A Tour Guide's View To John Blanke
Tour guides who work around London need to know everything about everything. All over London there is history that is revealed to the tourist as they walk around with their guide. The guide stops at each stop and points out something which has a history to it and which they hope the tourists will find interesting.
Imagine then what you would point out to someone who is on a tour with you about John Blanke. John Blanke has been part of London's history since around the 1500s - but how many people have heard of him? Who was he? What did he do to become famous? Why is a tour guide talking about him?
The 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll is a roll that records the joust called by Henry VIII in February 1511 to celebrate the birth of his son with Catherine of Aragon. Although Henry is the undisputed central figure, the figure that has come to the fore nowadays is that of John Blanke, Henry's black trumpeter.
Not only does he appear on entry with the rest of the King's musicians, he also appears on exit, therefore the only identifiable person (other than the King) to appear twice on the roll. Although the roll is dedicated to the King, his double appearance on the roll ensures that he stands out from the crowd. The other reason he stands out is he is the only musician wearing a turban of sorts. He's clearly styled his turban to what suits him and feels comfortable wearing it. He's a man who likes to be different. Whether he likes it or not he stands out purely based on the colour of his skin - which he knows. He is wearing the same uniform as the others therefore it is clear that he isn't just someone who has stumbled upon this event and joined in. He's also carrying the King's standard. In effect he's "one of them". He fits in with everyone else, he's doing what everyone else is doing i.e. celebrating the birth of the King's son. He's not different; he's the same. His needs and wants are the same as everyone else.
In effect, John Blanke has become famous just because he was black. Famous for being black wouldn't become popular until some time later - so he was way ahead of his time without realising it!
Tour guides will need to do their research about this amazing character who lived in London at a time when it was thought there were no Black people in London, and those that were here were slaves, yet here we find one in the King's court. How would that go down with the UKIP voter of today I wonder?
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