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In 1536 King Henry VIII commissioned the carving of a menagerie of heraldic beasts to celebrate his marriage to Jane Seymour. The beasts were placed throughout Hampton Court Palace, but were destroyed in the late 17th century.

Two hundred years later the beasts were recreated but remained undecorated. In 2009 Patrick Baty painted and gilded eight wooden replicas, which he put on display in a Tudor-style garden within the palace.

Four of Baty’s beasts:

You can view larger images of the beasts and their garden setting at the artist’s website [edit: link broken] – a wonderful project. Visitor information is available at the Hampton Court website.

They are all striking, but the panther in particular. Baty describes its significance:

A Panther had been counted among the number of royal beasts since the time of Henry IV. The heraldic Panther is generally shown as “incensed”, with flames coming from its mouth and ears, which represents its fragrant breath. The flames induce all other animals to approach it; the Dragon alone retreats.

The Panther is also usually shown with red and blue spots although there are early examples which are spotted with red, blue and gold.

A Panther is also found as the dexter supporter of the Duke of Beaufort’s arms.

Also note the use of the Tudor livery of green and white, inspired by background details of a garden from the The Family of Henry VIII (1545):

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