MEMS alumna in the news again

Kate McCaffrey

Graduates of the MEMS MA make good use of their training. An outstanding example of this truth is how the research of Kate McCaffrey has received international attention. Kate came to MEMS in 2019 and the work she did for her MA dissertation on a printed Book of Hours owned by Anne Boleyn gained headlines around the world. Now she has hit them again with another exciting discovery.

After graduating from Kent, Kate became Assistant Curator at Hever Castle, childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and now owner of her copy of the Book of Hours. Kate has continued her research into the printing and noted there was another copy of it in Wren Library in Trinity College, Cambridge. She and her colleagues, Dr Owen Emmerson and Alison Palmer, visited the library to study the copy which is in a jewelled binding.

After their visit, Alison commented that the binding looked very much like the one seen in the portrait of Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein. This sent Kate and Owen on a search for more evidence and, remarkably, they have been able to confirm that the Wren Book of Hours is, indeed, the book with which Cromwell was seen sitting in the portrait. The discovery was announced in early June 2023 and has attracted wide media attention in Britain and the States.

Holbein Cromwell
Hans Holbein the Younger, Thomas Cromwell (c. 1532-34, Frick Collection, New York).

Kate acknowledges that her role of in the research would not have been possible without the training she received with MEMS. She says:

studying with MEMS equipped me with a wide range of interdisciplinary skills which left me confident enough to see the details and make them tell the full story. This is what trained me to search for the minute detail and then widen the lens to place these discoveries in a significant, broad narrative.

Her most recent research has significant consequences for our understanding of Cromwell, Holbein and the wider culture of the late 1520s and early 1530s. She is now working with her colleagues on teasing out these implications, so expect more announcements in the near future!