Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: John Blanke, a black trumpeter in Henry VIII’s court
His surname may have originated as a nickname, derived from the word blanc in French or blanco in Spanish, both meaning ‘white’. Blanke was part of a wider trend for European rulers to employ African musicians, dating from at least 1194, when turbaned black trumpeters heralded the entry of the Holy Roman emperor Henry VI into Palermo in Sicily. It has been suggested that Blanke arrived in England with Katherine of Aragon when she came to marry Arthur, prince of Wales, in 1501. Between 1507 and 1512 Blanke was one of eight royal trumpeters under the leadership of Peter de Casa Nova. The first payment to ‘John Blanke, the blacke Trumpet’ was made in early December 1507, when he was paid 20s. (8d. a day) for his services in the previous month
The story of John Blanke is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.
Image: Black trumpeter at Henry VIII’s tournament. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.