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This is King Henry VIII as you have probably never seen him before. He has been made to look like a vigorous man of action with an extra bushy, virile beard. This wood panel must have been commissioned by a true sycophant, which indeed it was. Sir William Paulet was a direct beneficiary of his king destroying countless Catholic monasteries. The parts of the Augustinian priority in Aldgate, London, that were not turned into a refuge for Dutch Protestants became a magnificent home for Sir William.
It’s no surprise he wanted to glamorize Henry, who raised him to some of the highest positions in the land. Sir William also helped put down Catholic rebellions against the king’s new Protestant ways, including a proposed tax on baptisms. His shrewdness went beyond ruthlessly executing anyone who got in Henry’s way; he helped get a guilty verdict for St. Thomas More on the charge of treason and was then given More’s house.
Ever the pragmatist, Paulet reconverted to Catholicism when Henry’s eldest daughter, Mary, became queen. He served under the Protestant King Edward VI as an extreme anti-Catholic and under Elizabeth as a more moderate persecutor of the Old Faith. He was the only public dignitary to serve four Tudor rulers at this difficult time. He must surely rank as the ultimate unprincipled survivor, who died while still working at the extraordinary age of 97. It can’t be said that he was a patron of honesty in art.
The virtual Museum of the Cross
The Museum of the Cross is the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has started an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum