness in consideration of the true and faithful service which your servant does to your grace each day and intends to do during his life, to give and grant to him the same role of trumpeter which Dominic, deceased, lately had. To have and enjoy the said role to your said servant from the first day of December last past during your most gracious pleasure, with the wages of 16 pence each day. And that this bill signed with your most gracious hand may be sufficient warrant and discharge to John Heron, treasurer of your chamber, for the payment of the said wages accordingly. And he shall daily pray to God for the preservation of your most noble and royal estate, long to endure.

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Faint lines spelling 'Henry' in capital letters.

Henry VIII's signature on the petition

Why this record matters

Date: Around 1512

Catalogue reference: E 101/417/2

John Blanke was recorded as one of the king’s trumpeters at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, from late 1507 until early 1512.

He is the first person of colour in England for whom life records and an identifiable portrait survive. He is depicted on a painted roll recording the processions for a tournament celebrating the birth of a short-lived son to Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII early in 1511 (now held by the College of Arms in London).

This undated petition is in a bundle of orders for the payment of money covering the first 12 years of Henry VIII’s reign. John Blanke asks for a pay rise from his then current daily rate of 8 pence to the 16 pence that his colleagues enjoyed. He argued that the easiest way to bring this about was to promote him into the role occupied by another trumpeter, Dominic Justinian, who had recently died in post. It shows the growing confidence of a man who enjoyed the king’s favour.

The petition might have been linked to John Blanke’s marriage in January 1512, which would have added considerably to his outgoings and responsibilities. The evidence for this comes from another gift from the king – £9 assigned on 14 January 1512 on violet cloth, furs, hose, a hat, bonnet and the costs of making them into John’s wedding outfit.

John’s annual salary before his pay rise was only £12, so he felt that the king was happy with his service and that it was appropriate for him to submit his petition for higher wages.

The story of John Blanke

Read about John Blanke

John Blanke was a trumpeter at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. He is one of the earliest people of colour in England we have records about.