CHARLEVILLE Castle has hosted many exciting and varied projects over the years from intimate classical recitals to large scale rock concerts. But the castle’s most recent project must rank as one of the most unusual and exciting. It is also the first time that the supporters of the castle have used a concept called Crowd Funding - whereby many people donate a small amount to fund a project.
Dudley Stewart of the Charleville Castle Trust explains “we have obtained the right to reconstruct a huge masterpiece painting of Henry VIII (6m by 3m) and hang it back where it was for over 200 years in the Charleville Castle Dining Room. The canvas is now ready and we need to build the huge frame in the room itself and then stretch the canvas onto it. Everyone who contributes will get a little reward - a little piece of this massive project.
The story of Peter’s Painting (as its known in the art world, commences when the painting was acquired by the Earl Of Charleville to be specifically mounted in the Dining Room in 1805 - during the construction of the castle.
“We have the original inventory (1837) which notes it - along with a (missing) portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1. We acquired an original sketch (many years back) of the Dining Room showing the King Henry VIII painting,” adds Dudley. “Dr Maurice Craig (a founding Director of the Charleville Castle heritage trust and great historian) told us that the painting had huge significance for the Earls. It was at this baptism (apparently) that Henry ordered Essex to exile the dissident Moore descendants (of Thomas Moore) to Ireland so that in defending themselves from the Irish and carrying through the anglisisation of Ireland the Moore’s would lose their propensity to oppose Henry and rather seek his support. It was Queen Mary who first carried through the order after the death of Henry but it was Queen Elizabeth who made it reality and gave the Moore’s the crucial role in the implementation of the Laois Offaly plantation - The Knight Thomas Moore was granted the castle of the High King of Ireland, Croghan Hill, to co-ordinate the Queen’s wishes (he was shortly afterwards assassinated in the castle by the O’Molloy Clan ... hence the extension of their lands to Charleville ... and the root of their power in years to come.
“A local told us some time ago that there was a great big painting badly slashed in the Dining Room until it was removed in 1970. this started our hunt for this most important explanation for the construction of such a gem and complex building in Charleville near enough to the Shannon in a (then) wilderness of bog. Our search began and we first hung a symbolic curtain where the painting ought to have been and tourists asked us why and what’s behind - setting the scene for us to tell the story and seek information.
“Our story begins when in 1970, Canadian, Graham Gordon climbed through the window of a derelict castle in Ireland, this Castle.
“The floors were strewn with debris, rotting furniture and broken glass. Light was streaming in through a broken shutter, casting rays across a giant room of intricate ornate design. There towering over Gordon hung a giant 10 foot by 20 foot grimy gilt frame encasing a gutted dark leather-like material.
“Gordon, having felt sympathy for the falling heap of a castle, instantly became determined to save this giant painting. The owner gladly sold the painting to Gordon and the painting was carted off on the back of the tractor never to be seen again. Or so we thought?
“There has always been the story of the missing painting - a sketch of it on the wall was discovered many years back - we searched and searched. Then in January of this year it suddenly reappeared fully restored at the Beaverbrook Museum in Canada. This is when we became determined to return an exact reproduction of this great painting to Charleville castle.
“In Phase 1 we got permission from the owner. Phase two was the most challenging and we decided that if we could succeed with this phase we could seek funding to complete the return of King Henry to Charleville Castle. We were lucky when we found Arthur. Arthur had honed his skills in Poland before taking on this project to prove his high capability. Since then the reproduction has been completed and the canvas is rolled away - awaiting funding to complete the last phase - this involves the stretching of the canvas, 20 foot by 10 foot, in the great Dining Room of the castle and its mounting in a gilt frame on the wall where it had hung before for many, many years.
“So that’s the story ... and we’re nearly there - we have decided to crowd-fund the remaining part of the operation in order to force us to spread the word. This project, which once seemed impossible to achieve, is now within our reach,” added Dudley.
The final stage of the project requires €4,000 to cover the final recreation of the painting measuring 10ft x 20ft across. An appeal has been launched on the website www.fundit.ie, the funds will cover:
* The printing of the replica of King Henry VIII at the baptism of the future Queen Elizabeth 1st
* The construction of a fitting frame, similar to the original frame.
* The stretching of the huge canvas and mounting of it within this frame.
Once the project is completed the replica painting will then be available for the public to view it in the original location.