Nonsuch castle – Palatium Regium in Angliae Regno Appelatum Nonciutz

by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg

Rare and special lost history


Date of first edition:  1596

Date of this map: 1598

Dimensions (not including margins): 32 x 44 cm

Condition: Excellent copper engraving. Old colouring. Strong paper, clean image and wide margins.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: text in Latin

Map reference: Taschen, Br. Hog., p. 367

From: Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Urbium praecipuarum mundi theatrum quintum, first edition 1596.



Item number:
British Isles
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TRANSLATION OF CAPTION: The Royal palace in the Kingdom of England, called Nonsuch. Nowhere is there anything the like.

COMMENTARY BY BRAUN: “The royal palace in England Nonsuch, ten miles away from London, was magnificently built by Henry VIII. […] The construction of this complex is so astonishing that it deserves its name Nonsuch, i.e. “none the like”. […] Many excellent craftsmen, master builders, stonecutters and sculptors, Italians, French, Dutch and English, were employed here at the King’s expense. In their decoration of the palace, which is adorned inside and out with handsome sculptures, these craftsmen have created a particular work of art that not just equals the antiquities of Rome, but in part even surpasses them.”

The engraving shows the front façade of Nonsuch Palace as viewed from the south. Commenced in 1538, the palace numbered amongst Henry VIII’s grandest building projects and played an important role in introducing Renaissance architecture in England. The Tudor king has Nonsuch built in the County of Surrey, close to one of his favorite hunting grounds; accordingly, a hunting scene can be made out on the hillside behind the palace. The palace was the favourite residence of Elizabeth I; she can be seen in the engraving in a splendid carriage accompanied by a large retinue. In 1670 Charles II gave Nonsuch to his mistress, Barbara Palmer. In 1682, with the king’s permission, she had the palace demolished and sold off the building materials in order to settle her gambling debts. The lower illustration shows costumed figures from the English nobility and peasantry (from left to right:) English maiden / Merchant’s wives / English noblewomen / Noble lady-in-waiting / English peasant woman / The bass that are sold by the English / Water-carrier. (Taschen)

Nonsuch… not anymore

This fine engraving is a view of Nonsuch Palace (Surrey), with carriages and deer hunting, a panel of female costume figures below. Latin text verso, dated in the plate 1582.
The scene records the arrival of Elizabeth I at Nonsuch Palace during the short period it was not in royal ownership, then belonging to the Earl of Arundel. It is one of only 3 known images of the palace built by Henry VIII near Epsom, in Surrey, in 1538, but demolished only 150 years later. It was a totally new building, rather than an adaptation of an existing one, incorporating some of the first Renaissance architecture in England, including elaborate stucco panels visible in this plate. Apart from fragments in museums, no other trace remains.

The palace was incomplete when Henry VIII died in 1547. In 1556 Queen Mary sold it to Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel, who completed it. Much later in the 1682-1683, Barbara, countess of Castlemaine (mistress of king Charles II, pulled it down in 1682-1683. She sold it off the building materials to pay for her gambling debt.

Some elements were incorporated into other buildings; for example the wood panelling can still be seen today in the Great Hall at Losely Park. No trace of the palace remains on its site today but some pieces are held by the British Museum.


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