Investigating Jane: Part Two: Was Jane Really That Naïve?

By Lee Porritt and Tamise Hills

On 10th July 1553, the newly married, Lady Jane Dudley, entered the Tower of London as Queen of England. When it comes to Jane’s life, her brief reign and subsequent downfall are certainly the most documented in terms of contemporary information. We do, however have little information concerning the build-up to her public proclamation and first public appearance as queen.   

19th Century Engraving
Lady Jane Grey
© Authors own collection

In this article, we will look at some of the contemporary information concerning the build up to the reign of Queen Jane.  We will take a look at King Edward’s initial plans for the change to the succession, to try and establish if the myth that Edward wanted Jane to be queen is true.  We will also look at Jane’s own account of the events which took place during the summer of 1553, and some of the history associated with this document.  In the hope of once again trying to establish some of the facts from the myths and attempt to bring some order to what happened 467 years ago.

As discussed in our previous article on Jane’s marriage, suspicion regarding King Edward VI’s health, and that something big was about to happen started towards the end of April 1553. Jane had been hastily married off to one of the younger sons of the Duke of Northumberland and as early as May 1553, Jehan Scheyfve, Ambassador to the Roman Empire was informing his master that ‘I have certain information that the King is declining from day to day so rapidly that he cannot last long.’[1] 

By June 15th, 1553, we have one of our first pieces of documented evidence to inform us that a plan had been devised to disinherit both Princess Mary and Elizabeth in favour of Lady Jane Dudley.  Scheyfve was once again writing to his master informing him that:

‘Lord Rich, who was formerly Chancellor, the Lord Warden and other great lords and powerful men have been ordered to repair at once to Court, it is believed in order to deliberate and come to a conclusion on the same question of the succession. Their main object will be to make shift to exclude the Princess and the Lady Elizabeth, and declare the true heir to be the Duke of Suffolk’s eldest daughter, who was lately married to the Duke of Northumberland’s son, for according to the late King’s will the Duchess of Suffolk’s legitimate heirs are appointed to succeed if the present King and the two aforesaid ladies die without issue.’[2]

My Devise for the Succession
Petyt MS47 fo.317
© Public Domain  

Unfortunately, the final copy of King Edward’s last will and testament has not, yet surfaced, however, we do have a draft copy entitled ‘My Devise for the Succession’ which is written in the King’s own hand. Stored at the Inner Temple Library, London, this document consisting of 314 words, is a working draft containing numerous corrections that allow us to understand some of Edward’s thought processes at the time of its creation and subsequent corrections.[3]

We have no specific date as to when this document was actually written, however in its original format (without correction) Edward is noted to write ‘For lack of issue of my body: to the Lady Frances’s heirs male; for lack of such issue to the Lady Jane’s heirs male.’[4] The fact that Edward was still under the impression that he may produce an heir from his own body, and that the document is written in a hand that shows no signs of weakness suggest that this was first penned in the early months of 1553.  At a time when the Kings health was not so significant and there was still hope of survival.  The subsequent events in which Jane was hastily married off in the May of 1553, in the hope of her possibly producing a male heir also supports this theory.

When looking at the document in its original format, we can settle the myth that Edward actually wanted to leave the throne of England to Jane herself. Edward initially writes ‘the Lady jane’s male heirs’, leaving his throne to any possible male children she may have, and not to Jane Dudley.  What is clear from the document in its original format, is that Edward was attempting to by-pass both Mary and Elizabeth and secure an all-male succession, rather than the all-female line seen in the Last Will and Testament of his father, King Henry VIII. Jane’s own fate would eventually be sealed when a small but significant alteration was made to the original document.

The exact date in which these changes were in fact made is unknown, at some point between May and 15th June 1553, Edward crossed out the ‘s’ on ‘Lady Jane’s’ and adds ‘and her’, thus leaving the crown to Lady Jane Dudley and any male heirs she would produce. It is tempting to suggest that this small but significant correction was made when Edward’s health had worsened, and there was no hope of the king’s survival or Jane producing a child within the short period of time left.  As discussed above we have no way of knowing when the draft and changes were in fact written.  On 15th June 1553, Jehan Scheyfve was once again informing his master that ‘The Duchess of Suffolk visited the King yesterday.’[5] Although, Scheyfve gives no account of the details surround this visit, It may just be possible that it was during this audience that Frances Grey was informed of the change to the succession and the plans to make her daughter Queen of England. By 21st June 1553, the final draft was ready and waiting to be signed by the King and 102 leading figures of the country.[6]  Edward died on 6th July 1553, just two weeks after his ‘Devise for the Succession’ had been signed, sealed, and witnessed.

Another myth concerning the events around the proclamation of Lady Jane Dudley is that Jane, herself, was unaware of what was being planned and penned in her name.  The scene in which the innocent and unaware Jane, is informed of the Kings death and told that she is now Queen of England is often one that is portrayed in historical fiction, art, and movie adaptations. It is extremely hard to imagine that a young girl, who, according to contemporaries of her day was educated to the highest standard, was so naïve that she was unable to determine what was going on around her.

Sion House, 1553
Mrs Henrietta Ward
Oil on canvas
© Public Domain

A rather intriguing document from the sixteenth century gives us Jane’s own version of the story. Unfortunately, the original source material for this document has not survived, however their does appear to be strong evidence to connect the information stated in the secondary sources to Jane herself, and many of our modern historians have quoted from this account when writing biographies on the subject.

The earliest version of Jane’s own accounts comes to us in documents dated to 1554, which are now stored in the Library of the Monasterio de San Lorenzo el Real del Escorial.  These documents were written by Giovanni Francesco Commendone, a papal secretary sent to England by Julius III in the August of 1553. Commendone’s introduction to Jane’s account informs us that:

‘Before her death, Jane wishing to account to the world for her proclamation and how it had taken place without her fault or agreement made the following statement’.[7]

It does need to be remembered that Jane as a prisoner of the Tower, would not have been in a position to make a public statement ‘to the world’ other than the speech she was to make on the scaffold in the February of 1554. She would, however, have most certainly undergone some sort of interrogation by the Queen’s officials.  Mary would have certainly wanted to know the extent of Jane’s involvement in the plot to make her Queen and Commendone is reported to have had ‘unrestricted access’ to Queen Mary during his visit to England. [8] It may just be possible that Commendone had seen some sort of letter himself or was simply transcribing information heard first-hand from the Queen.

Today, we have no documented information to inform us that Jane ever came face to face with Queen Mary during her imprisonment.  A letter of explanation or appeal to her cousin would most certainly have been allowed.  The fact that by 16th August 1553, Queen Mary herself, was informing the Ambassador in England ‘As to Jane of Suffolk, whom they had tried to make Queen, she could not be induced to consent that she should die,’ suggests that this did in fact happen.[9]

A second translation of Jane’s own account, printed in 1591, by Fra Girolamo Pollini also backs up this theory. In his introduction to Jane’s account Pollini claims that he ‘used text obtained from London,’ and in the second addition of the same book he reports that:

‘These are the words that according to some she said in the hour of her death to the population. But according to others, this was a letter that she wrote to the Queen Mary when she was in the Tower’[10]

At the beginning of Jane’s account, she discloses that, yes, she had accepted the crown, however, she had never wanted it.  When writing about her earliest knowledge of what was about to happen, she reports that:

‘As the Duchess of Northumberland had promised me that I could remain with my mother, after she heard that news from her husband the Duke, who was also the first person to tell me about it, she did not allow me any more to leave my house saying that when God would be pleased to call the King to his mercy, not remaining any hope of saving his life, I had immediately to proceed to the tower, as I had been made by his Majesty heir to the Crown.’[11]

In the above quotation, Jane admits that she had some knowledge that she was to be made queen, prior to the Kings death, and the crown of England was not simply thrust upon an unsuspecting Jane, which is so often portrayed.

Lady Jane Grey Accepting the Crown
Thomas Jones Barker
1837
© Public Domain  

In her 2009 biography, Sisters who would be Queen, historian Leanda De Leslie reports the theory that it was the Duke of ‘Northumberland who gave Jane the shocking news that she was now the King’s heir.[12]  Eric Ives states that Jane was ‘still living with her parents, as agreed with the Duchess of Northumberland. During a visit to the Dudleys, she was told by the Duchess that she had to stay,’ Putting the words firmly in the mouth of the Duchess of Northumberland that ‘Jane had to be ready to go to the Tower since Edward had made her heir.’ [13] Historian, Nicola Tallis, again, reports that it was ‘her Father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland who informed her of the shocking news.’ [14]

Apart from Jane’s letter, there are no other sources, contemporary or otherwise, that tell us exactly who told Jane that she was Edward’s heir. In Jane’s own account, it is not clear whether it was the Duke or Duchess of Northumberland who told her the troubling news but the urgency to make sure that Jane remained with them is clear. The Dudley family would have certainly understood the significance and symbolic effect of Jane being called from a Dudley residence upon the Kings death, and if she was in their household then they would have control over what was about to happen. 

Jane then continues to provide the reader with her reaction on hearing this news:

‘Which words, which caught me quite unaware, very deeply upset me, (and) they made me wonder but much more aggrieved me. But I cared little for those words and refrained not from going to my mother. So that the Duchess (of Northumberland) got angry at her and at me also saying that if she wanted to keep me, she would also keep my husband by herself, thinking that anyway I would go to him’[15]

Her account of what she did next, gives us some clues as to some of the free-spirited reactions the Dudley family would receive from Queen Jane during her reign.  Jane ignored the advice from the Duchess of Northumberland and opted to visit her mother. This resulted in a quarrel between the Duchesses of Suffolk and Northumberland about where Jane should live. Jane would report that she eventually returned to the Dudley residence, however, she only ‘remained two or three nights, but finally I craved permission to go to Chelsea,’ and eventually ‘fell ill’[16]

Although the King died on 6th July 1553, his death was initially kept a secret, as a way of making the desired preparations to secure the new Queen’s position. Jane would eventually be informed of the Kings death on 9th July 1553. She was escorted from Chelsea to Sion House by her sister-in-law Mary Sidney to hear the news, however, on her arrival, the house was apparently empty.  Jane recalls that after a short period of time the Duke of Northumberland, other Lords and members of the Kings council arrived, and ‘were doing me such homage, not in keeping with my position, kneeling before me, that greatly embarrassed me.’[17]  A short time later, the Duchess of Northumberland and Suffolk, along with the Marchioness of Northampton arrived at the house, and Jane was then informed of the Kings death.  She was also given the news, that as Edward’s heir (which she had been informed about weeks earlier), that she was now Queen of England.  Jane documents her response to this as:

‘I was overwhelmed hearing these words, may bear witness those who were present, who saw me fall to the ground weeping bitterly, and afterwards avowing my own inadequacy I deeply grieved over the death of such a noble Prince and in the end I turned to God and prayed him that if what was given to me was rightly mine, His Divine Majesty would grant me such grace as to enable me to govern his Kingdom with his approbation and to his glory.’[18]

Later that evening, it is reported that the new Queen Jane attended a ‘great banquet’[19] in her honour.  It is highly likely that Jane, herself, would have certainly been advised about the events planned for the following day, in which she would enter The Tower of London as Queen and where she would continue to reign until her downfall on 19th July.


[1] ‘Spain: May 1553’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 23 June 2022].

[2] ‘Spain: June 1553, 1-15’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 48-56. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp48-56 [accessed 23 June 2022].

[3] Inner Temple Library, Petyt MS47 fo.317, ‘My Devise for the Succession’

[4] Ibid.

[5] ‘Spain: June 1553, 1-15’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 48-56. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp48-56 [accessed 1 July 2022].

[6] 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.99

[7] Ives. Eric, (England, 2009) Lady Jane Grey a Tudor Mystery, John Wiley & sons, Ltd P: 18

[8] Malfatti C.V, (Barcelona, 1956) The Accession, Coronation and Marriage of Mary Tudor as related in Four Manuscripts of the Escorial P xv-xviii

[9] ‘Spain: August 1553, 11-20’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 162-176. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp162-176 [accessed 23 June 2022].

[10] Ives. Eric, (England, 2009) Lady Jane Grey a Tudor Mystery, John Wiley & sons, Ltd P: 18

[11] Malfatti C.V, (Barcelona, 1956) The Accession, Coronation and Marriage of Mary Tudor as related in Four Manuscripts of the Escorial P 45-46

[12] De Leslie. Leanda, (England, 2008) The Sisters who would be Queen, Harper Press P:104

[13] Ives. Eric, (England, 2009) Lady Jane Grey a Tudor Mystery, John Wiley & sons, Ltd P: 186

[14] Tallis, Nicola, (England 2016) A Crown of Blood, Michael O’Mara Books Ltd P:147

[15] Malfatti C.V, (Barcelona, 1956) The Accession, Coronation and Marriage of Mary Tudor as related in Four Manuscripts of the Escorial P 45-46

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid

[18] Ibid.

[19] ‘Spain: July 1553, 16-20’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 90-109. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp90-109 [accessed 3 July 2022].

The Moseley Miniature Set: A Well-Travelled Portrait

The Moseley Set
Watercolour on Card
1 ¾ in diameter
©Image Curtesy Freeman’s, Philadelphia, 2022.

Description:

This miniature portrait of Anne Boleyn is one of three, depicting figures from Tudor history, displayed in a black ebonised frame.  All three miniatures measure 1 ¾ inches in diameter and are executed with the use of watercolour and gouache on card. The sitter’s are depicted in front of a plain blue background with a gold boarder.  Anne Boleyn is depicted to just below the chest, she is turned slightly to the viewers left. 

Her face is oval, with a high forehead.  Her hair is brown in colour, appears straight, and is worn parted in the centre of the crown and pulled back over her ears and under her coif.  Her eyes are large and brown in colour and her eyebrows are thin and arched.  The nose is rather large with a high bridge and her lips are full.

Her costume includes her trademark French Hood, ending just below the jawline, which is constructed of black fabric and pearls. At her neck, she wears two strings of pearls with the large letter B pendant of goldsmith work seen in other images based on the B pattern.  The gown itself is constructed of a black fabric, cut square at the neck and a chemise, embroidered with blackwork protrudes along the entire bodice margin.   

Condition:

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a high-resolution image of this portrait, so, I am unable to comment in any great detail as to its condition. From the low-resolution image provided by the auction house, all three miniature portraits appear to be in rather good condition, with a clear surface and bright colours. The ebonized frame, in which all three miniatures are stored, does appear to show some signs of general age.

Discussion:

The Moseley Miniature, named in this study after its first documented owner, is certainly one of the lesser-known depictions of Anne Boleyn, based on the B Pattern.  As with a lot of the information regarding the iconography of Anne Boleyn, the documentation concerning the Mosely Miniature is fragmented, and its exact date of creation was for a short period of time thought to have been the sixteenth century. 

The first actual piece of evidence which can be associated with this particular portrait appears in 1857. This small miniature, along with the two others displayed within the same frame was exhibited in the ‘Art Treasures Exhibition,’ Manchester.  The Catalogue entry for this exhibition lists the owner as a William Moseley, esq and describes the sitters as

Three Miniatures: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Charles V (when 19)[1]

Unfortunately, no artist had been associated with the creation of the three portraits in the exhibition catalogue and no information concerning the portraits provenance was also provided.  No inscriptions detailing the sitter’s names or ages can be viewed on the portrait’s surfaces. So, we must then presume that either the portrait set contained a label on the back, or that the information about the sitter’s and their so-called ages was provided by Moseley himself.   

William Moseley’s principal seat was Leaton Hall, near Enville, Southbridge.  He had inherited the hall from his father Walter Henry Moseley, on his death in 1827.[2]  No documentation has, yet, been located to inform us exactly when the Moseley family acquired and sold the portrait set.  Walter Moseley began extensive remodelling of Leaton Hall in 1817, and it may be possible that the set was purchased around this time.  On the death of William Moseley, the estate then passed to his son William Henry Moseley, and remained in the family until it was eventually sold off in 1916.[3]   

By the early 1920’s, the portrait set appears to have travelled overseas and was in the collection of socialite and antique collector Edith Mary Kingdon Gould. [4]   On her death in 1921, the family began selling off large amounts from the collection she had acquired.  Between the years of 1925 – 1938, many auctions took place containing items once belonging to Edith Gould and on 12th January 1929, the portrait set was once again up for sale. The auction catalogue for this sale does give us our first piece of photographic evidence.  The portrait set was noted to be a featured lot in the sale and placed next to its lot description was an early black and white photograph showing the collection of three miniatures in all their glory.[5]

Early Image of The Moseley Portrait Set
© Public Domain
Detail: Anne Boleyn Watercolour on Card
1 ¾ in diameter
©Public Domain

Unfortunately, again, this catalogue description gives us no details as to the provenance of the set, and by this point all three portraits had been wrongly associated with the hand of sixteenth century artist Hans Holbein.  During this period, many sixteenth century portraits, and in some cases more modern creations, held in private collections or sold at auction were simply associated with the hand of Hans Holbein.  Due to lack of access to documented information and provenance details, portraits were simply associated with artists due to some slight similarities in style, the fame attached to a name, or as a way of adding value to a painting.  Several other supposed sixteenth century miniature portraits described in the same catalogue, today, certainly have some questionable identifications when it comes to both sitter and artist associated to them. As with the Moseley Miniature, little, or no evidence to support the associations was provided by the auction house at the point of sale. 

The stylistic approach used by the artist who created the Moseley miniatures is most certainly not consistent with any other sixteenth century miniature portrait.  It is also most definitely missing that fine quality of brushwork seen in other miniatures that can truly relate to the hand of Hans Holbein. The approach is more consistent with that used by the nineteenth century British Miniaturist, George Perfect Harding (1781-1853). 

Left: Moseley Anne Boleyn Centre: Anne of Cleves By George Perfect Harding Right: Prince Arthur By George Perfect Harding

During the nineteenth century, artists would often revisit the works of some of the more prominent sixteenth century artist’s and produce copies of their portraits to satisfy the high demand in the public’s fascination with English History.

In some cases, many of these newly created copies would often be so realistic that at times it would be extremely difficult to establish the genuine artifact from the newly created version.  Some of the more modern copies would, at times be sold off as a genuine sixteenth century portrait due to the quality of the copy. George Perfect Harding was a prolific copyist of historical portraiture and would often go to extreme lengths to locate works which had not, as yet been reproduced by other peers of his day. Harding was certainly an exceptionally talented artist, who would never attempt to pass his own works off as the genuine artifact. Examples of his work are stored today within private and public collection’s all show his stylistic approach of a sixteenth century portraits, rather than a direct copy created to mislead viewer.[6]

By 1971, the portrait set was once again back in England and was sold by Sotheby’s auction house on 18th of October.  During this sale the set was rightfully described as ‘after Hans Holbein, probably by George Perfect Harding’ and sold for the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds.[7] It finally appeared, once again in America, when it was sold from the collection of Dr Virginia Armentrout, in 2006, by Freeman’s auction house, Philadelphia. The set was purchased for the sum of one thousand six hundred dollars, and I am now informed that it is currently in a private collection in Pennsylvania.[8]

Conclusion:

Though undoubtably a beautiful portrait of Anne Boleyn, it appears that the portrait is most certainly a nineteenth century copy, rather than that produced by the hand of Hans Holbein. It can therefore be eliminated from any possible list of sixteenth century portraits associated with the name Anne Boleyn.  If anything, this article has attempted to document and put some order to the provenance relating to this item.  


[1] Catalogue of Art Treasures of The United Kingdom, Manchester, 1857, item 23, P.208

[2] Burke, Bernard, (1879) A Genealogical and Heraldic History  of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Harrison. Pall Mall, Vol 2 P: 1134

[3] Shropshire Archives, SC/1/50, Sales Catalogue for the Leaton and Whittimere estate, July 1916

[4] This was not to be the only portrait of Anne Boleyn owned by the Gould family, and a second portrait was purchased by Anna Gould in June of 1940 and can still be seen at the Family seat of Lyndhurst Manor toady. For more information on the Lyndhurst portrait see: The Lyndhurst Portrait – Lady Jane Grey Revisited

[5] Objects of art: American Art Association: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming: Internet Archive, accessed June 2022

[6] For more information on the historic portrait copyists and their production see: Reynolds. Graham, (1999) The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Miniatures in The Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Royal Collection Enterprises Limited

[7] Sotheby’s Sales catalogue, 18th October 1971, lot 79

[8] Electronic communication with Raphael Chatroux of Freeman’s Auctions, 20th August 2020

Investigating Jane – Part One: The Wedding

By Tamise Hills and Lee Porritt

In May 1553, the wedding of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley took place at Durham House, the London residence of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.  Over the course of four hundred years, many myths have attached themselves to the life and events surrounding Lady Jane Grey.  Details surrounding the events of her marriage are clouded with a mixture of fact, myth, confusion and in some cases the actual evidence of what truly happened is unfortunately missing.

Today, many of us have been introduced to the story of Lady Jane Grey through modern technology, fictional writing, and the 1986 Paramount movie ‘Lady Jane’.  In many of these adaptations her wedding to Guildford Dudley is often mentioned, however, at times, the myths have clouded the true facts of what really happened during the build-up to the marriage, the celebration itself, and the few short months the young couple experienced of married life, before their lives would be turned upside down.

Lady Jane Movie
1986
© Public Domain

In this article, we will look at what contemporary evidence we have today and attempt to discover exactly what happened during this period of Jane’s life. We will also attempt to separate some of the facts from the large amount of fiction that has managed to spin itself around the events of May 1553. 

In 2009, Historian Eric Ives briefly discussed the lack of surviving documented evidence surrounding Jane and Guildford’s wedding.  Ives noted that ‘English observers do not mention the celebrations.[1] We do, however, have a small number of reports written by foreign dignitaries who obtained details of the celebrations, and appear to have been very impressed by the extravagance and splendour of the events.  

The first piece of contemporary evidence relating to the marriage of Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, comes to us in the shape of a dispatch sent to Charles V by Jehan Scheyfve, Ambassador to the Roman Empire, dated to 28th April 1553.

Scheyfve starts his letter by informing Emperor Charles V of the current issues relating to the health of the King of England.  He notes that ‘the King had retired to Greenwich and there seems to be no improvement in his condition.’ Towards the end of this letter, he informs his master of a rather curious event that has taken place in the past few days in which John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland has ‘found means to ally and bind his son, My Lord Guildford, to the Duke of Suffolk’s eldest daughter whose mother is the third heiress to the crown.’ [2]

Scheyfve ends his letter with a rather intriguing word of warning that a ‘great quantity of money is being collected from every source and this could possibly be something to do with the forthcoming marriage.’ [3]  Within sixteenth century England, the marriage of a female, especially one of royal blood was no easy task. Today, we marry for love, however, during the sixteenth century, marriage was seen as a way of gaining financial and social advancement for the entire family. As the first-born daughter of the Duke of Suffolk and Great Granddaughter of King Henry VII, Jane would have certainly been of high value during a time when any discussion about her marriage was left entirely in the hands of her parents. She would have brought to any marriage, the power of royal blood and a strong connection to other members of the royal family. The fact that she would become betrothed to one of the younger sons of the Duke of Northumberland and the social advancements only appeared to enhance the Dudley family, immediately raised suspicion among the Tudor court that something was about to happen.

Legend has it that Jane had to be forced into the marriage, and one cannot think of this event without the disturbing scene from the movie ‘Lady Jane’ in which her mother, Frances Grey beats Jane into submission with the use of a whip.  Depending on which source you read it appears that her mother was for or against the match, and unfortunately, some of these sources have been used over the years as a way of turning Frances Grey into the cold hearted, power gaining female that has often been portrayed in fictional writing. 

Until recently, the first mention of Jane being forced into the marriage was written by Giovanni Francesco Commendone, a papal secretary sent to England by Julius III in the August of 1553, to congratulate Mary on achieving the throne of England.  Commendone notes that the Duke of Northumberland had

‘Made arrangements to marry his third son to the first-born daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, Jane by name, who although strongly deprecating such a marriage, was compelled to submit by the insistence of her mother and the threats of her Father.’[4] 

A slightly earlier letter, thought to have been written by a member of the Venetian diplomatic embassy in the July of 1553 was discovered in 2013, by Dr John Stephan Edwards.  Published in a book from 1577, this letter contradicts Commendone’ s account of events, especially the information surrounding Frances Grey.

‘The Duke of Suffolk, Jane’s father, was persuaded of it, and overcome by the inducements and effective methods of this man. But the Duchess of Suffolk with all her household would not have wished [it], and the daughter was forced there by the father, with beating as well.’[5]

By 19th July 1553, Jane was a prisoner in the Tower of London, and the difference in accounts regarding Jane’s reluctance and her mother’s reaction could have been part of trying to place the blame for making Jane queen entirely on the Dudley family. Jane’s parents and possibly Jane herself had harboured hopes that their eldest daughter would wed King Edward VI. When Jane had become the ward of Sir Thomas Seymour, one of the alleged promises made by the King’s Uncle was that ‘he would marry her to the King’s Majesty’.[6]  Whether this was one of the reasons why she and possibly Frances opposed the marriage cannot be known today, however as discussed above the fact that she was betrothed to the younger son of a Duke must have also caused Jane and her mother some disappointment. 

Unfortunately, Guildford’s response to the betrothal has not been documented, however the scenes depicted in the ‘Lady Jane’ movie in which he is located in a brothel ‘sampling the pleasures of a lady of the night’ when he heard the news are probably untrue. As the three of Northumberland’s older sons were already married, Guildford was the best Dudley could offer. Like Jane, Guildford was educated and was probably just expected to fulfil his duty, after all, it was him who would benefit from the union.  Unfortunately, Guildford Dudley’s date of birth is not recorded.  Traditionally, his year of birth has been given 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.[7]

Whether Jane or Guildford agreed to the match or not, preparations for the celebrations started immediately and on 12th May 1553, Jehan Scheyfve noted in his report to the emperor that

‘This Whitsuntide the marriage of the Duke of Northumberland’s son to the eldest daughter of the late Duke of Suffolk is to be celebrated. They are making preparations for games and jousts. The King has sent presents of rich ornaments and jewels to the bride’[8]

We have no contemporary description of Jane on the day of her wedding, this, however, has not stopped some historians over the centuries from producing and publishing their own interpretations of what Jane and Guildford apparently wore. In his 1909 work, ‘The Nine Days’ Queen: Lady Jane and Her Times’, Richard Davey copied a detailed description of Jane on the day of her wedding from the earlier account written by Herbert Burke in his book ‘Tudor Portraits’, published in 1880.

‘Lady Jane’s headdress was of green velvet, set round with precious stones. She wore a gown of cloth of gold, and a mantle of silver tissue. Her hair hung down her back, combed and plaited in a curious fashion then unknown to ladies of quality.[9]

Although, this description is intriguing, it does appear to be an entirely fictional account, and even Davey himself was noted to question the authority of the description. What we do know is that Jane and other members of the wedding party were provided with fine cloth and jewels from the King’s wardrobe. The Imperial Ambassador reported on 12th May 1553 that ‘The King has sent presents of rich ornaments and jewels to the bride.’[10] An edited version of the original warrant, dated to 24th April 1553 was published in a book by John Strype in 1822.

To deliver out of the King’s wardrobe much rich apparel and jewels: as, to deliver…to the Lady Jane, daughter to the Duke of Suffolk, and to the Lord Guildford Dudley, for wedding apparel, which were certain parcels of tissues, and cloth of gold and silver, which had been the late Duke’s and Duchess’s of Somerset, forfeited to the King’[11]

As part of the research for her biography ‘Crown of Blood’, Dr Nicola Tallis was noted to revisit the original document and has now provided us with the most detailed analysis of what Jane and Guildford wore during the wedding celebrations.

‘Among the materials were elegant ‘black silver cloth of tissue raised with roses and branches of gold’, cloth of gold tissues with white silver, purple and white cloth of tissue raised with roses and crimson cloth of gold branched with velvet…. The king had sent presents of rich ornaments and jewels to the bride. There was a magnificent billement containing thirteen table diamonds set in gold enamelled black’ a carcanet (necklace) of seventeen ‘great pearls and seventeen pieces of goldsmith’s work enamelled black with one flower of gold enamelled white and black with a fair diamond and one emerald’[12]

What is clear from the above lists of fabrics and jewels is that the wedding was certainly planned with the upmost attention to detail and celebrated in a splendid manner.  Although Jane was to marry the fourth son of a Duke, there was to be no doubt over her status or her position as a member of the royal family and the guests would certainly leave the celebrations with the feeling that this was an extremely powerful union. 

The Marriage of Lady Jane Grey
Archille Deveria (1800-1857)
© Public Domain

The actual event took place on 25th May 1553 and the celebrations would continue over two days. Not only would Jane and Guildford be married, but the event was to be a triple occasion.  Jane’s younger sister Katherine was to marry Henry Herbert, the son of the Earl of Pembroke and Guildford’s sister, also called Katherine, was to marry Henry Hastings, the son of the Earl of Hastings.  Jane’s youngest sister, Lady Mary Grey would also be betrothed to one of her Grey cousins.  

Surrounded by family and a large group of important guests, including members of the privy council and foreign ambassadors, Jane would have entered the chapel at Durham House. The only known drawing of the entire layout of Durham House was made in 1626, This includes a small drawing of the chapel which shows that the building was constructed with three large windows which would have allowed the light of springtime to shine through.[13] The sunlight would have certainly glistened from the jewels and fine fabrics worn by the bride as she walked toward the alter where Guildford would have been stood waiting for his potential bride.  Formal wedding vows would have been exchanged and the newly married couples, as well as the guests would have then attended the great hall to enjoy the lavish array of dishes prepared in celebration. The two-days of festivities would continue with games, jousts and other entertainments organised by the Duke of Northumberland himself.

There does appear to be some debate as to whether Jane herself attended one of the banquets. The letters discovered by Dr John Stephan Edwards in 2013, do give us more details about the wedding celebrations. However, the translations of these letters by Edwards and Dr Nicola Tallis, who is also noted to have included them in her book, differ as to whether Jane dined in public or not.

Published on his website in 2013, Dr John Stephan Edwards translation of the letter reports the writer stating that ‘One of the days of the festivities, Jane not being out to dine in public, the Ambassador of France and that of Venice took her place, between two Marchionesses, one on the right and the other on the left.’[14] Dr Nicola Tallis quotes a slightly different version in her 2016 book reporting that ‘Jane, it was observed led to her table ‘the French and Venetian Ambassadors’ who were seated between two ladies.’[15]

Jehan Scheyfve wrote to the Bishop of Arras on 30th May 1553, that ‘M. de Boisdauphin was invited to the weddings and banquets, to which he went on the first and second day. The new ambassador was not asked; but M. de L’Aubespine and the Venetian ambassador both went on the second day.’[16]  From this letter we know that the Venetian Ambassador attended the wedding on the second day.  Depending on which translation of the new letter is correct, we know that either Jane did not dine in public on the second day of the wedding celebrations or that she dined with the ambassadors.

The Marriage of Lady Jane Grey
Oliver Pelton (1798-1882)
© Public Domain

With the wedding ceremony over with, married life for Lord and Lady Dudley certainly didn’t get off to the best start. It is not exactly known if the next event happened at one of the wedding banquets or in the weeks following the wedding, however it appears that Guildford, his brother and possibly some of the other guests were struck down with illness.  On 12th June the Imperial Ambassador wrote that, ‘My Lord Guildford Dudley, recently married to Suffolk’s eldest, one of his brothers, the Admiral and other lords and ladies, recently fell very ill after eating some salad at the Duke of Northumberland’s and are still suffering from the results. It seems the mistake was made by a cook, who plucked one leaf for another.’[17]  

Historians have debated over the centuries if the marriage between Jane and Guildford was ever consummated. Fictional writers have embellished the uncertainty around this, and in many fictional adaptations the relationship between Jane and Guildford has been portrayed as hate, lust and on occasion rape. The truth is, we don’t entirely know if the marriage was consummated or not. Jehan Scheyfve did report that ‘the marriage between the Duke of Northumberland’s son and the daughter of the Duke of Suffolk has taken place, but is not yet to be consummated, because of their tender age’[18]. This, however, may possibly be a misunderstanding by Scheyfve, as Jane was deemed to be of childbearing age, in terms of sixteenth century values, and it may just be possible that the couple were asked to hold off until the plans for their future could be secured.

Unusually, it does appear that Jane and Guildford were noted to spend much of the month of June living separate lives as Jane would initially return home with her parents for some weeks after the wedding. It does, however, appear that between then and when Jane went to Chelsea Manor to recover from an unspecified illness that she and Guildford had lived together at one of the Dudley residences. A rather intriguing comment made by Jane herself, in a letter to Queen Mary, during her imprisonment, indicates that by the time she was made Queen, she was at least sharing a bed with Guildford.  When discussing an argument between herself and Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland she was noted to report that Guildford’s mother ‘induced her son not to sleep with me anymore.’[19]  If indeed the marriage was not to be consummated as Scheyfve reports, then would the couple’s parents take the risk and allow these two young individuals to share the same bed.  

We have very little information to inform us as to how Jane and Guildford Dudley spent the early months of their married life, and how their relationship developed as the young couple became more acquainted with each other.  The couple’s married life would unfortunately last less than nine weeks and by 19th July 1553, both were imprisoned separately within the Tower of London and this young relationship would be cut short in the saddest of ways.


[1] Ives, E. (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, Wiley-Blackwell, p.185.

[2] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, Calendar of State Papers Spanish, Vol XI, p.36

[3] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, Calendar of State Papers Spanish, Vol XI, p.36

[4] Malfatti, C.V (translator) (1956), The Accession Coronation and Marriage of Mary Tudor as related in four manuscripts of the Escorial, Barcelona, p.5

[5] Edwards, S. Some Grey Matter – Two Letters Concerning Lady Jane Grey of England, written in London in July of 1553 Date accessed: May 2022

[6] Haynes, S. (1740) A Collection of State Papers relating to Affairs In the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth: From the year 1542 to 1570, Bowyer, p.76. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=YitDAAAAcAAJ&hl=en_GB&pg=GBS.PA76 [Date accessed May 2022]

[7] Higginbotham, Susan.  How old was Guildford Dudley? https://www.susanhigginbotham.com/posts/how-old-was-guildford-dudley-beats-me/ accessed: May 2022.

[8] Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 23 May 2022].

[9] Davey, R. (1909) The Nine Days’ Queen: Lady Jane and Her Times, Methuen & Co, p.23

[10] ‘Spain: May 1553’, Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11: 1553 (1916), pp. 37-48. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=88480 Date accessed: May 2022.

[11] Strype, J. Ecclesiastical Memorials Relating Chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England Under K. Henry VIII., K. Edward VI., and Q. Mary I., with Large Appendices Containing Original Papers Google Books, p.111-112. Date accessed: May 2022

[12] Tallis, N (2016) Crown of Blood, The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, p. 136 – 137

[13] For more information of the history and layout of Durham House see: Durham Place | British History Online (british-history.ac.uk) accessed: May 2022

[14] Edwards, S. Some Grey Matter – Two Letters Concerning Lady Jane Grey of England, written in London in July of 1553 Date accessed: 20 May 2022

[15] Tallis, N (2016) Crown of Blood, The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, p. 14

[16] Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 23 May 2022].

[17] ‘Spain: June 1553, 1-15’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 48-56. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp48-56 [accessed 20 May 2022].

[18] Spain: May 1553′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1916), pp. 37-48. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11/pp37-48 [accessed 23 May 2022].

[19] Ives, E, (2009) Lady Jane Grey A Tudor Mystery, p.186

Lady Jane Dudley – Forget What You Know!

Co- authored by Tamise Hills & Lee Porritt  – Published in The Historian Magazine April 2022

Lady Jane Grey Going to Her Execution
Edward Harrison May
1864
Oil on Canvas
59 x 80 inches
(c) Woodmere Art Museum

On a cold morning in February 1554, the seventeen-year-old Lady Jane Dudley left her apartments within the Tower of London.  Dressed entirely in black and reading from her prayer book, Jane walked towards the newly erected scaffold, placed at the north side of the white tower.  Climbing the steps, Jane made a speech, and took her last look at the world before laying her head on the block.

Almost from the moment the axe fell, Lady Jane Dudley was overshadowed by the story of Lady Jane Grey. When it comes to the life of Lady Jane Dudley, little contemporary documentation and no authenticated portraits survive. This has allowed others to invent stories to fill the gaps in our knowledge and unfortunately some of these inventions have persisted.

Modern historians such as Eric Ives, Leanda De Leslie, Nicola Tallis and Stephan Edwards have recently published biographies on the life and times of Lady Jane Grey.  All take a fresh look at her life and the contemporary evidence known to exist. It is these biographies that have started to challenge some of the many myths about Jane and for the first time we are starting to get a better understanding as to what this remarkable character was truly like.

Part of the myth of ‘Jane Grey’ is why Jane is commonly known today by her maiden name?  At the time of her death, she had been married to Lord Guildford Dudley for eight months, and signed her name ‘Jane Dudley’ in two of the messages in the prayer book she carried to her execution.  There does appear to have been a conscious effort to try and separate Jane from the Dudley family after the events of 1553, especially within the Grey family circle.  All blame for placing Jane on the throne was directed to John Dudley. Jane herself, is often referred to as ‘Jane of Suffolk, the Lady Jane or the usurper’ within contemporary descriptions of the events surrounding her reign, imprisonment, and execution.  By the end of the sixteenth century, Jane’s married name is almost completely obliterated from modern text, and although many ballads and plays were written during the seventeenth and eighteenth century portraying the couple as separated lovers, Jane would continually be referred to by her maiden name.

Jane is also often referred to as the ‘nine days Queen’, again however this is a common misconception, created during the Victorian period to portray her reign as a ‘nine days wonder’.  Like with all monarchs, Jane’s reign officially started at the death of her predecessor. From Edward VI’s death on 6th July, the Privy Council were working to secure the succession and the new Queen may have been given time to come to terms with the shock of her new elevated position. Accounts differ as to when the new Queen was actually told.  Jane’s short reign has been counted from when she was publicly proclaimed on the 10th July and not from the official date of the 6th, thus making her the thirteen days queen instead of nine.

Jane’s appearance is another myth to be recently challenged.  For many years a detailed account of Jane’s arrival at the Tower of London as Queen on 10th July written by the merchant ‘Sir Baptist Spinola’ has been extensively reproduced within art, biographies and any discussions concerning the portraiture of Jane. The account, which describes the young Queen as ‘small and thin with freckles’ appeared in the 1909 biography ‘The Nine Days Queen, Lady Jane Grey & Her Times’ by Richard Davey. 

During research for ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’, Leanda de Lisle discovered that Davey’s book was the sole source for Spinola’s account and that no other mention of this description of Jane could be located before 1909. De Lisle also noted that Davey had probably made the description up using some contemporary descriptions of the event, a description of Queen Mary I and a Victorian costume illustration depicting Jane in royal robes.

In recent years, possible new portraits, a re-discovered letter, and the re-evaluation of sources have allowed Jane Dudley to start to emerge from the shadow of ‘Jane Grey.’

List of recommend books:

Eric Ives, ‘Lady Jane Grey a Tudor Mystery’, 2009

Leanda De Lisle, ‘The Sisters Who Would Be Queen’, 2010

John Stephan Edwards, ‘A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey Dudley’, 2015

Nicola Tallis, ‘Crown of Blood The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey’, 2016

William Frederick Yeames Lost Masterpiece ‘Lady Jane Grey in The Tower ‘

Introduction

Between 1794 and 1877, a total of twenty-six paintings depicting scenes from the life of Lady Jane Grey were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.  When looking at the various titles of each painting exhibited, there appears to be a pattern of four significant events in Jane’s life which were prominent themes chosen by artists who opted to promote her story.  Some of these events are, in fact, based on contemporary descriptions from her time, whilst others are steeped in the air of myth which began to surround Jane from the moment of her death. 

The first common scene often depicted is a promotion of Jane’s virtues as an exemplary pupil and her passion for learning. Many of the artists of the paintings based on this scene used the account published by Roger Ascham in 1570 as a source of inspiration.  In this account, Ascham recalls the day on which he encountered Jane alone at Bradgate Park, engrossed in Plato whilst the rest of her family were out hunting. The Victorian myth that both Jane and King Edward VI were educated together and were in fact childhood sweethearts is also depicted within this group of paintings. 

The second common theme is Jane’s initial refusal of the crown. Again, this is based on true events that took place at Syon House and were described by Jane herself in a letter to Queen Mary written during her imprisonment, after she lost her crown in 1553.  The final two common events are a promotion of Jane’s role as a martyr and innocent victim, either when imprisoned in the Tower of London or her final moments on the scaffold.

Of the twenty- six paintings exhibited, a total of nine depicted scenes were from Lady Jane Grey’s imprisonment in The Tower of London between 19th July 1553 and 12th February 1554.

In this article I intend to look at one of the more famous of these paintings, exhibited at the Royal Academy by William Frederick Yeames in 1868.  Until recently, the original painting was thought to have been lost to the sands of time, however as discussed later in this article, an interesting email from a viewer of this website brought some fascinating news to my attention.

When first exhibited, the painting entitled ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower’ received excellent reviews from observer’s who had visited the exhibition, with some reporting that

‘Mr. Yeames “Lady Jane Grey in the Tower,” is perhaps the best picture this young and hard-working artist has yet elaborated.’[1]

‘In 1868 was exhibited the picture which I should rank as the painter’s masterpiece thus far, ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower,’ wearily but gently listening to the exhortations of Feckenham, Abbot of Westminster. Of all the Lady Jane English painting’s, I know of none at once so touching and so true to historical character at this of Mr Yeames.’[2]

‘The little Jane is thoroughly well conceived and better executed by Mr Yeames than by Queen Mary’s executioner’[3]

William Frederick Yeames circa 1884
Joseph Parkin Mayall
© Public Domain

William Frederick Yeames was born in Russia on 18th December 1835, fourth son of William Yeames, a British consul in Taganrog and his wife Eliza Mary Henley.  On his father’s death in 1842, he attended a school in Dresden, and he began to study painting. By 1848, Yeames had moved to England where he studied anatomy and composition under George Scharf. He also visited Florence and Rome to continue his development in life studies, landscapes, and the old masters, eventually returning to England in 1858 and setting up his studio in Park Place, London.   In 1859, Yeames exhibited his first painting into the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and he was eventually made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1866.  Yeames continued to exhibit paintings within the annual exhibition and themed most of his subjects around historical events from British history. He along with other artists formed an artistic circle known today as the ‘St John’s Wood Clique.’ All enjoyed visiting historic houses, including Hever Castle in Kent and would often spend time sketching and painting interiors which would eventually appear as backdrops for their historically themed paintings.  Yeames died on 3rd May 1918, leaving behind a large portfolio of work inspired by some of the most prominent characters in English History. [4]

Setting The scene

The original painting displayed in the 1868 exhibition has not been seen or studied by any art or history academic.  Today, it is only known through the original exhibition catalogue entry and the small preparatory painting produced by Yeames which is now in the collection of Weston Park Museum, Sheffield.  Images of his preparatory painting have appeared in numerous publications over the years and this smaller version was initially in the collection of businessman and collector John Newton Mappin (1800-1883).  On his death, Mappin bequeathed a total of one hundred and fifty-four paintings representing many of the leading artists of the day to the Weston Park Museum. He also left the huge sum of fifteen thousand pounds for a Gallery to be built so that his collection of paintings could be viewed by the public. The Mappin Gallery eventually opened to the public on 27th July 1887 and Yeames preparatory painting for ‘Lady Jane Grey in the Tower’ as well as the rest of his collection could be viewed and admired for generations. [5]

Lady Jane Grey in The Tower Preparatory Painting
William Frederick Yeames
1867
Oil on Canvas
11×17 inches
© Sheffield Museums

The preparatory painting (above) produced by Yeames does provide some clues as to the exact scene depicted in the completed painting exhibited in 1868.  This version is signed and dated by the artist to 1867 and shows Yeames workings of the composition.  The exact event which he opted to depict is when Lady Jane Grey was visited by John Feckenham, Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, on 8th February 1554.  By this point in her story, Jane had faced trial and had been convicted and sentenced to death as a traitor for accepting the crown and signing herself as queen. Mary was prevented from issuing Jane with a pardon because the Spanish demanded that Jane die as a condition of the marriage between Mary and Philip of Spain. 

Mary was unable to save Jane’s life, however she did attempt to save her immortal soul, and she sent Feckenham to see Jane with that specific task, to try and convert her to Catholicism prior to her death. Jane’s execution was postponed for three days, and a debate was held between Feckenham and Jane which resulted in Jane staying strong to the Protestant faith rather than relinquishing it.  This famous debate was apparently recorded and signed by Jane’s own hand, however unfortunately the original document no-longer survives today.  The original documentation does appear to have been smuggled out of the Tower of London as within months of Jane’s death, it began to appear in printed format and was used to promote Jane’s strong belief in the Protestant faith.

The popular tradition of Queen Mary offering Jane a pardon if she was willing to convert to Roman Catholicism began to emerge shortly after Jane’s death.  In 1615, a pamphlet entitled ‘The Life, Death and Actions of The Most Chaste, Learned and Religious Lady, The Lady Jane Grey’ was published in London. This pamphlet again contained a copy of the earlier printed debate, and it was noted in the introduction that:

Even those which were of the best fame and reputation, were sent unto her to dissuade her from that true profession of the gospel, which from her cradle she had held. Each striving by art, by flattery, by threatening’s, by the promise of life, or what else might move most in the bosom of a weak woman.

There is no surviving contemporary evidence to prove that Jane was ever offered an actual pardon if she would convert, but as discussed above there was indeed an effort made to encourage her to convert to what Mary thought was the true religion and save her soul.

The preparatory painting also informs us that Yeames appears to have made every effort to try and keep his composition as accurate as possible.  In this version of the painting, his image of Jane is heavily based on the Wrest Park portrait which was once thought to be a contemporary portrait and was widely reproduced to illustrate Jane during the nineteenth century. Yeames does appear to have altered the facial composition slightly from the original portrait in an attempt to make the sitter in his version look closer to Jane’s actual age at the time of her death. 

The Wrest Park Portrait
Previously Identified as Lady Jane Grey
© Private Collection

The preparatory painting depicts Jane placed within a furnished room with a fire along with her books and writing paper which were objects often associated with her iconography. The myth that Jane was imprisoned in an empty prison cell was often portrayed by other artists of the nineteenth century. Although we have very little in terms of historical documentation to inform us what Jane’s life was like during her imprisonment.  The author of the sixteenth century manuscript ‘Chronicles of Queen Jane’ does provide us some signs as to her circumstances when in the Tower of London.  The writer informs us that Jane was imprisoned on the top floor of the house of Nathaniel Partridge, she was allowed at least three of her gentlewomen and a man servant. As a cousin of the Queen and a prisoner of high status, Jane would certainly have had some level of comfort during her imprisonment and Yeames has certainly captured this well in his image.

Yeames does appear to have followed the myth that Feckenham was an aged man at the time he met Jane.  John Howman or John Feckenham as he is better known was born in Feckenham, Worcestershire.  Though his exact date of birth is unrecorded it is traditionally thought to have been around 1515.  Initially educated by the parish priests he eventually received an education as a Benediction student at Gloucester Hall, Oxford.  Feckenham spent a lifetime in and out of imprisonment for his religious beliefs, however, he was described by a peer of the day as a ‘gentle person’. He was eventually freed from the Tower of London by Queen Mary in 1553, and he became personal chaplain and confessor to the Queen, and eventually Abbot of Westminster.  Feckenham died, once again in captivity in 1584.[6] 

If Feckenham had been born around 1515 as traditionally thought, then he would have been in his early forties at the time of meeting Jane rather than the man of a mature age who is portrayed in the preparatory painting and is so often depicted by other artists in visual depictions of Jane’s story.

Conclusion

In early 2020, I began to publish images alongside basic information on this website concerning the many paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy inspired by the life of Lady Jane Grey. One of the main reasons for doing this was firstly, to have a platform to record all the information currently known regarding each painting.  And to secondly, create awareness of these paintings, in the hope of some of the lost paintings finally resurfacing so they can be studied and seen.  

In 2021, I received an email from a follower of this site, asking several questions regarding the preparatory painting produced by Yeames and the dimensions of the painting listed under his name on my website.  I immediately responded, informing them that, unfortunately, the dimensions listed are for the preparatory painting as Yeames completed work had not been seen since the 1868 exhibition. The response I received greatly interested me and on opening the attachment I was surprised to see the long-lost completed painting of ‘Lady Jane Grey in The Tower’ by William Frederick Yeames staring right back at me. During several further emails, the current owner reported that he was unfortunately unable to give much information regarding the provenance of the painting, however, he did report that he had inherited the painting from his parents, who had purchased it from a gallery in Blakedown, Worcestershire in the 1970’s.  He also recalled a story in which his parents took the painting along to the BBC Antiques Roadshow in the 1980’s, however, the subject of the painting was deemed too depressing to be seen on television.[7]

Lady Jane Grey in The Tower
1868
William Frederick Yeames
Oil on Canvas
35×61 inches
© Private Collection

Unfortunately, for the moment we do appear to be missing that smoking gun to be able to determine if indeed the above painting was the final painting exhibited by Yeames in 1868 or another preparatory work.  No dimensions of the final version were listed in the exhibition catalogue, and unfortunately the only reference to its actual size is a comment from 1903, noting that the completed image was ‘bigger than the preparatory painting’[8].  The artists signature and date of 1868 can clearly be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the above image provided and this second version is considerably larger than the preparatory painting, which certainly suggests that this was indeed the final version exhibited at the Royal Academy. 

Detail Image showing Yeames signature and date

There does appear to be some major adjustments made to the background and figure of Jane, when compared to the preparatory painting. However, Yeames certainly spent a lot of time and effort in working out the composition of his final image and this is to be expected when comparing preliminary drawings to final compositions.

During a search of the auction records, I was able to track one previous owner of either this version or the preparatory painting. On 9th July 1875, an auction took place at Christie, Manson and Woods, London.  The sale lasted two days and consisted of 280 lots belonging to the recently deceased W.E.J Roffey, Esq of Bloomsbury Square, London. Roffey was an avid picture collector, acquiring a large collection of paintings produced by modern artists of the day, particularly those who had exhibited within the Royal Academy exhibition. Listed among the 280 lots are four works by William Frederick Yeames, including

‘Item 237 W. F. Yeames, ARA, 1867 – Lady Jane Grey in the Tower – Exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1868’[9]

Item 237, sold for twenty-seven pounds, however, once again the important factor of measurements is missing from the catalogue.  The catalogue does state that this was the version exhibited in the 1868 exhibition, however the date of 1867 printed next to the artists name does raise the question as to whether this could possibly be the preparatory painting which we do know was indeed dated to 1867. 

Further research does need to take place to locate more information regarding the provenance of this newly surfaced version of Lady Jane Grey in The Tower.  And, to try and establish if indeed the painting sold in 1875 was the final version or the preparatory painting, possibly purchased by John Newton Mappin for his collection.  I would like to convey my thanks to the current owner of this painting for giving me the opportunity to see his version and publish it in this article on the missing Yeames painting so it can be seen by others with an interest in Jane.  This second version is truly beautiful, and I for one, can now see why Yeames received so much praise for this work when it was exhibited.  

I do hope to be able to fill some of these missing gaps and unanswered questions during future trips to the archives so please keep an eye out for further updates on this work.  


[1] Burk. Emily, The Annual Register: A Review of Public Events at Home & Abroad for The Year 1868, page 317

[2] Hamerton. Philip, The Portfolio an Artistic Periodical, 1871, page 83

[3] Thomas. Alfred & Lewis. Leopold, The Mask, Volume I, 1868, page 133

[4] Meynell. Wilfred, The Modern School of Art, W.R Howell & Company, 1886, vol I, page 206- 215

[5]City of Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery Catalogue of the Permanent Collection and Other Works of Art, 1903, Page vi-viii

[6] Fuller. Thomas, The History of the Worthies of England, 1840, vol 3, page 375-376

[7] Email communication between author and owner, 2021-2022

[8] City of Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery Catalogue of the Permanent Collection and Other Works of Art, 1903, Page 15

[9]Christie, Manson & Woods, Modern Pictures, 9th July 1875, page 24

The Hever Rose Portrait

Co-authored & researched with Dr Owen Emmerson

The Hever Rose Portraits
Anne Boleyn
Oil on Panel
22 3/4 x 17 1/4 inches
© Hever Castle, Kent

Object Description:

This painting is executed in oil on a wooden panel and measures in whole 22 ¾ x 17 ¼ inches.   The portrait depicts an adult female’s head and upper torso who appears sitting before a plain brown background.  She is turned slightly to the viewers left, and in her right hand, she holds a red rose. 

Her face is long and oval in shape, with a high forehead.  Her hair is brown in colour, appears straight, and is worn parted in the centre of the crown and pulled back over her ears and under her coif.  Her eyes are brown in colour, and her eyebrows are thin and arched.  The nose is slightly arched with a high bridge, and her lips are small and thin.  The use of a pink tone has been added to the sitter’s cheekbones and bridge of her nose. 

The sitter’s costume includes a French hood, ending just below the jawline.  This is constructed of black fabric that includes the use of an upper and lower billiment of pearls; thirty-four pearls can be seen in the lower billiment, and forty-three pearls have been depicted on the upper billiment.  A black veil is also seen hanging down at the back of the hood, and under this, the sitter wears a gold coif.  At her neck, she wears two strings of pearls with a large letter ‘B’ pendant of goldsmith work with three hanging pearls suspended from the upper necklace.  A gold chain constructed of circular loops is also seen at the neck, which falls and disappears into the front of the sitter’s bodice.  The gown itself is constructed of black fabric, cut square at the neck, and a chemise embroidered with blackwork protrudes along the entire bodice margin. The hint of a kirtle made of brown fabric and embellished with forty-four pearls and twenty-three buttons of goldsmith work is also seen around the neckline of the bodice.

Inscription:

An inscription applied across the top of the panel in a bright yellow pigment identifies the sitter as ANNA BOLINA. ANG. REGINA

Labels and other inscriptions:

Access to the back of the panel is unfortunately restricted due to the presence of a supporting cradle.  No assessment could be made of any other possible labels or inscriptions attached to the back of the panel surface at the time of writing.

Artist Association:

English School

Condition:

In 2000, restoration work was carried out on the painting by the conservator, Claudio Moscatelli. The most significant part of this conservation work was removing overpaint added at some point in the painting’s history. A series of three images held in Hever Castle’s archive, taken immediately before, during and after the restoration process gives us a lucid understanding of the works completed.

The Hever Rose Portrait, Before Restoration (Left) and With Overpaint Removed (Right)
© Hever Castle, Kent

With the overpaint carefully removed, it became clear that the overpaint had been likely applied because of past damage to the panels. Subsequently, significant alterations to the facial features had been made. Most of the revealed damage appeared to have occurred on the left of the three panels, with substantial losses evident along the joint between the left-hand and central panel. Indeed, it is likely that the left-hand panel had completely detached from the central one at some point in its history.  As this damage ran through the sitter’s face, it is perhaps not surprising that the overpaint was most heavily applied upon the chin, mouth, and nose. What became evident with the removal of this later overpaint was that it had also acted to ‘smooth’ out these features into perhaps more flattering ones than were originally intended. Indeed, it is evident that overpaint had also been added to areas without paint losses which contributed to this ‘beautification’. Claudio Moscatelli’s efforts to replace losses were subsequently much closer to the original pattern revealed when the overpaint had been removed.

The Hever Rose Portrait, Before Restoration (Left) and After Restoration (Right)
© Hever Castle, Kent

Thoughts:

Similar to NPG 668, The Hever Rose Portrait is arguably one of the more famous paintings of Anne Boleyn based on the B Pattern. Today, the painting is one of four significant portraits believed to depict Anne Boleyn hanging on the walls of Hever Castle in Kent.  The portrait has become a treasured artefact that holds a special place in both the hearts of the staff and the public who view it; however, despite its widespread popularity, we appear to know very little about it.  This is not uncommon when researching historical portraiture with a history of over four hundred years behind it. In many cases, almost nothing has survived in terms of historical documentation for most of our surviving Tudor portraits. In the past, the Hever Rose portrait has been mistaken for that once owned by Mrs K. Radclyffe.[1] A close study of the Radclyffe portrait against the Hever Rose portrait shows several clear differences, perhaps most noticeably in the size of the links that make up the chain around her neck (see below). Moreover, in his study of the portraiture of Anne Boleyn, celebrated art historian Sir Roy Strong noted that the Radclyffe Portrait had no inscription upon it, unlike the Hever Rose version.[2] When the Hever Rose Portrait was exhibited at Philip Mould’s Lost Faces exhibition in 2007, it was described as “… the finest and most probably the earliest” of the ‘corridor portraits’ of Anne Boleyn.[3]

The Radclyffe Portrait (Left) and the Hever Rose Portrait (Right)

No record of the Hever Rose Portrait has been located within any of the files relating to the iconography of Anne Boleyn in the Witt Library, Paul Mellon Centre, British Museum, or the Heinz Archive.  No scientific investigation has yet, taken place on this portrait to establish an accurate date of its creation. The exact date the portrait entered Hever castle’s collection has always remained a mystery. A date of c.1550 has been added to the portrait at some point in its history at Hever Castle, however, it is uncertain when this date was attached to it and by whom. We know via dendrochronological analysis that the NPG 668 portrait of Anne Boleyn was created in c.1584, during the reign of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I; a period when Anne’s image underwent a period of rehabilitation.[4] It is considerably less likely that a portrait of Anne Boleyn would have been painted in 1550 during the reign of Elizabeth’s brother, Edward VI, whose mother, Queen Jane Seymour, superseded Anne. It may be, therefore, that in lieu of any scientific analysis that date of c.1550 was added. This would have allowed for a period of approximately fifteen years on either side of that central ‘circa’ date; straddling the possibility, therefore, of it having been painted during Anne’s own lifetime, or during the reign of her daughter, Elizabeth.  

To truly understand the Hever Rose Portrait as an object, we first need to look at the castle’s history on which walls the portrait hangs today.  Located in the small village of Hever in Kent, Hever Castle has a long, rich history dating back to the twelfth century.  Arguably more famous today for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the castle is a cherished time capsule that takes us, the public, closer to its most famous inhabitant than any other historic building associated with her.  

The Boleyn family purchased the castle in 1462, and by 1505, Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn, inherited Hever and various other lands and properties on his father’s death.  Today, with the assistance of architectural historians, we are beginning to understand better how the castle was developed and added to across its history.  Unfortunately, we have almost nothing in terms of documentary evidence to inform us what was used to furnish the building when the Boleyn family were in residence.  No sixteenth-century reference to a portrait of Anne Boleyn at Hever castle has also been located.  

The castle subsequently passed through various owners, including the Waldegrave family from 1557 to 1715, the Humphreys family to 1749 and the Meade-Waldo Family from 1749 to 1903.  A rather run-down Hever Castle was purchased by an American billionaire, William Waldorf Astor, in 1903.  Astor had already been captivated by the story of Anne Boleyn and had already started to acquire a collection of objects related to her story; the fact that he now had her childhood home was the icing on the cake.  William Astor immediately started the restoration work to take the castle back to its former glory and use the building as his principal residence.  Much of what is seen today within the walls of the building is thanks to this restoration work which took place between 1903 and 1908.  Astor himself immediately set about acquiring period pieces and furnishing the rooms with artefacts connected to the castle’s rich history.  This period of development was also continued by his son, John Jacob, when he inherited the castle on his father’s death in 1919. His great- grandson, Gavin Astor, inherited the castle in 1961 and eventually opened the castle up partially to the public in 1963.

Hever Castle does, in fact, have a long history associated with the documentation of a portrait of Anne Boleyn. During the nineteenth century, it became popular for various tourists to publish detailed notes taken during their tours of the historic houses across England. In a small number of these publications, a portrait of Anne Boleyn is described as hanging on the walls at Hever Castle. However, it appears that several visitors were less than impressed by the image seen of this infamous Queen.  This sense of dislike, and other clues, suggests that it was not the current portrait seen by the visitors but another painting altogether.  

Our first positive archival reference to a portrait of Anne at Hever dates to 1801 when the Meade-Waldo family owned the castle.  In his study of The Beauties of England and Wales, Reverend Hodgson observed a portrait of Anne Boleyn at Rufford Abbey:

“In the attic story… a portrait of Anne Bullen on wood, but by no means as handsome as Holbein has painted her in which is preserved at Loseley in Surrey; yet as this one bears a great resemblance to a portrait of her at Hever Castle in Kent, the seat of her family, one is almost led to suspect that Henry’s taste for beauty would not have been much followed at the present day.”[5]

Similarly, a visitor in 1823 viewed the portrait that had been pointed out to him as an image of Anne; however, he was noted to be unimpressed with the picture seen.  He later recorded that:

‘At Hever Castle is still preserved a small picture in oil, which is an heirloom, and is said to be the Queen; it is a very stiff performance, and if a likeness of Ann Bolen, we look in vain for those captivating charms which are generally supposed to have enslaved the affections of the despotic monarch, and even urged him to overthrow the religion of his country, in order to compass the fulfilment of his ungovernable desires.’[6]

Writer James Thorne also appears to have viewed the same portrait supposed to depict Anne in 1847, and he was again less than impressed by the image he viewed:

‘One is pointed out as the family portrait if Anne Boleyn, and it’s added that it was painted shortly before her execution.  To us, it seems to bear little resemblance to the authentic portrait of her.  We do not believe it is even a copy of her portrait, we need barely add, it’s not an original.[7]

While no detailed description of this portrait of Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle exists, Reverend Hodgson’s observation that the painting he observed at Rufford Abbey was unlike that held at Loseley Hall – but like that at Hever Castle – is an intriguing one. A portrait of Anne Boleyn, which derives from the ‘B’ necklace pattern, still hangs at Loseley, and if it is the same portrait that Reverend Hodgson observed at Loseley in the early 1800s, the portrait of Anne at Hever Castle at that time most likely differed from the ‘B’ pattern model.  More intriguing still is the existence of a painting that is still in the collection of the Meade-Waldo family, and which was removed from Hever Castle when they opted to sell the castle to the Astor family in 1903. This particular portrait is painted with the use of oil on the panel and includes the inscription identifying the sitter as ‘Anna. Regina. AD. 1534.’

Loseley Hall Portrait (Left) & Meade- Waldo Family Portrait (Right)
© Private Collections

One of the main reasons for the uncertainty surrounding the purchase of the Hever Rose Portrait is due to the castle being flooded on 15th September 1968.  It does appear that the Astor family did keep detailed records of items purchased for display purposes, however, due to damage caused by the flooding, which overwhelmed the castle’s cellars and library, a considerable amount of the family’s archival information was unfortunately lost or destroyed.

Until recently, the first surviving document relating to the portrait’s actual existence at Hever castle was when it was listed among other paintings and furniture in a valuation catalogue compiled by Christie, Manson, and Woods in 1965.  No description of the portrait appeared in an earlier inventory made of the collection in 1919, at the time of William Astor’s death and it had always been presumed that the portrait was purchased between 1919 and 1965, however, no surviving documentation had surfaced to prove this theory. [8]

During a search of the current archive for this article, a pamphlet produced for an open day for employees of the Times Newspaper in 1939 was discovered. In this, an early image of the portrait was located and was listed as being among the collection at Hever Castle.  The discovery of this pamphlet pushes back the timeline in which the portrait was possibly purchased, and it appears that the painting was in the castle’s collection prior to 1939.

Times Pamphlet containing an early image of the Hever Rose Portrait
© Hever Castle, Kent

A very interesting description of a portrait, published in a book from 1908, may possibly give us a clue as to the previous provenance of the Hever Rose Portrait.  In 1904, Edmund Ferrer documented that he visited Assington Hall in Suffolk and came across a portrait of Anne Boleyn in that collection.  Assington Hall was the family estate of the Gurdon family, who had lived within the manor house at Assington since it was purchased by Robert Gurdon from Sir Miles Corbert in the early sixteenth century.[9]

Ferrer later published a detailed description of the portrait seen, and the details given in his description appear to be a perfect match to the Hever Rose Portrait.

‘Queen Anne Boleyn.  H(ead) and S(soulders). Body and face both turned slightly to the dexter, hair dressed in the pedimental style. Dress: Black, with pearls round the neck, supporting a jewelled B; there is also a gold chain; the hands are forward holding a rose. Above it “Ang. Regina”’[10]

During my research into the many portraits of Anne Boleyn associated with the B Pattern, I have only come across three surviving copies of the distinctive Rose pattern. Both the Rawlinson and the Radclyffe copy do not include the distinctive inscription identifying the sitter as seen in the Hever copy and, unless another unknown copy does exist, then the only plausible option is that the portrait seen by Ferrer in 1904 is now in the collection of Hever Castle.

One final piece of evidence to back this theory up is the auction catalogue for the sale of the contents of Assington Hall in 1937.  Unfortunately, no specific portrait identified as being that of Anne Boleyn is listed among the paintings sold on the 6th of October.  The descriptions give

n of the fifty-one paintings to appear in the catalogue are noted to be very vague and only a small number of portraits are identified by the sitter’s name are listed. Item 171, ‘portrait of a lady of the Elizabethan period with a black headdress and pearl necklace’ could possibly be the portrait of Anne and it is also noted that it was painted on panel and measures 22 x 17 inches.  If indeed the portrait was measured by the auction house in its frame, then this would be a perfect fit for the Hever Rose Portrait and would suggest that the portrait was presumably purchased by John Jacob Astor for display at Hever Castle[11]

Further research does need to take place to try and establish once and for all if the portrait of Anne seen at Assington Hall in 1904, is indeed the portrait we all see when visiting Hever Castle today. Moreover, the absence of any scientific analysis on this portrait leaves many unanswered questions. It is often stated that the are no extant painted portraits of Anne Boleyn that date to her lifetime. Yet few of the panel portraits which bear Anne’s likeness have been subjected to either paint or dendrochronological analysis which would help to determine a likely date of their creation. Considering that the Hever Rose Portrait was appraised and exhibited by art historians Philip Mould and Bendor Grosvenor as “… the finest and most probably the earliest” of the ‘corridor portraits’ of Anne Boleyn, the desire to satiate the unanswered questions surrounding this portraits age has never been more acute.[12]  What is clear from this article is that the Hever Rose Portrait is now, finally, starting to shed some of its secrets and we are now starting to find out a little more about such a treasured and renowned artefact.  


[1] https://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/894_Anne_Boleyn_regains_her_head

[2] Strong, R, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, Volume 1, 1st ed. (H. M. Stationary Office, 1969), p.6.

[3] Grosvenor, B, Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture, 1st ed. (Philip Mould Ltd, 2017), p.12.

[4] https://ladyjanegreyrevisited.com/2021/01/16/anne-boleyn-npg-668/

[5] Hodgson, R, The Beauties of England and Wales, or, Delineations, topographical, historical, and descriptive, of each count, Volume 12, Part 1, 1st ed. (Vernor & Hood, 1801), pp.389-90.     

[6] Bell. J, Belle Assemblée or, Court and Fashionable Magazine, 1829, page: 29

[7] Thorne. Thomas, The Land we Live in, 1847, Vol III.

[8] Christie, Manson & Wood, Valuation for Insurance of Pictures and Furniture, 1965, Hever Castle Archive

[9] Burke. Bernard, History of The Landed Gentry of Great Britian and Ireland, 1875, vol I, Page. 555

[10] Farrer. Edmund, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, Page. 4

[11] Garrod, Turner & Son, Assington Hall, Suffolk A Catalogue of The Remaining Contents of The Mansion, 6th October 1937, page: 5

[12] Grosvenor, B, Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture, 1st ed. (Philip Mould Ltd, 2017), p.12.

The Philip Portrait – Does it Change Anything?

When it comes to the iconography of Queen Elizabeth, we have a plethora of surviving portraits from the sixteenth century. In today’s modern society, it must be hard to find an individual who is not familiar with the many images of the pale faced, Queen, decked out in her red wig and trademark pearls.

Many of these portraits are ingrained in the minds of many history lovers as the images of the confident virgin Queen, however these all relate to a period later in her reign when there was a huge demand for her likeness.  It is well documented that during the latter part of her reign Elizabeth herself, became more aware of the power connected to the use of her image.  The painting’s viewed today in galleries and stately homes across the globe are a symbol of royal authority, and in many cases were produced with the use of symbolism to demonstrate that, despite being a woman, Elizabeth was the natural and legitimate ruler of England. Rarely, do we get a glimpse of the human Elizabeth, stripped of all the makeup and regalia, who ascended to the throne in 1558 at the young age of just twenty-five years old. The iconography relating to the early part of her life and reign is a complex subject and portraits of the young Queen are scarce.  In terms of pictorial evidence there is very little available to inform us what the young Queen looked like.

The Philip Portrait was discovered in the late 1970’s, by London art dealer Richard Philip, little has been discussed or documented regarding the history of this painting and its significance as an early image of the young Queen Elizabeth.  In this painting, Elizabeth is depicted as the young fresh-faced monarch, who, by this period had not established the pomp and regalia associated with her later images but, was being represented by artists as the plainly dressed queen, devoted to the matter of religion.   Does this rarely seen portrait tell us anything about the young Elizabeth and does its possible connection to a small number of other paintings, in which the sitter has for many years been debated, tip the balance in favour of these also depicting the young Queen?

The Philip Portrait
Queen Elizabeth I
Oil on Panel
32 x 24 1/2 inches
©Private Collection

The Philip portrait was originally discovered leaning against the back wall in a picture shop in Cheltenham.  Due to significant overpainting the sitter in the portrait had lost its identity altogether and the painting was simply referred to as a portrait of a 1920’s flapper girl.  Art Dealer, Richard Philip recalls its discovery in a later article on the portrait.  He informs us that ‘upon examining the painting he noticed that a small section of the paint on the bottom left-hand side of the panel had begun to fall away. On closer examination he then noted that the exposed underpaint was harder and much older than the modern paint coving the rest of the panel’. Philip then opted to take a gamble and purchased the portrait immediately[1]

On returning to London, Philip sent the portrait to a picture restorer who immediately began cleaning tests. What was revealed beneath the modern paint layers both astonished Richard Philip and the restorer.  Once fully stripped of its modern overpaint the image of a sixteenth century lady, standing full frontal and seen three quarter length appeared.

The portrait was immediately thought, by Philip, to be a painting of the young Queen Elizabeth, however, as with all portrait research, evidence was required, and he began his research to attempt to prove his theory.  The portrait was first sent to Doctor John Fletcher, a pioneer in the use of dendrochronology, who attempted to establish a date of creation. Though, dendrochronology testing was in its infancy in the 1970’s, Doctor Fletcher was able to establish that the panel was constructed with the use of four boards: one board was of similar pattern to two of the three boards used in the portrait of Richard Wakeman by Hans Eworth which was inscribed with the date of 1566.  On further research Doctor Fletcher confirmed that the boards seen in both these paintings were ‘almost certainly’ from the same tree, and he dated the creation of the Philip portrait to the 1560’s. [2]

With an estimated date of creation Philip then approached Roy Strong, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Strong had published a book in 1963, entitled Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, in which he documented a lifelong interest in the iconography relating to Elizabeth I. According to later reports by Philip, Roy Strong was ‘impressed and astonished’ by the discovery referring to it as ‘a major find in the art world’.[3]  Similarities were immediately recognised between the Philip Portrait and other iconography related to the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and this apparent similarity has continued to be referred to during subsequent sales of the Portrait.[4]   

As for what specific iconography the Philip Portrait relates to is anyone’s guess. As discussed above, very little has survived in terms of portraiture of the young queen.  Unlike her predecessors, who had employed artists of immense talent such as Hans Holbein, William Scots and unofficially, Hans Eworth to produce portraits.  Elizabeth never officially employed a court painter during the first period of her reign, other than continuing the service of miniaturist and illustrator Levina Teerlinc.  The most famous painted image of the young Queen depicted full-frontal, similar to that seen in the Philip Portrait is known as the Coronation miniature.  In this, Elizabeth is depicted wearing her coronation robes and holding the royal regalia, however, recent research into this miniature and the subsequent larger copy, now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery suggests that both were painted circa 1600, towards the end of Elizabeth’s life and possibly in celebration of her long reign. 

In 1978, the costume Historian, Janet Arnold suggested that both the coronation portraits were, in fact, based on a ‘now lost’ portrait depicting Elizabeth at the time of her coronation in 1559.  Arnold’s evidence for this theory was derived from the fact that the artists representation of the clothing worn by Elizabeth in both images matching contemporary documented evidence describing the items in Elizabeth’s wardrobe.  It was therefore suggested that either the portrait was related to an earlier portrait pattern or that the artist was given access to the clothing worn by Elizabeth on the day of her coronation.[5]

The fact that Elizabeth did not employ an official court painter does not necessarily mean that the demand for her portrait had declined.  Documentary evidence suggests that her image was in high demand from the period of her accession.  Elizabeth herself, appears to have been rather embarrassed about the production of her early images.  For this reason, her secretary, Sir William Cecil drafted a proclamation in 1563.  The draft proclamation announced that a portrait of the new Queen would be made by ‘some special cunning painter’ and that this image must be used when producing copies of the Queen’s likeness. Cecil also acknowledges that the Queen ‘hath bene allwise of her own right disposition very unwilling’ to sit for a portrait and asks that all ‘painters, printers, and engravers to cease production’ of her image until a portrait displaying ‘the natural representation of her Majesties person, favour or grace’ can be completed.[6]

Over the years it has been suggested that the 1563 proclamation refers to a particular portrait known as the ‘Clopton type’ however, it is possible that it could relate to an entirely different version of this portrait altogether. The proclamation suggests that due to a lack of access to the young Queen, artists, printers and engravers were creating images of Elizabeth to an unsatisfactory standard.

Named after Clopton Hall, the previous location of the largest version known to exist.  In this portrait, Elizabeth is depicted in a simple black gown with ermine trim and holds a pair of gloves in one hand and a prayer book in the other, a gold pendant containing a large cut gemstone is suspended from a chain of goldsmith work around her neck.  Several versions of this pattern exist, and those that have undergone scientific investigation have all are dated to the 1560’s.[7]  

The recent discovery and research into an early example of this pattern by London Art Dealer Philip Mould, brings about some very interesting questions.  Mould acquired a copy of this portrait in 2010, and, during scientific investigations on his copy he discovered that hidden under the painted surface was an entirely different image. An x-ray of the portrait was taken that revealed that the composition of this copy had been changed from full frontal, like the Philip portrait, to the image facing the viewers left.  Changes in the position of the sitter’s hands, ruff and sleeves where also noted.  Mould’s copy was also dendrochronological tested, and the most plausible date of creation was established as 1552, which does suggest that his copy was probably the first example of this pattern to be created.[8]

It is hard to ignore the similarities in the features depicted in the Philip portrait and the small number of other paintings associated with the young Elizabeth. The most prominent of these paintings are known as the Soule and Hever portraits and much debate regarding the identity of the sitter depicted in both these painting has been had over the course of time.[9]

Both the Soule and Hever portraits display striking similarities to the Philip Portrait, especially in terms of the face pattern used by the artist. Both paintings also display a similar costume as that depicted in both the Philip and Clopton portraits.  The sitter in the Hever Portrait is also shown holding what appears to be a pair of gloves which again is seen in the Clopton Pattern.  The hoods worn by the sitter do appear to be similar in style, however the hood worn in the Philip portrait is of a different colour and a billament of goldsmith work and pearls has been added.   

In preparation for the publication of his book A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley Historian, John Stephan Edwards complied intensive research into both the Soule and Hever Portrait’s.  As the Philip portrait had never actually been associated with Lady Jane Grey, Edwards was noted not to mention this copy in his book   During his research, both the Hever and Soule paintings underwent dendrochronology testing, and it was again established that both portraits dated to the late 1550’s. Edwards also suggests the theory that both the Hever and Soule portraits derive from an earlier, finer detailed painting known as Berry-Hill portrait and that all depict the same individual.  Unfortunately, the Berry-Hill portrait is currently listed as lost and was last seen in 1956, when it was purchased by the Berry-Hill Galleries, New York. Edwards rules out the identification of the sitter being that of Elizabeth in favour of Lady Catherine Grey. During his research he notes that no other potential sitter had been discussed and that the possibility of the portrait representing Elizabeth would have been of greater interest to potential buyers.[10]

The Berry-Hill Portrait
Unknown Lady
Oil on Panel
12 5/8 x 9 Inches
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

Roy strong was also noted to refer to the portraits as ‘Borderline cases’ in terms of fitting in with other iconography relating to the young Queen Elizabeth in his 1963 book, and it perhaps these painting in which Strong refers to on viewing the Philip portrait in the 1970’s . Many illuminated documents relating to the first period of her reign have also been discussed when suggesting Elizabeth as the possible sitter in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever Portrait’s. Though yes, some similarities can be seen in these manuscript illustrations It must be remembered that the figures of monarchs created on these documents were meant to be a representation and not a direct likeness. [11]

The first pictorial image we have available today, relating to the period when Elizabeth first ascended to the throne is an illustration produced on a document related to the Michaelmas Celebrations of 1558.  This illustration has been associated with artist Levina Teerlinc and in this, the figure of Elizabeth is inconsistent with the figure depicted in the Philip portrait.  The young Queen is not, yet, crowned and is depicted with the crown suspended above her head.  Her face is turned to the viewers left and, on her head, she wears a black French hood similar in style to that worn by her sister, during her reign.

Detail: 1558 Michaelmas Document
Queen Elizabeth I
© The National Archives, UK

A small number of other illuminated manuscripts produced after Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1559, are, again, all associated with Levina Teerlinc, show an image of the full-frontal young queen, with a small figure-of-eight ruff surrounding her face, very similar to that seen in the Philip, Berry Hill, Soule and Hever portraits.  This may suggest that there was some sort of full-frontal pattern produced of the young Queen which may have been the initial source for these representations during the early part of her reign.

It is my theory that the Clopton portrait type did, in fact, evolve from an earlier image depicting the young Princess Elizabeth, placed full-frontal like that seen in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever portrait’s.  The Philip portrait appears to sit directly in the middle of both the Berry-Hill and Clopton portraits, and it could be argued that Clopton portrait was an altered version of the Philip portrait.  The x-ray of Philip Mould’s copy, which shows a slightly altered full-frontal version beneath the painted surface only strengthens this claim.

It may also be possible that the Philip portrait was in turn a ‘pimped up’ version of the Berry-Hill portrait, created by an artist from an early portrait, possibly taken when Elizabeth was still Princess, to make Elizabeth look more regal due to a lack of access to the new Queen and a high demand for her image. If indeed all the sitters in the Berry-Hill, Soule and Hever portrait are the same individual then this would most defiantly tip the scales towards them all depicting Elizabeth.  It could also be argued that 1563 proclamation refers to the Philip and Berry-Hill type rather the Clopton pattern. If Stephan Edwards theory is correct, and the Berry-Hill portrait is the earliest example then there does appear to be a dramatic decline in artistic detail with the subsequent later copies. The 1563 proclamation may possibly be the reason why so fewer copies exist of the full-frontal pattern.  Further research and discussion is most definitely needed into this small group of portraits to identify once and for all if there is any possible connection to Queen Elizabeth and the true identity of the sitter in the Berry-Hill portrait.

UPDATE: 16th November 2021

After being missing for over a decade, the Berry-Hill portrait has finally resurfaced and is due to be sold by Butterscotch Auctioneers, Bedford Village, New York. The sale is to take place on Sunday 21st November at 10am. Item 209 is listed as a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots from a private collection in Scarsdale, New York.

The Berry Hill Portrait
Oil on Panel
12 1/2 x 9 inches

UPDATE: 22nd November 2021

Lot 209 sold for 120.000 dollar’s to an unknown buyer. The portrait was by far the most successful item in the auction and appeared to have sparked a lot of interest from potential buyers. Unfortunately, for now we will just have to wait and see if the new owner is willing to have the portrait scientifically tested to once and for all solve the riddle of the sitters identity.

Both myself and Stephan Edwards differ in opinion as to who the sitter is, however, this is not uncommon within the field of art history. Click the link below to view his most recent article on the Berry Hill portrait.

http://somegreymatter.com/berryhill.htm


[1] Philip. Richard, De-frocking a Flapper Girl, De-Frocking a Flapper Girl | Richard Philp, accesses June 2021

[2] Christie’s Auction Catalouge, Friday March 23rd 1979, lot 155, page 103

[3] Philip. Richard, De-frocking a Flapper Girl, De-Frocking a Flapper Girl | Richard Philp, accesses June 2021

[4] The Philip Portrait first appeared at Christie’s auction in March of 1979. It was subsequently sold again by Sotheby’s in December 2008.  Both catalogues for the sales list similarities between the Philip Portrait and other early iconography of Queen Elizabeth I.

[5]Arnold. Janet, The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, The Burlington Magazine, Vol.120, No. 908, Page 727. See also Golding. Elizabeth, Nicholas Hilliard Life of An Artist, Yale University Press, 2019, Page :244-247

[6] O’Donoghue. Freeman, A Descriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Dryden Press, 1894, Page ix-x

[7] NPG 4449; Queen Elizabeth I – conservation research – National Portrait Gallery, accessed July 2021

[8] Grosvenor. Bendor, Philip Mould Fine Paintings Catalogue, London 2010

[9] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention The Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley, old John Publishing, Page: 157-167

[10] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention The Portraits of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley, old John Publishing, Page: 157-167

[11] Strong. Roy, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Oxford Press, 1963, Page: 53-54

The Paine Miniature – Is it Elizabeth?

Portrait of an Unknown Lady

Introduction:

In May 2021, I came across an image of a rather intriguing sixteenth century miniature portrait hidden away in an auction catalogue dated to 1979.  On seeing the image, the painting immediately sparked my interest, firstly, because I had not seen the image before and secondly, because my immediate thought was that the draughtsmanship showed some similarities to the work thought to have been produced by court miniaturist Levina Teerlinc.

Thanks to the use of social media, I was very quickly able to track down the current owner of a similar portrait. With the information I had already gathered, it was quickly established that this was indeed the same miniature photographed and sold in 1979. I was then provided with some high-resolution colour images of the miniature and further information about its modern-day provenance.   

This article intends to document and examine the information already known about this miniature portrait.  I will also attempt to establish if there is any possible connection between this miniature and the famous sixteenth century artist Levina Teerlinc.  I will also attempt to establish if there is any possible connection between the sitter depicted and other iconography related to Queen Elizabeth I.     

A picture containing text, gear

Description automatically generated
The Paine Miniature Portrait
Oil on Card
6.5 Centimetres
Unknown Artist
©Private Collection

Description:

The portrait is painted with the use of oil on card and is 6.5 centimetres in diameter. Its format is circular, and the sitter is depicted in three-quarter length facing the viewers left.  Placed before a plain grey background, she has light auburn hair that is parted in the middle, brown eyes, and a small mouth.  On her head she wears what appears to be a white coif cap. Her costume is made up of a black loose gown trimmed with white fur and a fur collar.  Fur is also seen at the top of the sleeve heads and down the front of the gown.  Both hands are seen in the image and the sitter has her right hand tucked into the front opening of her gown.  A small ruffle, embellished with blackwork stitching is visible at the sitter’s neck and wrists and a gold ring with a large emerald suspended from a black ribbon around her neck. A gold boarder has also been added to the outer edge of the portrait.

Inscription:

Detail Image Showing Hands & Ring

A Memento Mori or skull is depicted on right-hand side of the miniature with the wording: AHI MORTE TU TOGLI & NUNQUA RENDI TU PRESTI & MAINON PAGHI placed vertically along the side of the sitter.

‘Remember you have to die’, is the rough translation for the Latin word Memento Mori. The symbolic use of the skull, rotten fruit or sometimes a butterfly have been used throughout history to remind viewers that death is inevitable.  These symbols became popular in the first half of the sixteenth century and were used in portraiture, jewellery, and illustrations. Today, the image of a skull reminds the modern viewer of danger or a rather morbid obsession with death.  However, in the sixteenth century the image of a skull was used as a polite reminder to live life to the full and that death unites everyone as it is the one thing human beings are guaranteed in life.

The inscription seen on the miniature is complex, and in all honesty my languages are not excellent. It appears to be Italian, and roughly translated to ‘Alas death you take away & you never lend & you never pay’, which is again another reminder to the viewer that death will come someday.

Detail Image Showing Inscription

Provenance:

The portrait first appears in the auction catalogue as part of the sale of the Edward Grosvenor Paine collection of portrait miniature. Paine was born in Louisiana in 1911 and worked within the fashion industry across the globe.  With keen interest in antiques, he eventually became a dealer in the 1950’s, specialising in porcelain and portrait miniatures. Settling at his family estate of Primrose Plantation, Oxford, Mississippi, Paine travelled the globe and acquired a large collection of portrait miniatures.  Prior to his death in 1994, he began to sell some of his large personal collection and several auctions facilitated by Christie’s Auction House, London were held with the remainder of the collection being sold after his death.

The auction of the Paine miniature took place on October 23rd, 1979 and for the purpose of this sale, the portrait is described in the catalogue as ‘An early Miniature of a Lady, English School, circa 1570.’ Unfortunately, no information regarding the portrait’s provenance prior to 1979 is listed among the details in the catalogue.  As stated above, Paine was known to travel the globe in search of acquiring portraits for his own personal collection and unless documentation surfaces to establish more information about the early provenance then this may never be fully known.  No artist association is listed however, the auction house does refer to its possible place of origin as English School.[1]

The miniature portrait was purchased by an unknown collector from the 1979 sale, and it remained in a private collection in the USA.  It appeared at auction again in 1999, when it was sold by Sotheby’s, New York on December 15th.  Once again, the portrait was simply described as ‘A Miniature of a Lady, English School, circa 1555’ with its provenance listed as the ‘Paine collection’. The portrait was purchased by its current owner and it again remains in a private collection.

Thoughts:

I do understand that it is a little bit unethical to jump to conclusions when undergoing portrait research, however I do believe that sharing ideas and taking time to listen to the views of others is very important.  One of the main reasons why I opted to write this article is that one thing stands out to me. When first having sight of the Paine miniature I noted some similarities in draughtsmanship with the small amount of work attributed to the famous sixteenth century artist Levina Teerlinc. 

Born around 1510, Teerlinc was the daughter of the famous Flemish illustrator Simon Benninck.  Probably taught to paint by her father, by 1546, she was married to George Teerlinc, and living and working in England.  Teerlinc was granted a salary of forty pounds a year by Henry VIII, and it is documented that she worked for the English Crown until her death in 1576.[2]

When it comes to identifying her work, Teerlinc is a bit of a puzzle.  Although she is one of the more well documented artists of the sixteenth century in terms of payment, lists of work and entries in household accounts, no miniature portrait containing her signature has survived today.

In July 1983, a small number of miniature portraits were grouped together for the first time and associated with Teerlinc.  These paintings were exhibited as part of the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All portraits were painted between 1546-1576, or during the period between the deaths of previous court miniaturists Hans Holbein and Lucas Hornebolte in the 1540’s and the rise of Nicholas Hillard in the 1570’s.  In 1983, all the images were thought to have been produced by the same artists and as stated above it was suggested at that time that this artist could only have been Levina Teerlinc.[3]

All the miniatures do show some similarities in draughtsmanship; The sitters are commonly depicted with having rather large heads and stick-like arms, and some similarities in the brushwork was also noted, including the use of loose wash work to create the features. 

Some of the similarities in draughtsmanship noted in the work associated with Teerlinc are also visible in the Paine miniature, particularly within the figure depicted.  Again, the figure can be seen with the characteristic large head and stick-like arms and some similarities are also noted within the brushwork used on the face and hands. One major sticking point is that the background and materials used to create the Paine miniature appears to be totally inconsistent with the other works thought to be by Teerlinc. All work currently associated with her are painted with the use of watercolour or gouache on vellum and all have the characteristic plain blue background. As discussed in the description section of this article, the Paine miniature’s background appears to have been made up of a grey pigment and according to auction descriptions the entire miniature is created with the use of oil on card.

George Teerlinc is recorded as receiving the sum of ten pounds from the Privy Council in the October of 1551 for ‘being sent with his wife to the Lady Elizabeth’s Grace to draw out her picture.’  It is generally thought Levina completed the portrait however the payment was made to George as he was her husband.  Much debate has taken place as to the identity of this supposed 1551 miniature however, no confirmed miniature portrait depicting the Princess Elizabeth and associated with Teerlinc has, yet, been located. [4] 

This may just be pure coincidence, but I do see some similarities between the sitter depicted in the Paine miniature and the depiction of Princess Elizabeth in the family portrait at Boughton House.

The Boughton House Family Portrait
oil on panel
© Duke of Buccleuch
Francesco Bartolozzi Engraving
Eighteenth Century

In brief, The Boughton House portrait resurfaced in 2008, when it was rediscovered by historians Tracy Borman and Alison Weir, hanging in the private collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

The painting itself was exhibited in the Tudor Exhibition of 1890, and appeared in Freeman O’Donoghue’s ‘Descriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth published in 1894.  Francesco Bartolozzi, an eighteenth-century engraver was also known to have produced an engraved version, either based on the Boughton House portrait or a similar copy.  O’Donoghue listed the Boughton House portrait as ‘not Contemporary’ and this was also reinforced during the rediscovery when an estimated date of creation was given as circa 1650-1680.

In 2008, comparisons were immediately made between the image of Princess Elizabeth in the Boughton House portrait and NPG 764, the Syon and Berry-Hill portraits, previously associated with Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth.  A conclusion was made that since the other sitters depicted in the Boughton Portrait were based on known portrait types then the image of Elizabeth must have been based on one of these portraits, thus confirming the sitter once and for all in NPG 764, the Syon and Berry-Hill Portrait as Elizabeth when Princess.[5]

When compared side-by side to the Boughton House Portrait and the Subsequent Bartolozzi engraving, the Pain Miniature again shows similarities in costume and composition.  The sitter appears to be wearing an almost identical gown with the white fur collar and ruffle, also, similar white fitted sleeves with the distinctive pleating are seen within all three images.  The sitter is also depicted with the right hand placed into the front opening of the gown in all three images.

The hood worn by the sitter in the Paine miniature is depicted differently in both the Boughton Portrait and Bartolozzi engraving, and the ring suspended from the black ribbon is also missing in the later images.   One possible explanation for this is that the depiction of Elizabeth in the Boughton House portrait was in fact based on a modified copy of an original image.  A recently discovered image of a rather interesting sixteenth century drawing located by myself in the Witt Library, London may give us one final clue.

A picture containing text, building material, stone

Description automatically generated
Unknown Lady
(Possibly Elizabeth I)
Follower of Francois Clouet
Black & Red Chalk
© Witt Library, London
A picture containing ground

Description automatically generated
Detail Image Showing Ring & Ribbon

This image above, was stored among a large number of sold images previously associated with the French artist Francios Clouet.  The drawing shows a female sitter, facing the viewers left and again wearing a similar loose gown and ruffle to that seen in the Paine miniature.  In this image the sitter is also depicted as wearing a ring containing a stone suspended from a ribbon around her neck, once again these features are mimicking what is seen in the Paine miniature.

Interestingly, the drawing does contain an inscription in French noting the sitter as La Royne D’Angleterre suggesting that the lady depicted was royal and English. The drawing was sold in 1983 and was described as ‘said to be a portrait of Queen Mary Tudor’.  Since no other image matching this drawing and described as Mary has surfaced it could be possible that the auction house may have recorded this as the wrong sister and that this drawing is in fact a drawing of a portrait of Elizabeth. It may just be possible that this drawing was taken from a pre-existing portrait that was used by artists when creating subsequent copies and as other copies were made some of the finer details were lost.   

In conclusion, the Paine miniature has raised some very interesting questions.  Unfortunately, these questions cannot be easily answered without using some scientific investigations on the miniature itself.  As discussed above, their does appear to be some similarities between the Paine miniature and other works associated with Teerlinc, however these are not totally conclusive.  Also, the fact that Teerlinc’s 1551 miniature of Elizabeth when princess is now lost, and that the Paine miniature has similarities to other works associated with Elizabeth just adds that extra bit of excitement leaving, us, the viewer, more curious for further information.


[1] Christie’s Auction, October 23rd, 1979, The Edward Grosvenor Paine Collection of Portrait Miniatures, Page:19

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

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

[4] Strong. Roy, Gloriana The Portrait of Queen Elizabeth, Pimlico 2003, page 52

[5] BBC History Magazine, A New Face for The Virgin Queen, June 2008, Page 46-49


The Frick Portrait


Gabrielle de Rochechouart
(previously called Lady Jane Grey)
Corneille de Lyon
Oil on Panel
©The Frick Art Museum  

Another portrait which has in the past been associated with Lady Jane Grey is currently in the collection of the Frick Art Museum, Pennsylvania.  Today, the museum rightfully lists the sitter as Gabrielle de Rochechouart, Lady Lansac as there appears to be more evidence to support this identification than the sitters previous identification.

The painting depicts a lady facing the viewer’s left and painted to just above the waist. She wears a bodice of black fabric cut square at the neck with small puff sleeves, decorated with pearls.  A partlet of white fabric with a small ruffle is seen at her neck, and over her shoulders the sitter wears the fur of an animal. The sitter wears a large chain of goldsmith work around her neck and pearls and suspended from this is a large jewel containing one gemstone. Pinned to the front of her bodice is a large jewel containing three gemstones and one large hanging pearl. On her head she wears a French hood constructed with the same fabric used for her fitted sleeves. Upper and lower billiaments consisting of goldsmith work and pearls are attached to the hood, and a black veil is seen hanging down the sitters back.

Nothing is known regarding the early provenance for this portrait or how the image became identified as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey. The first record I have been able to locate regarding this portrait and its one-time association with Lady Jane Grey is an auction catalouge for a sale at Christie’s Auction House, London on 28th February 1930. The portrait was listed among the vast collection of antiques and paintings from the collection of a Barnet Lewis Esq.  Lewis died in 1929 and his collection was subsequently sold off at auction. The Frick painting is described in this catalouge as

Lot 94. Lucas De Heere, Portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

In a black dress, with yellow sleeves and jewel ornaments. Oil on panel – 6 ½ in. by 5 ¼ in.[1]

The description given in the catalouge differs from with what is seen in the portrait today. As listed above, the description states that the sitter wears yellow sleeves, however, when purchased by the current owner, it was apparent that the portrait had been heavily over painted during its history. Recent restoration work has taken place on the painting to remove the discoloured varnish and overpaint, resulting in the colour of the sitter’s sleeves being taken back to the original intended colour of pink.

The Frick Portrait
(prior to restoration)
©The Frick Art Museum  

The artist associated with the creation of the portrait, in the 1930 catalouge, is also inconsistent with the dates surrounding Jane Grey’s life. The Flemish painter Lucas de Heere (1534-1584) fled the Netherlands for England to escape religious persecution. He is first recorded in England in 1566, much later than Jane’s death in February 1554, so he is highly unlikely to have painted an authentic portrait of Lady Jane Grey.[2]

The portrait entered the Frick collection when it was purchased from the Wildenstein Galleries, New York by Helen Frick on 16th April 1931.[3]  On entering the collection, the painting was installed in the Librarian’s Office of the Frick Art Reference Library. The identification of the sitter as Lady Jane Grey was immediately challenged, and the Frick portrait was compared to another identical copy once in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland at Stafford House.

Gabrielle de Rochechouart
Corneille de Lyon
Oil on Panel
©Musee Conde

This copy had been donated in 1897 to The Musee Conde by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale and along with other paintings from the Duke of Sutherlands collection had been associated with the Dutch artist Corneille de Lyon.

Corneille de Lyon was actively working in France from the 1530’s until his death in 1575. He was nationalised as French in 1547 and was employed as the painter to the king under Henry II and Charles IX.  Frustratingly, de Lyon did not sign or date his work, so although this artist is widely documented within sixteenth century records, very few works can be reliably associated with his hand today. [4]

The panel surface of the portrait in The Musee Conde’s collection has been extended, at a later date to include the early inscription detailing the sitters name as GABRIELE. DE. ROCHECHOART. DAME. DE. LANSAC.[5]  It was therefore decided by the curators of the Frick collection that their identical copy must also depict the same individual and not Lady Jane Grey.


[1] Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Catalogue of the Important Collection of Ancient and Modern Pictures and Water Colour Drawings: The Property of the Late Barnet Lewis, Esq, page 19

[2] Strong. Roy, Gloriana The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, Pimlico, 2003, page 71

[3] Fazio. Carl Vincent, Helen Clay Flick: Architectural Patron & Art Collector, University of Pittsburgh, 1998, page 36

[4] For the most up to date record of work associated with Corneille de Loyn see Dubois de Groer. Anne, Corneille de Lyon, Arthena, Paris, 2003

[5] Dubois de Groer. Anne, Corneille de Lyon, Arthena, Paris, 2003, Page 215

The Skeffington Portrait

Research into sixteenth century portraiture is a complex but fascinating subject. In many cases, the search starts with the surviving painting itself and then continues with the search for any written documentation concerning its provenance and any clues to the possible identification of the sitter.

When discussing portraits that have a history of approximately four hundred and fifty years behind them, it must be remembered that it is hard today to discover a portrait that has not been altered in some shape or form.  Over the years the original painted surface of a portrait may have been repainted due to bad restoration or over cleaning.  Inscriptions and coats of arms may also have been added at a later period in time, and in some cases the composition, original inscriptions and signatures may have been cut down to enable the portrait to fit in a new frame.

In the case of the Skeffington portrait, much of the above has happened.  This portrait has also been identified as at least four separate individuals during its modern recorded history.  Three out of the four sitters suggested have all faced execution, and today the portrait is now identified as an unknown lady.  

Our first documented record regarding this portrait’s survival is a book in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries, London.  This book contains copies of minutes of meetings held by the society during the nineteenth century and records that a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey was presented to the Society by Sir William Skeffington on 6th February 1806.[1]

The portrait presented depicts a lady, seen to just below the waist and facing the viewer’s left.  Both hands are clasped in front of the sitter, and four gold rings can be seen on her fingers.   The sitter has grey eyes and auburn hair that is parted in the middle.  On her head, she wears a French hood constructed of crimson and white fabric with both upper and lower billaments of goldsmith work.  A black veil is also seen hanging down from the back of the hood, and under this she wears a gold coif.  A black loose gown with a fur collar and mutton leg sleeves is worn by the sitter and is fastened to the waist.  Under this the hint of a crimson kirtle is seen, and at her neck and wrists the sitter wears a figure-of-eight ruff which is embroidered with red thread.  The lady also wears a pendant of goldsmith work containing three square cut gemstones and three pearls suspended at her neck.  She is depicted in front of a plain background, and the image is painted on wooden panel.

Unknown Lady Called Anne Askew
Oil on Panel
27 x 21 inches
Associated with Hans Eworth
©The National Trust

Sir William Farrell-Skeffington adopted the Skeffington name in 1786 and inherited the fifteenth century manor house Skeffington Hall in East Leicester.  Prior to his death he began to sell objects off from the estate and eventually sold the house, land and contents in July 1814.[2]

Skeffington presented the painting for sale to the Reverend John Brand, Secretary of the society of Antiquaries. He informed the Society that the portrait represented Lady Jane Grey and was painted by Lucas de Heere.  No information is provided in the minutes of this meeting to inform us why Skeffington thought the portrait was a depiction of Lady Jane, and no information concerning the paintings provenance was recorded.  It appears that Mr Brand immediately challenged Skeffington’s identification as a painting of Jane Grey, noting that a fragment of an inscription can be seen on the top left-hand side of the panel surface which identified the date that the portrait was painted as 1560.  Brand rightfully recalled that the date painted on the surface did not coincide with the death of Lady Jane Grey and suggested that the portrait must in fact represent Jane’s mother Lady Frances Brandon, with Brand noting that she died in 1563.[3]   

One possible reason for the misidentification as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey is the inscription seen on the right-hand side of the panel surface.  This inscription reads ‘Rather deathe / than false of Faythe,’ which suggest that the sitter depicted would rather die or may possibly have died as a result of religious conflict.  The inscription itself appears to have been painted in a slightly different shade of yellow than the other one detailing the year and artists initials on the left side.  This suggests that one of the inscriptions was possibly added at a later date, though scientific testing would be required to establish if this theory is correct.

There is a popular tradition that Queen Mary offered Jane a pardon if she was willing to convert to Roman Catholicism. The tradition appears to have emerged shortly after Jane’s death as a way for Protestants to promote Jane’s dedication to the Protestant cause even when faced with death.  There is no surviving evidence to document that Jane was ever offered an actual pardon if she would convert, but there was indeed an effort made to get her to convert

Jane was visited by John Feckenham, Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, on 8th Feburary 1554.  By this point in her story, Jane had faced trial and had been convicted and sentenced to death as a traitor for accepting the crown and signing herself as queen. Mary was prevented from issuing a pardon because the Spanish demanded that Jane die as a condition of the marriage between Mary and Philip of Spain. Her execution had originally been set for the following day.  Mary was able to try to save Jane’s immortal soul, however, and she sent Feckenham to see Jane with that specific task, to try and convert Jane to Catholicism prior to her death.

Jane’s execution was postponed for three days, and a debate was had between Feckenham and Jane which resulted in Jane staying strong to the Protestant faith rather than relinquishing it.  This debate was recorded and apparently signed in Jane’s own hand. Within months of her death it appeared in printed format, along with a letter written by Jane to her former tutor Thomas Harding in which she condemned him for his change to Catholicism, thus promoting Jane’s strong belief in the Protestant faith.  In 1615, a pamphlet entitled ‘The Life, Death and Actions of The Most Chaste, Learned and Religious Lady, The Lady Jane Grey’ was published in London. This pamphlet contained a copy of the earlier printed debate and it was noted in the introduction that:

Even those which were of the best fame and reputation, were sent unto her to dissuade her from that true profession of the gospel, which from her cradle she had held. Each striving by art, by flattery, by threatening’s, by the promise of life, or what else might move most in the bosom of a weak woman.[4] 

It is quite possible that the inscription seen on the right-hand side of the portrait and the myth that Jane had been offered the promise of a pardon if she was willing to change her faith led Skeffington or a previous owner to believe that the painting must in fact depict Jane Grey. 

The Skeffington portrait was purchased by the Society of Antiquaries and remained in their collection where it was last recorded in 1847.[5]   How the portrait left the Society remains a bit of a mystery, but it was officially recorded as a ‘missing painting’ in one of the more recent publications on its collection.[6]

As discussed above, the portrait disappeared sometime after 1847, but it reappeared again in 1866 when it was exhibited as a painting of Anne Askew in the National Portraits Exhibition from the collection of a Reginald Cholmondeley.[7]  Reginald Cholmondeley’s principal estate was the sixteenth century Condover Hall in Shrewsbury.   On his death the contents of the Hall were sold at auction on March 6th 1897.  The identification of the sitter appears to have changed once again, and by 1897 the portrait was then referred to as:

Item 43. Lucas de Heere, Queen Mary (of Scots), in black with pink-edged ruff and cuffs, cap with gold chain and jewelled badge. Inscribed “Rather Deathe than false of Faythe,” dated 1560.

The portrait was purchased at this auction on behalf of Wilbraham Egerton, Earl Egerton, brother-in law of Reginald Cholmondeley, and was then displayed at Tatton Park.  In 1958 Tatton Park and its contents were bequeathed to The National Trust by Maurice Egerton, 4th Baron Egerton of Tatton, and the portrait remains on exhibition there today. 

It is my opinion that until scientific investigation has taken place on this portrait to establish if the inscriptions are original or added later then the true identity of its sitter may continue to be unknown.   The portrait is currently listed today on The National Trust collections website as an Unknown Lady, called Anne Askew.  As discussed in detail in other articles on this website, the size of the ruff worn by the sitter and the date inscribed on the left- hand side are both inconsistent with the date of both the deaths of Jane Grey and Anne Askew.  The Skeffington portrait can now be removed from the list of any potential likenesses thought to depict Lady Jane Grey


[1] Proceedings of the society of antiquaries of London, volume 1, page 47

[2] A large fifteen-day sale of the contents of Skeffington Hall commenced on 11th July 1814.  William Ferrell-Skeffington moved to London that same year however died less than a year later on 26th January 1815

[3] Proceedings of The Society of Antiquaries of London, vol 1, page 47. John Band appears to have inaccurately listed the date of Frances Grey’s death.  Frances died on 20th November 1559 and not 1563 as listed in these minutes. One interesting point is that John Brand also owned a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey.  The portrait sold on his death at Stewards Auctions, Piccadilly on June 23rd 1807.  It was purchased by the book collector Richard Heber Esq for the sum of eight pounds.  No portrait described as Lady Jane Grey appears in the sales catalogues of Heber’s collection.

[4] The Life, Death and Actions of The Most Chaste, Learned and Religious Lady, The Lady Jane Grey, Printed by G. Eld for John Wright, 1615, page 22

[5] Electronic communication, Lucy Ellis, Museums Collections Manager, Society of Antiquaries, September 2018

[6] Franklin. J. A, Catalouge of Paintings in the Collection of The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2015, page 411-412

[7] Catalogue for the 1866 National Portrait Exhibition page 21.  Anne Askew was burnt as the stake as a heretic in 1546 for refusing to acknowledge that the sacrament was the ‘flesh, blood and bone of Christ’.