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Tudor Minute July 15 - Happy Birthday Inigo Jones

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for July 15. 

Today we mark the birthday, in 1573, of architect Inigo Jones. I have a hard time saying his name without laughing because it reminds me of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, and I want to do the whole, “you killed my father, prepare to die” schtick. But I digress. Inigo Jones was actually the first British architect of the early modern period, and despite his Spanish sounding name, he was thoroughly English, born in Smithfield in London and the son of a Welsh clothmaker.

He was self-taught, never went to college.  Born in 1573, he travelled abroad around 1600 where he was hugely influenced by the Roman and Greek columns in Italy, and he brought that back to England.  He rose quickly through the ranks, and became a surveyor for the Prince of Wales, and eventually became Surveyor General to the Office of Works, where he was involved in a number of large scale building projects.  His work wasn’t particularly original, and much of it looks rather generic to us, but he’s well known and respected because he brought classical architecture to Gothic England.

One of his most famous commissions was Queen’s House in Greenwich, which, though it looks plain, caused a sensation when it was built because it was so different than anything else in England.  He also built the Banqueting House, which is the only surviving building that was part of the grand Whitehall Palace. 

Jones was also famous for working in the theater, designing sets, scenery and costumes for plays and masques, often in collaboration with the poet Ben Johnson.  By the 1630’s he was in high demand, and since he was still the Surveyor to the King, his services were only available to a select group of people.

Towards the end of his life he was caught up in the English Civil War because of his close association with the Royal family.  His property was seized, though it was returned a year later. He lived his final years fairly quietly. The famous Christopher Wren was Surveyor General several years after him, and built a monument to him which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Random Friday Fun Fact: Inigo Jones and British Architecture

Tudor Times on Queen Anne of Denmark