The Curious Case of Henry Grey’s Head

Until recently, I have avoided using social networking websites as I am always concerned how much personal information is, at times, unconsciously posted.  To complete the creation of my website, I once again thought I would challenge my beliefs and create an account on two of the more popular networking sites as a way of promoting my articles and to connect with people who share the same interests.

If anything, social media definitely brings people together.  During the month of February, it was nice to see how social media was used by many individuals as a way of commemorating the 466th anniversary of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, Guildford Dudley and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.

One post from a well-known Tudor history website sparked my memory and interest about a rather ghoulish and macabre relic with a supposed connection to Lady Jane Grey. The relic discussed was the supposed mummified head of Henry Grey discovered in the Church of Holy Trinity Minories, next to the Tower of London, during the nineteenth century.[1]

Supposed Head of Henry Grey

In a book published in 1889, Reverend Samuel Kinns tells the story that apparently Henry’s body was buried in the Chapel of St Peter after his execution.  However, his head was somehow smuggled out of the Tower and was buried in a vault at the Church of Holy Trinity Minories.

Kinns writes that Henry’s head was apparently discovered in 1851 by William Legge, 5th Earl of Dartmouth.  Legge was inspecting the vaults of his ancestors under the church, and according to reports, he discovered a basket in a small vault near the altar of the chapel.  On inspecting it, he noted that the basket was filled with sawdust, and it also contained the decapitated head of a male in a perfect state of preservation. [2]

The Church of Holy Trinity Minories was established from a nunnery that was surrendered to the Crown in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The land and buildings were apparently given to Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk by King Edward VI in January 1552.  The nun’s chapel then became a parish church, and by 1706 the original church had fallen into disrepair and was rebuilt using brick material.  The upmost care and attention was given to keep as much of the church’s original features as possible. The church was eventually closed in 1899, and the building was eventually destroyed by bombing during World War II. [3]  

Church of Holy Trinity Minories

At thirty-six years old, Henry Grey was charged with high treason and executed on the morning of 23rd February 1554 for his involvement in Wyatt’s rebellion.  His final moments were documented in the book Chronical of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary.  This book was thought to have been written by a resident at the Tower of London at that time, and it provides a detailed description of Henry Greys actions when on the scaffold.  What is most relevant in this description is that the writer informs us that, fortunately for Henry, his head was taken off with one stroke by the executioner. The entry stops with the fatal blow of the axe, and no other written account has survived to inform us exactly what happened to his body and head after this event. [4] 

As Samuel Kinns noted in his 1898 book, it is traditionally thought that Henry’s body was buried in the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula within the walls of the Tower of London. The Chapel of St Peter was not only used as a place of worship for residents of the Tower, but it was also a place where the bodies of those accused of treason and other crimes could be buried in great obscurity and simply forgotten about.   

Due to Henry’s high birth and status, it is thought that his body was probably buried somewhere on the left-hand side of the chancel, close to the altar, alongside his daughter and son-in-law. The altar was the focal point within a church, and people of high birth were buried close to this due to Christian belief and the hierarchy of the social order.  Documentation survives to inform us that other prominent figures of high social status also executed during the sixteenth century and buried in the Chapel of St Peter were buried close to the altar. 

1886 Plan Showing Probable Burial Spot For People of High Status

During restoration work on the Chapel between 1876 and 1877, the above plan, was made using contemporary descriptions to identify the most probable place of burial for some of the Tower’s most prominent victims. Henry, Jane and Guildford where all included on the above plan but, bones discovered during the work on the altar floor were not associated with any of them.

Bones showing signs of decapitation were discovered, and every effort was made to identify the specific individuals.[5]  These bones were eventually re-buried under elaborate marbles slabs detailing the possible identifications of the individuals, and a large white marble slab was placed at the front of the Chancel listing the names of victims buried in the chapel whose remains where unfortunately not identified.

Final Design For Memorial Slabs Commemorating Individuals Buried in The Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula

The only contemporary documented information regarding the discovery of the head I have been able to locate is a book written in 1851.   In the same year the head was apparently discovered by William Legge the books writer, Reverand Thomas Hill, notes that

in the church is placed the head, taken from the body which evidently had suffered decapitation, although it is impossible to discover now the name of its possessor.[6] 

The above quote suggests that no other information was discovered alongside the head that could be used to positively identify the male and no mention of the heads association with Henry Grey is mentioned in this book.

In 1877, the head was examined by Dr Fredrick John Mouat, the same individual who also examined the bones found in the Chapel of St Peter during the 1876 restoration. He concluded that

The head was removed by rapid decapitation during life admits of no doubt. A large gaping gash, which had not divided the subcutaneous structures, shows that the first stroke of the axe was misdirected, too near the occiput, and in a slanting direction. The second blow, a little lower down, separated the head from the trunk below the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. The retraction of the skin, the violent convulsive action of the muscles, and the formation of a cup-like cavity with the body of the spinal bone at the base, prove that the severance was effected during life, and in cold weather.[7]

Dr Mount appears to have been very careful in his analysis not to put a name to the individual, though he is noted to report that the head was decapitated during life and that it took at least two blows to remove it from the body. 

On 17th March 1877, George Scharf, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, also viewed the decapitated head and took detailed drawings and notes in one of his sketchbooks.

George Scharf Sketchbook
© The National Portrait Gallery, London

Scharf is the first person I have been able to locate who actually documents the tradition that the head is supposed to be of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.  He also makes several notes recording the heads condition and that it was that of a person beyond the prime of his life. Scharf alsonotes the two cut marks seen at the base of the neck, but makes no mention that the two cut marks differ with the contemporary description of the execution of Henry Grey and that the signs of age are also inconsistent with the age of Henry Grey at the time of his death.[8]

Doyne Bell, a royal official who is recorded as being with Scharf at the same viewing, recalls that Scharf added ‘the arched form of the eyebrows and the aquiline shape of the nose, corresponds with the portrait engraved in Lodge’s series from a picture in the possession of the Marquis of Salisbury at Hatfield.[9] 

George Scharf’s own opinions regarding the similarities between the mummified head and portrait appears to have only strengthened the claim that the head was in fact that of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.  The writer and artist Lord Ronald Sutherland-Gower was noted to have said that Scharf was

no better judge of an historical head, whether on canvas or in a mummified state, that ever existed.[10]

The story that the head was in fact smuggled from the Tower of London and buried within Holy Trinity Church appears to have surfaced from this.  I have been unable to locate any sixteenth century reference concerning the separated burial of Henry Grey’s head and body.  The only published material reporting this story appears after Scharf and others had viewed the head.

The portrait discussed by Scharf was exhibited on many occasions towards the end of the nineteenth century as a portrait of Henry Grey. The painting was engraved and published in Edmund Lodge’s Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain as Scharf notes. This book was published in 1814 and widely circulated. The National Portrait Gallery also purchased an identical copy of the same painting in 1867 which was again identified as Henry Grey.  

Robert Dudley
(previously identified as Henry Grey)
Oil on Panel
© The National Portrait Gallery, London

Modern research has now identified that this painting is in fact a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester painted in the 1570’s, debunking Scharf’s theory. 

It is my opinion that it needs to be remembered that the head was viewed and studied over one hundred years ago.  Yes, these individuals where in a prominent position to make an analysis at that time, using the scientific methods known at that time.  Today, with modern scientific methods, the riddle surrounding the identification of the head could possibly be solved once and for all.  Though difficult to obtain, DNA testing could be attempted on the head to identify any possible connection to Henry Grey if a living descendant could be found.  If a living descendant could not be found, then we do know the burial location of two of Henry’s daughters, though permission would have to be granted to allow the opening of the tombs.   

According to reports, the head was supposedly buried in the churchyard of St Botolph, Aldgate in 1990.  I have heard from an impeccable informant that this is not the case, and that the head is held in a safe and appropriate place, the location known to only a handful of people who need to know its whereabouts. If this is the case, then there is some possibility that this riddle could possibly be looked into further at some point in the future.[11] 


[1] My sincere thanks to Claire Ridgeway of the Anne Boleyn Files for reminding me about this.

[2] Kinns, Samuel, Historical sketches of eminent men and women who have more or less come into contact with the abbey and church of Holy Trinity, Minories, from 1293 to 1893, with some account of the incumbents, the fabric, the plate, 1898, page 182-184

[3] Kinns, Samuel, Historical sketches of eminent men and women who have more or less come into contact with the abbey and church of Holy Trinity, Minories, from 1293 to 1893, with some account of the incumbents, the fabric, the plate, 1898, page 139-184

[4] Nichols, J. G, The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Llanerch Publishers, 1850, page.63-64

[5] For further information on the restoration of the Chapel and the search and discovery of the bones of executed victims see: Bell, Doyne. C, Notices of The Historic Persons Buried in The Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in The Tower of London, 1877.

[6] Hill. Rev. Thomas, The History of The Parish of Holy Trinity, Minories, London, 1851, page 16

[7] Bell. Doyne. C, Notices of The Historic Persons Buried in The Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in The Tower of London, 1877, page 184-185

[8] Heinz Archive. NPG7/1/3/1/2/21, Trustees Sketchbook 1876-1877, page 17-20

[9] Bel. Doyne. C, Notices of The Historic Persons Buried in The Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in The Tower of London, 1877, page 185

[10] Bell. Walter George, Unknown London, Page 13

[11] http://www.hobleysheroes.co.uk/round-ups-and-articles/la-round-ups/67-london-archaeologist-1990-vol-6-10 accessed March 2020.

The Ketteringham Hall Portrait

Previously Called Lady Jane Grey
Watercolour on Ivory
45mm

On 25th April 1912, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh visited Ketteringham Hall in Norfolk.  Singh visited a large number of properties across Norfolk where he documented the art collections seen and published a book in 1927 detailing his findings.  In the book, entitled Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Singh recorded a portrait thought in 1912 to represent Lady Jane Grey.

Ketteringham Hall was built in the fifteenth century and was home to Henry Grey of Ketteringham.  By 1492 the property had passed to the Heveningham family. It was purchased in the nineteenth century by John Peter Boileau, archaeologist, Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and collector of antiquaries.  The hall was dramatically remodelled during the nineteenth century when it was purchased by Boileau to house his vast collection of antiques and collectables.

In the past and today, Ketteringham Hall has laid claim that it was once the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, and it is only fitting that it should have housed a portrait of her.  As discussed above, the house was no longer in ownership of the Grey family during the sixteenth century, and there is no documented evidence to state that Jane Grey ever visited the property.[1]   

At the time Prince Frederick Duleep Singh visited the property, it had passed by descent to Sir Maurice Colborne Boileau, grandson of John Peter Boileau. The Hall would eventually be used as an active US Air Force base, and by 1948 the family opted to sell Ketteringham off, when it was then purchased by the Duke of Westminster.

Singh provides a detailed description in his book of the portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey seen in 1912.  The entry reads as follows.  

Lady Jane Dudley, H(ead) and S(houlders). Body, face and blue eyes all turned towards the sinister (viewers left), fair hair parted and flat, roll over each ear, and small row of rolls over the head, black cap on the head falling at one side and behind. Dress: black with white fur round the neck and down the front, also on each side of the arms. Blue background, min(iature) square. Age 18.[2]

No other information concerning this portrait has surfaced, and it appears never to have been exhibited as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  The painting was initially thought to be lost due to the contents of Ketteringham Hall being sold off over the years at auction.

During his own research into the many portraits thought to depict Lady Jane Grey, John Stephan Edwards was the first to acknowledge and create awareness of the Ketteringham Hall portrait in modern times.  He briefly discussed it in the appendix of his book concerning lost portraits once thought to be Jane Grey.  Edwards compared Singh’s description of the painting to a portrait also thought to depict Lady Jane Grey at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. He expressed uncertainty as to whether the portrait was still at Ketteringham Hall today.[3]  

Further research into the Ketteringham Hall portrait completed by myself suggests that it was actually sold in 1947. By this point the portrait had lost its identity and no connection was made at that time that the portrait was ever thought to depict lady Jane Grey.

In 1947, a large four-day auction took place of the contents of Ketteringham Hall. It is highly likely that the portrait once seen by Singh and given a detailed description in his book as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey was sold on the first day of sale as part of one lot containing three items.

Lot 357. Miniature, Lady with a white lace collar, ditto fur collar and silhouette.[4]

It appears that this lot was purchased, along with several other lots from the 1947, sale by Rev William Hall and his son Bryan Hall.  Both father and son were avid collectors of antiques and frequent visitors to sales of county house collections.  Bryan Hall would eventually acquire a large collection of more than 2,200 antiques during his lifetime and all where held within his home of Banningham old Rectory, which on occasions he would open for public viewing.

The miniature portrait remained in Hall’s collection until 2004. By this point, the elderly Bryan Hall put his entire collection up for auction, facilitated by Bonham’s Auctioneers.  This consisted of a three-day sale of the contents of Banningham Old Rectory.  The Ketteringham Hall portrait, along with another miniature close in comparison to the 1947 catalogue description of ‘a woman in a lace collar, and a large quantity of silhouettes were sold during this sale.  The provenance for these items could be traced back to Ketteringham Hall.[5]   Lot 89 of the Bonham’s sale is of particular interest when looking at the lost Ketteringham Hall portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  It is referred to in the catalogue as

Lot 89. Bernard Lens III (1750/6-1808), A portrait of a lady dressed as Mary Queen of Scots, in black dress slashed to reveal white fur, pearl necklace and black cap Water colour on ivory rectangular 45mm, in a gilded wood frame.[6]

Though the provenance for lot 89 was not fully documented in the auction catalogue, Singh’s description was included in the literature accompanying the lot.  The auction house commented that this portrait does not conform to other known portraits of Lady Jane Grey and lists the sitter’s identity as Mary Queen of Scots.

When comparing Singh’s description to the photograph of lot 89, there does appear to be a match. If this picture is the lost Ketteringham Hall portrait, then this brings about the question as to why an eighteenth-century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots became known as Lady Jane Grey by 1912.

NPG764
Previously Called Lady Jane Grey
Oil on Panel
(c)NPG

One possible reason for this is the purchase of NPG764 by the National Portrait Gallery, London.  By 1912, this was being exhibited as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, and this does share some similarities in style and composition to the Ketteringham Hall portrait.   It may just be possible that the Boileau family or Singh himself concluded that, due to the similarities, the portrait at Ketteringham Hall must also depict Lady Jane Grey. During the early 20th century, several books were written and published concerning the iconography of Mary Queen of Scots, including one written by Lionel Cust, who briefly discussed the similarities in costume between both images.[7]

The portrait on which the Ketteringham Hall image is based was widely copied during the eighteenth century as an image of Mary and would generally be referred to as the Okney type by art historians.  It appears that the copy produced by Bernard Lens in vast quantities was based on a sixteenth century miniature portrait once in the collection of the Duke of Hamilton prior to 1710. 

George Vertue discussed this in his notebooks, having seen the original miniature in person.       

“This duke of Hamilton that lived at the manor house at East Acton had great collections of Indian work and china and many curious limning portraits some of them excellent and rare in number about fifty or sixty… so many as was exposed to sale in 1745.  No. 28 Mary Qu. Scots, this is the original limning which the Duke of Hamilton had recovered and valued most extremely – showed it at court and everywhere for a true genuine picture of the queen everywhere from thence it was copied in water colours enamel many and many times for all persons pining after it thousands of illuminated  copies – spread everywhere – this picture itself – tho amended by or repaired by L. Crosse who was ordered to make it as beautiful as he could – by the duke.  Still is a roundish face not agreeable to those most certain pictures of her – but his attestation of its being genuine, later part of Qu. Anns time it took and prest upon the public in such an extraordinary manner”[8]

The fact that Vertue himself expressed doubt in the eighteenth century as to whether the original miniature portrait was a representation of Mary Queen of Scots is interesting and today doubt as to the true identity of the sitter continues.  

Called Mary Neville, Lady Dacre
Watercolour on Vellum
Size Unknown

The above image was sold through Phillips Auctions of London, on 10th November 1998 and was associated with the court painter Levina Teerlinc.  Painted on vellum and applied to card, a faint description on the back was recorded in the auction catalogue identifying the sitter as “Queen Mary”.  The painting was officially sold as a portrait believed to be that of Mary Neville, Lady Dacre, with the auction house noting similarities to other known portraits of this sitter.

The provenance for this miniature is recorded as being in the collection of the Duke of Buckingham at Stowe house.  It appears in the 1849 sales catalogue were it was again described as a portrait of “Mary Tudor, Queen of England”[9].  The portrait was then purchased by John Webb who was a prominent collector of antiques in the mid nineteenthcentury and on his death in 1880, it then passed to his daughter Edith Webb and was eventually sold at Christie’s Auction, London, on the 24th June 1925.

When looking at this miniature it does appear to be too much of a coincidence to suggest that the similarities to the Okney Type is purely chance.  The similarities between this portrait and early copies made by Bernard Lens are exceedingly close, though Lens’s later copy has been altered to portray a younger and thinner sitter and some slight differences are seen with the gold coif worn under the hood.  Due to the similarities seen it is my opinion that this may just be the original miniature owned by the Duke of Hamilton and reported by George Vertue to have sold in 1745. 

The fact that the Teerlinc miniature also includes an early inscription identifying the sitter as “Queen Mary” does give this opinion some back up.  It may just be possible that the identification as to which Mary it was meant to represent may have just got lost during its history.  What is for certain is that the Teerlinc miniature neither represents Mary Tudor or Mary Queen of Scots and the similarities to portraits of Mary Neville as discussed in the auction catalogue is striking.

The ketteringham Hall portrait most certainly was created during the eighteenth century and therefore cannot be a portrait of Lady Jane Grey painted from life.  The portrait was originally painted as an image of Mary Queen of Scots that was mislabelled by 1912 when seen by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh.  This can now be removed from any list of potential likenesses of Lady Jane Grey.


[1] https://www.bidwells.co.uk/assets/properties/commercial/pdfs/256-786-1.pdf accessed July 2019

[2] Singh. Prince Frederick Duleep, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, Jarrold and Sons, Ltd, Vol I, Page 361

[3]Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 189. Electronic communication, David Adams, Property Manager suggest that no portrait matching Singh’s description is currently in the collection at Ketteringham Hall today.

[4] K.H Fielding Auctioneer. Ketteringham Hall, Norwich. Catalogue of Antique Furniture Old Silver, Glass, oil Paintings and other Effects, 22nd July 1947, Page 9.  My sincere thanks to Mary Parker for the assistance with the location of a copy of this catalogue and information regarding the Ketteringham sale.

[5] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11166/ accessed July 2019. A total of twenty-four items sold in the 2004 sale were provenance could be connected to Ketteringham Hall and the Boileau Family including https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11166/lot/90/ which could be identified as “miniature, Lady with a lace collar” seen in the 1947  auction catalogue.

[6] Bonham’s auction catalogue, Bannigham Old Rectory, 22nd March 2004 

[7] Cust. Lionel. Notes on Authentic Portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, 1903, page 137

[8] Cust. Lionel. Notes on authentic portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, 1903, page 137

[9] Collection of the Duke of Buckingham  and Chandos, Stowe House, Christie’s sale, 15th March 1849, Lot 4.

The Beaufort Miniature Portrait

The Beaufort Miniature
Called Lady Jane Grey
Watercolour on vellum applied to card
(c) Private Collection

Sold at Sotheby’s auction house, London, on 13th September 1983 as lot 90, The Beaufort Miniature is one of the more recent paintings to be sold with the sitter tentatively suggested to be Lady Jane Grey.  The painting is associated with the artist Levina Teerlinc and is painted on vellum. The Sotheby’s sale included a second miniature attributed to the same artist, and both were formerly held in the collection of Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort.

Before we study this miniature portrait in detail, we must first examine the artist associated with it and determine whether Levina Teerlinc would have had access to paint Lady Jane Grey.  Born around 1510, Teerlinc was the daughter of the famous Flemish illustrator Simon Benninck, and it is highly likely that she was taught to paint by her father.  By 1546, she was married, working, and living in England.  Teerlinc was granted a salary of forty pounds a year by Henry VIII, and she is documented as having worked for the English crown until her death in 1576.[1]  Teerlinc is a bit of an enigma.  Artists of the sixteenth century, even those with a large surviving output, are ordinarily not well documented today. But the reverse is true of Teerlinc. The State Papers of four separate Tudor monarchs include specific mention of her, yet no portrait reliably attributable to her is known to have survived today.[2]

In July 1983, a small number of miniature portraits were grouped together for the first time and exhibited as part of the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All were painted between 1546-1576, or during the period between the deaths of both Hans Holbein and Lucas Hornebolte in the 1540’s and the rise of Nicolas Hillard in the 1570’s.  All of the images were thought in 1983 to have been produced by Levina Teerlinc, though there is no surviving evidence to prove that assertion conclusively. [3] All of the miniatures do show some similarities in draughtsmanship.  The sitters do all have rather large heads and stick-like arms, and some similarities in the brushwork were also noted, including the use of loose wash work to create the features.  Since the completion of the exhibition, a number of other miniature portraits showing the same compositional mannerisms, including the Beaufort Miniature, have been sold at auction and have also been associated with Teerlinc.

Lady Katherine Grey
Watercolour on vellum applied to card
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Among the group of miniatures exhibited in the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition and associated with Teerlinc is a portrait now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Purchased by the museum in June 1979, it is called Lady Katherine Grey due to an early inscription on the back that reads “The La Kathn Graye/wyfe of th’ Erle of/ Hertford”.  If the identity of the sitter and artist associated with this painting is correct, then Teerlinc most certainly had access to Jane’s sister. Teerlinc is also documented as producing several images of Elizabeth, including receiving payment in 1551 for a portrait of her as princess.  Susan James has also suggested that Teerlinc painted Catherine Parr, which suggests that Teerlinc came into contact with people that Jane would have known personally.  There is the slight possibility that she might have come into contact with Jane herself.[4]

The Beaufort Miniature depicts a young lady, seen to below the waist and facing the viewer’s left. Both hands are depicted in front, and she is holding a pair of gloves in her right hand, which has a ring on the fourth finger.  On her head, she wears a French hood with both upper and lower billaments made up of goldsmith work and pearls. A black veil is also seen hanging down at the back.  A black loose gown with a fur collar and fitted mutton leg sleeves is worn by the sitter. At her neck she wears a small ruff edged with gold thread. The sitter is depicted on a blue background with a gold border.

Unknown Lady
Called Lady Frances Grey
Watercolour on vellum
(c)Victoria and Albert Museum

As discussed above, the miniature had previously been in the collection of Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort.[5]  In the auction catalogue at the time of the sale, the lot was officially titled “An Important Married Lady at The Tudor Court.” The suggestion that the sitter could possibly be Lady Jane Grey was made within the description that accompanied the lot.  The catalogue reported similarities in the facial features of the sitter depicted in the Beaufort Miniature and the miniature portrait of Lady Katherine Grey at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It then went on to suggest Lady Jane Grey is the sitter and that the image was “taken shortly before her death in 1554”.  The catalogue did rightfully record that there is no proof to back up this theory.  A second miniature also associated with Teerlinc and sold during the same auction was similarly suggested to depict Jane Grey’s mother, Lady Frances Brandon. [6]  When looking at the Beaufort miniature and the other thought to depict Lady Katherine Grey side by side, there does appear to be some similarities in the faces, but this cannot be used today as the sole reason to identify a sitter within a painting.  There are other clues in the painting that give us some indication that the sitter is not, in fact, Lady Jane Grey.

The ruff seen in the painting appears to be the only major datable aspect. The ruff was an essential part of the Tudor wardrobe by the mid sixteenth and early seventeenth century and was worn across Europe in a variety of styles.  In the case of the Beaufort Miniature, we see an example from the early stages of the evolution of the ruffs.  It appears to be attached to the sitter’s partlet rather than worn as a separate item that was starched and fixed in place, as was seen in later periods.

Called Catherine Howard (Detail)
Hans Holbein
(c) The Royal Collection

To trace the evolution of the ruff worn in Britain, we must first look at the fashion worn by ladies during the 1540’s.  It was during this period that it became more favourable for ladies to cover the chest rather than the previous fashion of the chest being revealed by the low-cut French gowns.  As seen in a portrait thought to depict Katherine Howard and now in the Royal Collection.  This was achieved with the use of a partlet.  Worn beneath the bodice and tied under the arms this would have been made from a fine fabric.

By the end of the 1540’s and early 1550’s, ladies continued to wear the partlet, however, this had developed slightly.  Surviving portraits from this period show that the partlet continued to be constructed from a fine fabric similar to what would have been used to create the chemise, though this had been fitted with a neck band to create a small frill or collar. The addition of a second partlet known as an outer partlet made with a v-shaped collar of a contrasting fabric to the outer gown could also be worn over this.

By the mid 1550’s, the small frill seen at the neck had again grown in size and had begun to surround the face, similar in style to what is seen in the Beaufort Miniature.  This ruffle would eventually develop into the ruff seen in the later periods after the 1560’s and would eventually become a separated from the partlet altogether. [7]

When compared to portraits painted during the later half of the 1550’s, including one of an unknown lady in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum dating to 1555 and another of Mary Neville in the National Portrait Gallery dating to 1559 the Beaufort Miniature appears to sit in the middle with the ruffle looking as though it is still attached to a partlet as seen in the Fitzwilliam portrait and without the use of wire or starch to create the defined figure of eight shape seen in the portrait of Mary Neville.

Though arguably there are some similarities in the facial features of the Beaufort Miniature and the V&A miniature of Lady Katherine Grey, this could be attributed to the artist’s style rather than to family resemblance. It is my opinion that the sitter depicted in the Beaufort Miniature is wearing a ruffle that is slightly too late in period to have been worn by Lady Jane Grey. The miniature is unlikely to have been painted prior to 1554 as the catalogue suggests.  Though a beautiful little picture, there is no evidence to suggest that it was thought prior to the 1983 auction to be an image of Jane Grey. This can now be removed from the list of any likenesses thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. 


[1] Strong. Roy, The English Renaissance Miniature, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 54

[2]  James. Susan, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painter, Ashgate Publishing, 2009

[3] Strong. Roy, Artists of the Tudor Court, The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 52

[4] James. Susan, The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603, Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painter, Ashgate Publishing, 2009, page 27

[5] Artist file for Levina Teerlinc, Heinz Archive, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG50/21/250, accessed 2018.  It is not known exactly when the Duke acquired the miniature, but a photograph taken in 1983 lists the sitter as “Unknown Lady.” This suggests that the sitter was not thought to depict Jane Grey prior to the sale of that same year.

[6] Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue, 13th September 1983, page 31. Purchased by the Victorian and Albert Museum in 1983 this miniature is catalogued today as “unknown lady”

[7] For further information on the evolution of the ruff see Arnold. Janet, Pattern of Fashion 4, The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c.1540-1660, Macmillan, 2008.