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 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 Twitter Portrait – Is It Lady Jane Grey?

In the autumn of 2020, a rather interesting photographic image of a portrait appeared on social media.  The photograph was originally posted as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey on the website of the restoration company Fine Art Conservation, Columbia.  Sadly, the actual image did not show the portrait in its entirety but was a detailed shot showing the neck and chin area of the sitter before and after restoration work had taken place.[1]

Detail Image
Before and After Restoration
©Fine Arts Conservation, Columbia

On seeing this image, I instantly became intrigued:  firstly, because this was a portrait that had gone unnoticed by myself and others who have studied the iconography of Lady Jane Grey. Secondly, because the brief glimpse that we had been given initially filled me with a little hope that this painting may indeed be an authentic likeness or one of the many lost portrait that have been associated with Jane in the past.  

I immediately contacted the restoration company and requested further information and a photographic image of the full portrait.  The company responded quickly and informed me that due to client confidentiality they were unfortunately unable to fulfil my request.

Thankfully, I did not have to wait long before an image of the full portrait appeared on the social networking site Twitter.  The tweet displayed an image of the painting in its unrestored state and reported that the portrait had been associated with the sixteenth century artist William Scrots. The writer also raised questions as to who the sitter in this painting could possibly be.  It was very quickly identified that the portrait posted on Twitter matched the portrait displayed on the Restoration company’s website claiming to depict Lady Jane Grey.

Unknown Lady
Oil on Oval Panel
22 1/6 x 17 1/8 inches
©Private Collection

As seen from the image of the portrait it depicts a female, painted above the waist, before a plain dark background.  The sitter is facing the viewer’s left and has brown eyes and a rather large flat nose.  Her hair is brown in colour and is parted in the centre.  On her head she wears a French hood of white fabric over a coif cap.  The hood is constructed with both upper and lower billiaments of goldsmith work and a black veil is also seen hanging down behind the sitter.  Her costume is constructed of a plain black fabric and the bodice of her dress is cut square at the neckline.  Under this, the sitter wears a high-necked chemise of a white fine fabric, with a small frill at the collar.  The chemise has been embroidered with the use of gold and black thread.  Around her neck, she wears a long gold chain that hangs down the front of her bodice and an open partlet with a convex edge is worn over the shoulders.    

So, the question is, could this portrait possibly depict Lady Jane Grey? My initial thought was that the Twitter portrait could possibly be one of the lost portraits supposed to depict Lady Jane Grey.  One particular portrait that has not yet, been located is known as the Handford Portrait.  This was exhibited in the Old Masters Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1880.  A detailed description of the Handford portrait is provided in the catalogue for the exhibition and identifies that the sitter does indeed wears a ‘black dress trimmed with gold and a gold chain around her neck’.  The description of the Handford portrait also refers to ‘a gold chain at the waist and the hands clasped in front’.  Since the girdle chain and sitter’s hands are mentioned in this description and do not appear in the Twitter portrait, we must then presume that the Twitter portrait is a separate painting altogether.[2]

When it comes to the iconography of Lady Jane Grey I am always a little sceptical with just accepting an individual’s word that a portrait does in fact depict her. We have seen with many other portrait’s associated as depicting her that the majority have turned out to be doubtful and have only been associated with Jane Grey due to the high public demand for her image and a possible connection in the symbolism or the plain costume depicted.

To attempt to establish if there is any possible connection to Jane Grey, I feel we need to look at the provenance connected to the Twitter portrait. Due to the events of 2020, I have had limited access to the archives, galleries and museums that may hold some of this information.  The first written documentation I have located for this painting is an auction catalogue from 1989.  The portrait was sold on 14th April at Christie’s Auction House London and appeared as lot number 98 in the sale.  The catalogue lists the portrait as an ‘unknown lady’ and associates its creator to William Scrots.  There is no record of the portrait’s provenance or any previous association with Lady Jane Grey discussed as part of the description for this lot.

The catalogue description does mention that ‘Sir Roy Strong attributes this portrait to the same hand as that of the portraits of King Edward VI and Princess Elizabeth in the Royal Collection’. Christie’s reference Roy Strong’s book The English Icon Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, published in 1969 as the source of their information.[3]

Edward VI
Associated with William Scrots
©Royal Collection
Elizabeth When Princess
Associated with William Scrots
©Royal Collection

William Scrots did indeed work at the English Royal court and records detailing payments for his service can be traced up until the death of King Edward VI. It is not exactly known what happened to him after 1553, however, it is traditionally thought that he left England or died. [4]

As stated in the auction catalogue, the two portraits held in the Royal Collection are associated with the hand of William Scrots.  Both portraits, appear to be of a finer quality and contain remarkable detail in the facial features and costumes than that seen in the Twitter portrait. If Sir Roy Strong did indeed come to the conclusion that the Twitter portrait was also by the same hand, then it is hard to see how. It also appears that the auction house may have their sources muddled slightly, as there is no mention of the Twitter portrait or its association with William Scrots in Roy Strong’s book The English Icon.   From the Price list detailing the items sold at the Christie’s sale, the Twitter portrait appears to have been unsold and it was highly likely returned to its anonymous owner.

On seeing the photographic image of the full portrait, I instantly doubted the association with William Scrots as the portrait reminded me of the work of Pieter Pourbus, an artist working in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. The over partlet, worn around the sitter’s shoulders has the distinctive convex shape to the bottom edge and is worn open at the front and pinned to the bodice.  This is not consistent with the square, box shaped partlet’s worn closed at the front to create a fashionable V-shaped collar worn by English ladies of the 1550’s.  This style of the partlet seen in the Twitter portrait is more consistent with the style of partlets worn in the Netherlands and is depicted in many of the portraits or female sitters painted by Pieter Pourbus.

Pieter Pourbus
Portrait of a Young Women
Oil on Panel
©Public Domain
Pieter Pourbus
Portrait of Jacquemyne Buuck
©Public Domain

The Twitter portrait appears again in 2010, when it was sold as part of a sale on 7th July at Bonhams Auction House London.  The catalogue for this sale refers to the sitter once again as ‘a portrait of a Lady’, however, by 2010 the artist association had been changed from William Scrots to Netherlandish School.  Once again, this sale does not mention any previous association with Lady Jane Grey in the catalogue listing and the portrait eventually sold for £18.000.[5]

In conclusion I am unable to find any connection to Lady Jane Grey recorded in any of the documentation related to this portrait. I find it hard to believe that if the portrait had been auctioned along with documentation connecting Jane as a possible sitter then why did the auction houses not mention this in the auction details provided and merely referred to the sitter as  ‘An Unknown Lady’.

As discussed above and in my opinion, I am inclined to agree with Bonham’s Auctions that the portrait was possibly created in the Netherlands and not England. The modern provenance related to this painting suggests that the portrait was identified as Jane Grey after it was last sold in 2010 and may just be an association made by the current owner themselves.  I would be very interested to here from the current owner of this portrait in the hope that further information that may have come along with the portrait may solve this riddle once and for all. 


[1] Painting Conservation and Art Collections Management (fineartconservationsunshinecoast.ca) accessed 20.11.2020

[2] Royal Academy of Arts, Old Masters Exhibition, 1880, page 32

[3] Christie’s Auction House, Important British Pictures, Friday 14th April 1987, Page 152-153

[4] Gaunt, William. Court Painting in England. London: Constable, 1980

[5] Bonhams Auctions, Old Master Paintings, 7th July 2010, Lot 3




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 Curious Case of Henry Grey’s Head

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

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

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

Supposed Head of Henry Grey

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

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

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

Church of Holy Trinity Minories

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

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

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

1886 Plan Showing Probable Burial Spot For People of High Status

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Scharf Sketchbook
© The National Portrait Gallery, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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’.

The Brocklebank/Taylor Portrait

During a recent visit to the Heinz Archive in London, I came across a collection of letters written in 1917 concerning a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  All three letters were addressed to James Milner, the then director of the National Portrait Gallery and were written by a R. Brocklebank of Houghton Hall in Cheshire. 

Upon locating these I instantly thought, “great, I have another new portrait search to get my teeth into.”  Sadly, it turns out that the actual painting was sitting right under my nose all the time, and all I had discovered was some new provenance information regarding a portrait already known to us.

R. Brocklebank, or Ralph Brocklebank as he is better known, was a wealthy shipowner and art collector who purchased Houghton Hall in the nineteenth century and had it rebuilt between 1891 and 1894 to house his valuable collection of art.  In his first letter written on 27th July 1917, Brocklebank reports ownership of a portrait thought to depict Lady Jane Grey and suggests that he would like to leave it on his death to the gallery.  He reports that he purchased the painting from a picture shop on Bond Street in 1892 and requests a meeting during his next visit to London so the gallery could view the portrait themselves.  Brocklebank also informs the gallery that his portrait is oil on panel, measuring 10 x 7 ¾ inches, and is thought to be by the school of Clouet.  A photograph of the actual painting is also supplied with the letter, but this was no longer stored with the documents in the archive.[1]

Fortunately, Ralph Brocklebank had a book published in 1904 documenting his collection of over 150 paintings and engravings held at Houghton Hall.  Within this book is a portrait referred to as representing Lady Jane Grey by the school of Clouet.  Item number 39 is discussed and a detailed description of the painting is also given. 

Portrait of Lady Jane Grey

School of Clouet

Portrait (bust) of Lady Jane Grey, with face turned to the right.  She is handsomely attired in the fashionable costume of the period. A high, close-fitting ruff reaches to her ears, entirely concealing her neck.  Her hair is pulled back from her forehead, and covered by a jewelled net.  The collar of her elaborately braided doublet reaches as high as the ruff, and spreads out on either side, showing a gold collar, heavily gemmed, from which a large jewelled pendant hangs on her breast.  A portrait in The National Portrait Gallery, by Lucas de Heere (No. 764) confirms the truth of this likeness.[2]

It appears that the portrait remained in Broclebank’s collection until his death in 1921.  No documentation has been located within The National Portrait Galleries archives to identify that his portrait was left to the gallery upon his death, as suggested in his first letter, and it may be possible that upon viewing the actual portrait it was decided that it was not something the gallery wanted in their collection.  The portrait again appears in 1922 in the Christie’s auction catalouge for the sale of Ralph Brocklebank’s collection, but rather than  being described as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey as seen in the earlier book, it is referred to as a portrait of a lady said to represent Lady Jane Grey.  This suggests that the gallery may have informed Brocklebank that the painting may not represent Lady Jane Grey in the first place.  

Portrait of a Lady

(Said to represent Lady Jane Grey)

In white dress, with high collar and linen ruff, richly jewelled necklace and head-dress

On panel – 10 in. by 7 ½ [3]

On completion of the sale, the portrait was purchased by a E. Brock for the sum of £28.8 shillings and thus, I thought the trail ran dry. 

When discussing the various portraits associated with Jane Grey, one of my main goals is to locate an image of the portrait so that the painting can actually be seen by the person reading this article.  Unfortunately, in some cases a photographic image may not have been taken or, as with the Brocklebank portrait, the image may have been lost during the passage of time.  Many thousands of photographs of portraits are held within the various boxes at the Heinz archive, and it would literally be like attempting to find a needle in a haystack when looking for the missing Brocklebank photograph.  In all honesty I had come to terms with just adding this particular portrait to the Auction/collections page on this website.  I did, however, manage to find the photograph, and as discussed above it had been sitting under my nose all the time.

After reading Carter’s 1904 description and attempting a frantic internet search in the hope of a portrait matching this, it suddenly came to mind that I had seen this painting before.  It is discussed in Stephan Edward’s book A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey as the Taylor portrait.  Edwards concludes that this image is unfortunately not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, but a portrait probably of Elizabeth of Austria and that the provenance discussed in the 1998 sales catalouge for this painting contributed nothing useful.[4]  As  Edwards reports, this portrait was sold by Christie’s, London on 12th November 1998 and was described in the catalouge as a portrait of a Lady, previously identified as Lady Jane Grey.  The catalouge also records that the portrait was once in the collection of A.M and B Taylor, but nothing more is mentioned regarding the provenance for this image during the sale.[5]

The Taylor Portrait
Called Lady Jane Grey, Perhaps Elizabeth of Austria
Oil on Wood Panel
10 x 8 inches
© Private Collection

Upon accessing my own file on the Taylor Portrait, I came across a photocopy of an old image of the portrait located in the artist box for Francios Clouet at Heinz Archive.  Over the years, the gallery have used the back of this image to scribble various notes regarding the portrait in pencil and seen in the centre of this is writing made in ink identifying the sitter as supposed to be Lady Jane Grey, written in the same handwriting as the letter from Ralph Brocklebank.

It appears that this is the lost photograph which accompanied the Brocklebank letters sent to James Milner in 1917 and though most definitely not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey these letters do provide more provenance for this painting and its one time association with her.  


[1] Heinz Archive, NPG 104/8/2, Correspondence Received 1917, accessed July 2019

[2] Carter. R. Radcliffe, Pictures & Engravings at Houghton Hall Tarporley in The Possession of Ralph Brocklebank, 1904, Item 39.  My sincere thanks to the staff at the library of the University of Dundee for assisting me with gaining access to this book.

[3] Christies Auction Catalouge, 7th July 1922, lot 80.  My sincere thanks to Simona Dolari of Christie’s auction house for providing me with the information regarding this sale.

[4] Edwards. John Stephan, A Queen of a New Invention Portraits of Lady Jane Grey, Old John Publishing, 2015, page 99

[5] Christie’s Auction Catalouge, 12th November 1998, lot 4

History of The IANE Inscriptions

After watching the recent channel 5 television programme ‘inside the Tower of London’ that focused on the story of Lady Jane Grey, I noted that the famous Dudley carvings on the walls of the Beauchamp Tower were discussed as part of the programme.  Not discussed within this interesting documentary were the two other carvings associated with Jane’s story also carved into the walls of the same room.  

In 2018, I finally got the chance to visit the Tower of London as an adult.  Upon seeing the two small carvings in the Beauchamp Tower in person, I was instantly struck with an air of sadness.  To me, these two carvings symbolised so much of the history that had interested me for most of my life, and I knew so little about them.  Over the years, my interest in the story of Lady Jane Grey has led me to read a lot of printed material about her.  I was aware of the survival of the carvings, though I had read very little about the history that surrounds them.

My initial thought had been that the inscriptions had always been known about and that the tradition that they were associated with the story of Jane Grey had travelled down through the centuries.  This in turn prompted me to dig a little deeper in the hope of gaining a better understanding.

The aim of this article is to establish what is known about the two IANE inscriptions and to document some details regarding the history of these important artefacts, as so little has been written about them since their discovery. 

During my research for this article I have been unable to locate any reference regarding the two carvings of Jane’s name prior to the eighteenth century.  According to John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, first published in 1563, Jane was supposed to have written the following two verses into the wall of her apartment with the use of a hair pin.

Do never think its strange,

Though now I have misfortune,

For if that fortune change,

The same to thee nay happen.”

“If God do help thee,

Hate shall not hurt thee;

If God do fail thee,

Then shall not labour prevail thee.”

Fox makes no mention of any other carvings showing Jane’s name within the walls of the Tower of London in his book.  Various searches over the years have been made at the Tower in the hope of locating the above inscriptions noted by Fox, but the house in which Jane is recorded as being held was demolished in the eighteenth century.  It was replaced with the existing building today which stands between the Queens House and the Beauchamp Tower.[1]

The two inscriptions were first discovered in 1796. During this period, the upper room of the Beauchamp Tower was being converted for the use of officers of the garrison.  Prior to this, the room had been used for domestic use, and the walls had been plastered over and painted, thus eliminating any traces of earlier inhabitants.

During the renovations, the plaster was removed from the walls, which in turn revealed a large number of inscriptions etched into the stonework.  On discovery of these, it was immediately noted that a lot of the carvings where associated with prominent figures in history who had been imprisoned within this room at the tower.

Reverend John Brand, Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, was the first to discuss the carvings in a meeting held on 17th November 1796.  Notes from the meeting were published in the Archaeologia Journal in 1800, and this also gave us our first visual view of the inscriptions found.

Within this meeting, Brand discussed the discovery of the inscriptions, referring to them as ‘undoubted autographs made at different periods.’ Brand was also noted to firmly claim that the IANE inscription was made by Lady Jane Grey herself, reporting that this had been done ‘as a statement that not even the horrors of prison would force her to relinquish her title as queen.’[2]  This in turn led to a number of artists creating images of Jane either making the inscription herself or depicted within the room containing an inscription of her name.

It is not known how or why Brand had come to this conclusion as the exact place in which Jane was housed when prisoner at the Tower was documented within the Chronical of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary.  This book was thought to have been written by a resident at the Tower of London who notes that Jane was imprisoned in Partridge’s House and not the Beauchamp Tower. [3]

This claim was eventually corrected with the publication of a book in 1825 by John Bayley.  In this, Bayley discussed the fact that Lady Jane herself was imprisoned in the house of the Gentleman Gaoler on Tower Green, also known as Partridge’s House.  He reports that due to this, the inscriptions could not have been made by her hand, noting that it’s highly unlikely that Jane would have been allowed to spend time in the prison cell allotted to her husband.  Bayley then suggests that the inscriptions were actually made by Guildford Dudley himself or one of his brothers in memory or honour of Jane Grey.[4]

It is Bayley’s theory that sticks today.  It could be argued that if the inscription was made by one of the Dudley brothers, then it might not in fact represent Lady Jane Grey but their mother, who was also called Jane Dudley.  The face that two inscription of the same name survives may represent the two Jane’s within the brothers lives, though it is up to the individual viewer to decide.   


[1] Treasures of the Tower Inscription, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, page 14

[2] Brand. John, An Account of The Inscriptions Discovered on The Walls of An Apartment in the Tower of London, Archaeologia, XIII, Page 68-91

[3] 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.25

[4] Bayley, John, History and Antiquities of the Tower of London, 1825, page.162