The Portraits of Lord Guildford Dudley

One of the lesser known and in some cases forgotten characters in the story of Lady Jane Grey is her husband Lord Guildford Dudley.  Various articles have been written on the iconography of Lady Jane Grey and the numerous portraits thought to depict her.  Almost nothing has been written relating to the iconography of her husband, which is why I have decided to write and include this article on this website.   

As discussed in previous articles, a small number of portraits held in private collections have been associated with Lord Guildford Dudley over the passage of time. During the research for this article, I have so far been unable to locate any sixteenth century references to a portrait of Lord Guildford Dudley being held in collections.  

The first documented reference located so far to a portrait of him appears in 1820, a portrait sold by a Mr Bullock of London.  This was formerly in the collection of a Mr David Holt Esq of Manchester, and the catalogue for the sale describes the painting as being by a Sir A. Mor. The entry for the lot is as follows:

A portrait of lady jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley in one frame, the latter portrait is the only one known to exist of Lord Guildford[1]

This portrait was again sold in 1833 and has now disappeared from the historical record.

As with Lady Jane Grey, so little is known about her husband. His story has been embellished and exaggerated to enable writers to make the character of Jane Grey appear vulnerable to the manipulation and bullying by others that surrounded her. His story, like that of his wife, has been surrounded by myths with little known today of the actual person.    

Similar to his wife, there is no date recorded to inform us of the exact date on which Guildford Dudley was born.  Traditionally, his year of birth has been recorded as either 1534 or 1536, but recent research produced by Susan Higginbotham suggests that he may have possibly been born between 1537 and 1538, thus making him the same age as Jane Grey or possibly younger.[2]

We also have no detailed description as to what Guildford Dudley looked like.  As discussed in previous articles, the description given by Richard Davey detailing Guildford’s features as he entered the Tower of London with Jane as queen in 1553 has today been proved to be an invention by the author.  We are simply left with vague references to him being “handsome” by his contemporaries which give us nothing in terms of his physical features.[3]

The aim of this article is to look at the portraits that have been associated with Lord Guildford Dudley in the past in the hope of establishing if there is any possibility of any of these being a genuine image painted from life.  Where possible I have included what is known about the provenance of the image in the hope of establishing some documented order.   

The Madresfield Court Portrait
Called Lord Guildford Dudley
Unknown Artist
Oil on Panel
© Madresfield Court

Our first portrait appears publicly in a book published in the early twentieth century entitled “The Tower of London” by Ronald Sutherland Gower.  Traditionally identified as Lord Guildford Dudley, this painting has for many years been displayed alongside another thought to represent his wife Lady Jane at Madresfield Court in Malvern, Worcestershire.  Both portraits have been in the collection of the Earls of Beauchamp since the early nineteenth century.

Neither portrait is an authentic likeness. The portrait thought to represent Lady Jane Grey is discussed in detail by John Stephan Edwards, and it is concluded within his article that the artist who painted the portrait intended it to be a representation of Mary Magdalene and not Jane Grey.[4]    

The portrait thought to represent Lord Guildford Dudley shows a male figure standing to the viewers left with his righthand on hip and his left hand resting on his sword. He wears a light-coloured doublet with high standing collar and a large figure-of-eight ruff.  The sitter has dark hair and wears a black bonnet that includes goldsmith work and two feathers within its decoration.  He is depicted in front of a dark background and in the top left-hand corner is an inscription which reads 1566 Æ SVÆ, 20.

The first questionable aspect of this painting is the inscription. This is inconsistent with the known facts of Guildford Dudley’s life and is dated to some twelve years after his execution in 1554.  It is not truly known how this image became associated with Guildford, though it appears that whoever suggested the identity did not know the year in which he died.   The date is also inconsistent with the costume worn by the sitter, particularly the large circular ruff seen at his neck and the hat worn by the sitter.  This style of ruff dates to the later period of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and is seen in many portraits painted during the 1580’s.  During the 1560’s the smaller figure-of-eight ruff which generally surrounded the face was in common use.  This again suggest that the inscription itself was probably added later and that this painting was not meant by the artist who created it to be a representation of Lord Guildford Dudley.

It is highly likely that Guildford’s name was associated with this portrait with little reason behind it.  Nothing is seen within the painted image to establish that this portrait was ever painted from life or was ever meant to be a depiction of Lord Guildford Dudley.

The Tyntesfield Portrait

The Tyntesfield Portrait
Called Lord Guildford Dudley
Unknown Artist
Oil on Paper Laid Down on Panel
13 x 9 1/2 inches
© The National Trust

Named in this article after its current location, this portrait is now in the collection of The National Trust at Tyntesfield House, though it is not currently on display.

This image depicts a young gentleman with blonde hair, painted three-quarter length and facing the viewer’s right.  He is wearing a black hat with a yellow feather, a black doublet embellished with gold, and a dark fur overcoat with yellow sleeves.  The sitter’s right hand is resting on a sword that is attached to his hips.

This portrait was purchased as a painting of Guildford Dudley by George Adraham Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxhall (1873-1931).  On his death it passed to his son Richard Lawley Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxhall (1922-2001) and was subsequently purchased by the National Trust in 2002.[5]

The National Trust collections website describes this painting as being both British made and created using oil on paper applied to panel.  It is also noted to report that the portrait is probably nineteenth century in origin. Though no scientific investigation has taken place on this image to establish a date of creation, the style of the painting is more consistent with nineteenth century techniques than that of sixteenth century techniques.  

Until a firm date of creation can be established, It is more than likely that this portrait is an imaginary image of Guildford Dudley rather than a sixteenth century painting painted from life or based on a pre-existing image.

The Wroxton Abbey Portrait

The Wroxton Abbey Portrait
Called Lord Guildford Dudley
Unknown Artist
Oil on Panel
13 x 11 inches
© Private Collection

The third and final portrait is the more interesting of the three, due to it being exhibited publicly on at least two occasions as an image of Guildford Dudley. This portrait was also used by the artist Richard Burchett in 1854 as a basis for his depiction of Lord Guildford Dudley when producing the images of the royal Tudor figures for the Prince’s Chamber’s in the Palace of Westminster.[6]

Lord Guildford Dudley
Richard Burchett
1854
© Palace of Westminster

The original painting once again shows an image of a young gentleman, painted three-quarter length and holding a pair of gloves in his right hand, with his left hand on his hip.  The sitter wears a black doublet with large white sleeves, embroidered with gold thread.  Placed over his right shoulder, is a cape of dark fabric with fur and at his neck is a large circular ruff. 

The earliest documentation regarding this image is the exhibition catalogue for the Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 held in Manchester. The portrait is described in the catalogue as

item 383. Lord Guildford Dudley from the collection of Col North MP[7]

The painting again appears in the National Portrait Exhibition held at the South Kensington Museum in April 1866 where a description was given

Item 191. Lord Guildford Dudley. Colonel and Baroness North – Half-length, small life size, ruff, doublet and surecoat black with dark fur, white gold-embroidered sleeves, gloves in r hand. Panel 14 x 11 inches.[8]

The Colonel North MP listed as the owner of the painting is John North, also known as John Doyle, of Wroxton Abbey.  Wroxton Abbey is a seventeenth-century manor house and was the home of the Pope and North family from 1677 until 1932, when it was leased to Trinity College.  A sale was held of the contents of Wroxton Hall in May 1933 that included the portrait of Guildford Dudley matching the description of the portrait which appeared in the National Portraits Exhibition catalogue, displayed in the Garden Parlour.

Item 690. Small portrait on panel of Guildford Dudley, holding gloves in right hand.  Believed to be the only known contemporary portrait.[9]

What is seen from the image of the portrait is that once again the sitter is wearing a costume that dates to the 1580’s rather than what would have been worn by Guildford Dudley during his lifetime.  Richard Burchett also appears to notice this when creating his image of Guildford for the Palace of Westminster and has adapted his image to fit with a more consistent costume that Guildford would have worn.

On completion of the Wroxton Abbey sale, the portrait then passed into a private collection though was subsequently sold again at auction on 29th September 1993.

As far as I am aware the three portraits discussed above are the only known portraits associated with Lord Guildford Dudley.  As this article shows none contain any clues in favours of the sitter being positively identified as him and so Guildford Dudley remains faceless.


[1] Catalogue of pictures of David Holt Esquire of Manchester, 14th July 1820

[2] Higginbotham, Susan.  How old was Guildford Dudley? https://www.susanhigginbotham.com/posts/how-old-was-guildford-dudley-beats-me/ accessed September 2019.

[3]Edwards, John Stephan, https://somegreymatter,com/lettereengl.htm, accessed September 2019. 

[4] Edwards, John Stephan. A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Dudley, Old John Publishing, 2015, Page 137-139

[5] http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/21094 accessed, September 2019.

[6] Wallis, George. The Royal House of Tudor, Cundall and Fleming, 1866, Page 70

[7] https://archive.org/details/catalogueofarttr00artt/page/n449, accessed September 2019

[8]https://archive.org/details/catalogueoffirst00sout/page/n51?q=lord+guildford+dudley+colonel+and+baroness+north, accessed September 2019

[9] E.H. Tipping, Wroxton Abbey Sale, Monday, May 22nd, 1933, Page 24

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