John Blanke [1507 - 1512]
John Blanke, the Black trumpeter to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. is thought to have arrived in Britain from Spain in 1501 as one of the African attendants of Catherine of Aragon, who became Henry VIII’s first wife when they married in 1509.
Henry and Catherine produced an heir, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, on New Year’s Day 1511. To celebrate the birth Henry called a joust, which is pictured in the Great Tournament Roll of Westminster. The Roll is a 60ft manuscript depicting the royal procession and tournament. Sadly, the child died at the end of February that year and the Roll was consigned to the College of Arms where it remains to this day.
John Blanke’s image features twice on the Roll, and he is believed to be the earliest known Black Briton for whom we have both an image and a record.
It has been over half a millennium since the sounds of John Blanke’s trumpet filled the air and courts of Greenwich Palace. The original space has long been replaced and is now home to the Old Royal Naval College and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, given listed heritage status under the protection of Historic England. However, after three years of planning, consent was granted by Historic England for a special Nubian Jak blue plaque sponsored by the main partner, The John Blanke Project to be installed internally at King Charles Court, which is home to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music and part of the ORNC site.
The blue plaque was installed on Friday 14th January at 4:00pm 2022.
As the current guardians of King Charles Court, Trinity Laban treasures and celebrates the building’s unique history. It is a privilege for us to host the John Blanke plaque at our Faculty of Music as part of our Black Culture 365 series, our year-round commitment to celebrating Black history and art. Havilland Willshire - Director of Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance,
This plaque dedicated to John Blanke, marks him out in our history not just as the first Black Briton for whom we have both an image and a record but a sign of how diverse this island was and is, and how we celebrate our diversity today. Michael Ohajura – National Director of the John Blanke Project.
It's fantastic that the life of John Blanke, about whom scholars including Professor Imtiaz Habib, Dr. Onyeka Nubia, and myself, have discovered so much more over the last fifteen years, is being celebrated in this way, 510 years after John Blanke married in Greenwich in January 1512. I hope he will inspire the students who pass by the plaque every day. Dr Dr Miranda Kaufmann – Author of the Black Tudors The Trust is delighted to receive the support of Historic England, Trinity Laban, The John Blanke Project and other stakeholders, to celebrate and blow the trumpet of a pioneering 16th-century musician, who just by his very presence has forced us to rethink what it was like to be a Black Briton over 500 years ago and beyond. Dr. Jak Beula – CEO of Nubian Jak Community Trust
Check out the John Blanke Project