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 Portraits of Lord Guildford Dudley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tyntesfield Portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wroxton Abbey Portrait

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

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

Lord Guildford Dudley
Richard Burchett
1854
© Palace of Westminster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gibson Portrait

The Gibson Portrait
Size Unknown
Location Unknown

The information associated with many portraits thought to depict Lady Jane Grey is often fragmented. In the case of the Gibson portrait, only a letter and a photographic image submitted to The Connoisseur Magazine in 1911 exist to inform us that the sitter depicted was thought to be that of Lady Jane Grey.  This portrait has not yet been located and studied and I have been unable to locate any other information regarding the provenance of this painting. Neither has any information surfaced to show that this portrait was ever included in any public exhibition as a depiction of Lady Jane Grey.

Jane G. Gibson, the then owner of the portrait, submitted a request to the magazine’s readers for further information regarding the identity of the sitter and artist associated with this painting.  No published replies to her request have been located, which suggests that unfortunately Gibson did not get the information she was looking for. 

Within her letter, Gibson reported that a scrap of paper was attached to the back of the painting identifying the sitter as “Jana Graia Holbein pinxit”.  She also noted that the painting was examined by Sir George Scharf, Director of The National Portrait Gallery, London, who, she explains “thought it to be a genuine portrait, by the School of Clouet.”  Gibson does not, however, recall any thoughts Scharf had regarding the identity of the sitter.  She appears to dismiss the identification of the sitter as Lady Jane Grey, reporting that the scrap of paper is a “manifest forgery” and noting that “Jane Grey was a mere child at the time of Holbein’s death”.  Gibson also dismisses Scharf’s opinion that the painting is associated with the school of Clouet noting that the work “resembles other painting’s produced by Holbein”.  She is correct when expressing doubt over the identification of the sitter, though the portrait’s association with Hans Holbein is also dubious[1].

A large number of portraits held in private collections or sold at auction were associated with Hans Holbein during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  That included a small number of portraits thought at the time to depict Lady Jane Grey.  Paintings sold between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries where simply grouped and associated with the most famous artists working within the sixteenth century.  Little evidence to support the associations were given by the auction houses, and access to information and research into lesser known artists was limited.  A search of the Getty Provenance Database shows that a total of 1563 paintings associated with Holbein and sold at auction between the years of 1800- 1900. It is highly unlikely that Holbein would have had the time to paint 1563 portraits during his lifetime, and therefore not all could have been painted by his hand alone.  It is more probable that a number of the images sold between 1800-1900 were associated with him due to the fame attached to his name, some similarities in style or as a way of adding value to the paintings[2].

As stated above, Gibson is right when noting that the sitter seen in the portrait is too old to be a depiction of Lady Jane Grey, though this does not dismiss the fact that Holbein could have possibly painted a portrait of her.   Holbein did have access to and created a number of images of Jane’s family members including Margaret Wotton, Elizabeth Grey, Eleanor Brandon, and Charles and Henry Brandon.  This does suggest that he could have possibly had access to Jane Grey as well, though the likelihood of a portrait surfacing of Jane by Holbein today very slim.  Holbein died in 1543, and if a portrait was ever to surface painted by him then it most definitely would have to depict a small child rather than the fully developed lady seen in the Gibson portrait.      

Though the quality of the early photographic image submitted is poor and some of the finer details are lost, the costume worn by the sitter does give us some clues as to the period in which the portrait was created.  We can see from the image is that the portrait depicts a young female, painted to below the waist and facing the viewer’s left.  Both hands are depicted in front, and four rings can be seen on her fingers.  The sitter also holds what appears to be a flower in her right hand.  On her head she wears an early example of the French Hood, and her gown has a square cut neckline with large bell-shaped sleeves and fitted false undersleeves.  Two necklaces of goldsmith work are worn around the neck, and a circular brooch is pinned to the front of the kirtle and tucked into the bodice of the outer gown.

The exact date on which the French Hood was first worn in England is unknown, however, it is traditionally thought that this originates with Mary Rose Tudor, sister to Henry VIII, returning from France after the death of her husband in 1515[3].  The hood originated in France and was worn towards the end of the fifteenth century.  Prior to its arrival in England, ladies wore the traditional Gable Hood seen in the many paintings of Elizabeth of York and Katherine of Aragon.  The French Hood became more popular in England when King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, who was also noted to have spent a period of time in France[4].  It would eventually overtake the Gable Hood in popularity and was worn as a popular item until the end of the sixteenth century.  Slight changes in its appearance and construction occurred during its popularity that can help us to identify a possible narrow period in which a portrait was painted.

The hood worn by the sitter in the Gibson portrait has elongated side panels stretching to just beyond the jaw-line and is similar in style to the image seen above left.  This portrait of Isabella of Austria painted around 1515 shows the French hood in its early stages of development and around the time the hood is thought to have been introduced to England.  By the 1530’s, the front shape of the hood changed slightly, and the side panels became shorter in appearance, ending just below the ear.  Upper and lower billaments were also used to add decoration.  This can be seen in the famous image of Anne Boleyn above middle. By the 1540’s, the side panels of the hood were more concaved in appearance rather than the longer version seen in the Gibson Portrait which shows us that the sitter in the Gibson Portrait is wearing a hood that was still in its early stages of development when the portrait was painted. 

Though it cannot be known for certain until the portrait is located and studied further, the style of costume worn by the sitter is more consistent with that worn during the early part of the sixteenth century, prior to the 1530’s.  If the portrait is English, then it most certainly cannot be a depiction of Lady Jane Grey, as the costume seen is not something that would have been worn by her during her lifetime. The Gibson portrait can now be removed from any list of potential likenesses thought to depict Lady Jane Grey.


[1] The Connoisseur Magazine, vol XXXI, September-December 1911, page 250

[2] http://piprod.getty.edu/starweb/pi/servlet.starweb

[3] Lynn. Eleri, Tudor Fashion, Yale University Press, 2017, page 80

[4] Ives. Eric, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, 2008, page 27

The Arkwright Portrait

Katherine De Vere
Oil on panel
18 1/2 X 13 3/4 inches
(c) Private Collection

Sold at Christie’s auction, London, on 9th December 2016, lot 151 was rightfully described as a portrait of Katherine de Vere, Lady Windsor (1540-1600) and associated to the artist known today as Master of The Countess of Warwick.   What is not commonly known about this painting is that prior to the 1960’s, it was thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. Due to this painting once being associated with Jane Grey, I have decided to discuss it on this website.  This portrait is a good example of how Jane Grey’s name was applied to a sixteenth century portrait, depicting a female sitter, even if the inscription detailing facts about the sitter did not match with what was known about Jane.   

The Arkwright portrait shows a lady, painted to just above the waist and facing the viewer’s left. She has auburn hair that is pulled away from the face, and her eyes are blue.  The sitter wears a black loose gown/night gown, with large puffed short sleeves and a high collar.  This style of gown was popular in England from the 1530’s onwards. It was worn as an alternative to the tight-fitted French Gowns with the low square necklines and large sleeves.  Generally worn over a kirtle by both the middle and upper class lady, this gown was easier to put on independently due to its front fastening and was a comfortable gown to wear during the day or when in the bedchamber as informal wear. During the 1560’s the loose gown became tighter and more fitted around the bodice, much like that seen in the Arkwright portrait.  An embroidered chemise is also seen worn under the gown. This is embroidered using black and gold thread and incorporates the use of an acorn within the design.  A small figure-of-eight ruff is worn surrounding the face.  This is also embroidered with black work and gold thread.  On her head, she wears a French hood with an upper and lower billament of goldsmith work containing gemstones and pearls. The traditional black veil is also visible falling from the back of the hood.  A small cross suspended from a pearl necklace is seen at the neck, and she holds with her left hand a large pendant suspended from a larger necklace of goldwork.  The sitter is depicted in front of a brown background, and a contemporary inscription in the top left-hand corner has been added identifying the sitter’s age as twenty-four and the year as 1567.

The artist associated with the Arkwright portrait is an anonymous painter who is known to have produced several portraits of female sitters during the second half of the sixteenth century.  We do know that he worked in England between the years of 1567-1569 and that he also painted a portrait of Anne Russell, Countess of Warwick, now at Woburn Abbey.  As a result, other works thought to have been produced by this artist are simply grouped under the attribution of “Master of The Countess of Warwick.”

Early photographic image showing Lady Jane Grey inscription.
(c) Heinz Archive

The only evidence I have been able to locate to date which shows us that this painting was indeed thought in the past to depict Jane Grey is an early photographic image stored in the Heinz Archives, London.[1] This photograph shows the Arkwright painting prior to modern cleaning and restoration.  What is seen from the above image is that an inscription was added to the panel surface on the left-hand side at some point to inform the viewer that this portrait was supposed to be of Lady Jane Grey.  This inscription no longer survives on the panel surface today.  This suggests that during the recent cleaning process it was identified to be a much later addition, and it was removed from the surface.   

As with many of the other portraits thought to represent Jane Grey, no information has been located about the Arkwright portrait to inform us, the modern-day viewer, when and why this painting was thought to depict her.  It is possible that her name was simply attached to the Arkwright portrait in the nineteenth or early twentieth century due to a high demand and need for a physical image of Jane Grey. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jane’s popularity was at its height. Many published biographies, plays, and paintings depicting various scenes from her life were created during this period.  This in turn made Jane’s story more accessible to the viewing public and in some cases captured people’s interest in her as a historical figure. Her popularity then created a demand for her image and allowed owners of various portraits that fitted with what was being recorded at that time to attach her name to their painting with no evidence to support this.  Today, some of these portraits are now being re-evaluated due to easier access to documentation, a better understanding of the progression of fashion during the sixteenth century, and new scientific techniques which were not available during the earlier periods.

What is clear from the early photograph of the Arkwright portrait is that the identification as an image of Jane Grey was made with very little thought.  The inscription clearly indicates the sitter’s age as twenty-four and the year as 1567.  Both the age and the date are inconsistent with Jane Grey. It may have been possible that the owner who had the Jane Grey inscription applied to the panel surface may have thought the earlier inscription to be false and a later addition.  This cannot be known for certain due to missing documentation.  Jane Grey’s birth has over the centuries been debated by various writers due to lack of documentation, and no exact date is known. It was commonly known and recorded, however, that she died in 1554 and was sixteen/seventeen years old at the time of her death.  This does bring about the question as to why her name was attached to a portrait with incorrect information.     

In a book published by Roy Strong in 1969 entitled The English Icon the provenance for the Arkwright portrait was briefly discussed[2].  Strong records that the portrait was once in the collection at Hampton Court, Herefordshire and that by 1969 the portrait was in the collection of David Arkwright Esq, who was noted to live at Kinsham Court.   

Hampton Court Castle, as it is known today, dates to the fifteenth century and was home to the Coningsby family from 1510 until 1810. The castle and estate were then purchased by John Arkwright (1785-1858), the great grandson of the cotton-spinning industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright.  The estate remained in the family until it was sold by Sir John Stanhope Arkwright (1872-1954) in 1910.  John Stanhope Arkwright then purchased Kinsham Court, Herefordshire, and it appears he had taken the portrait with him. David Lyndon Arkwright (1911-1983) inherited Kinsham Court from his father in 1954. He died without ever marrying or producing issue in 1983, leaving Kinsham Court and its contents to his mother’s great niece Mrs. Susan Wood.

Two years after Susan Wood inherited Kinsham Court, the portrait appears for the first time at auction on 19th July 1985, when it was sold by Christie’s Auction House, London as a portrait of Katherine de Vere. By 2016, the portrait was once again up for public auction, and it was again described as a portrait of Katherine de Vere, Lady Windsor[3]

Edward Lord Windsor and Family
(c) Marquess of Bute

It appears that prior to 1969 the Arkwright portrait was compared to an almost identical image thought to be by the same artist and now in the collection of the Marquess of Bute. That painting uses the identical individual portrait image seen in the Arkwright portrait, though the sitter is painted three quarter length and is incorporated into a family group.  The Bute Family Portrait includes a contemporary inscription made by the artist identifying the year in which the portrait was painted and the sitter’s ages.  A later inscription has also been added to the panel surface that identifies the sitter’s as Edward Lord Windsor, and his lady, daughter to the Earl of Oxford. Their children, Lord Frederick Windsor, Lord Thomas Windsor, and two younger brothers.  Though this inscription is a later addition, it does appear to be an early one.  In some cases, inscriptions that included the names of the sitters where applied to a portrait at some later period in time by other family members in hopes of fixing the identities of the sitters depicted before they passed from living memory.  This is very similar to what we do today with photographs of loved ones.  Though Edward Windsor’s lady is not named within this description, he did marry Katherine de Vere in 1555.  Katherine de Vere was the daughter of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, who is also noted in the inscription, it was then decided that the Arkwright portrait was mostly likely to depict Katherine de Vere and not Lady Jane Grey.


[1] NPG018643, Artist Box, Master of The Countess of Warwick

[2] Strong, Roy, The English Icon, Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, 1969, page 108

[3] https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Portrait-of-Katherine-de-Vere–Lady-Wind/D25D6374F8362979 accessed, 10th April 2019

The Duff House Portrait

Among the index cards referring to portraits of Lady jane Grey in the Heinz Archive, London, is a card recording a portrait of her once in the collection of the Earl of Fife.  Until recently this portrait was thought to have been lost, and to my knowledge it has not been studied by historians or exhibited in any public exhibition as a representation of her.

The first record regarding this image located today was published in a privately printed book from 1798.  The book details the large collection of paintings and portraits belonging to James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife (1776-1854) across his various properties.  Recorded as being displayed in the large drawing room at Duff House, an eighteenth-century estate house designed for the family by William, Adam is a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.   The entry reads    

item 18. Lady Jane Grey – half length. This unfortunate lady was forced to accept the crown, 5th July 1553, and was beheaded 12th February, 1554. She was daughter to Henry Grey, Duke of Dorset, by Lady Frances Brandon, by Mary queen of France.  She was remarkable for her learning and virtue.  Her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, was beheaded on the same day.  Zucchero.[1]

This description is vague and gives us very little detail about the actual painting itself. The description does give us our first clue that this painting was not a portrait of Lady Jane Grey, however.  The artist recorded as creating the painting is a “Zucchero,” which suggests the portrait was later in period than that of Jane Grey’s lifetime.

Federigo Zuccaro (c.1540 – 1609), as he is better known, was an Italian artist who first visited England in 1574.  During that visit he was commissioned by Robert Dudley (Jane’s brother in law) to paint an image of himself and Queen Elizabeth.  Compositional drawings for both portraits survive today in the collection of the British Museum.   If the Duff House portrait was painted by this artist, then it could not have been an authentic image of Jane Grey since she had died some twenty years earlier.

Duff House remained in the possession of the Earls of Fife until 1906.  The property was then gifted to the village of Banff Burgh in which the house was built by the then Duke of Fife, Alexander William George Duff (1849-1912).  Alexander Duff had inherited the property and its contents by descent, and when marrying Princess Louise in 1889, he no longer required the property as a principal residence.  Though he did donate the building for the use of the people of Banff, its contents were sold off through auction.  The auction was facilitated by Messrs. Christies, Mason and Woods and took place on 7th June 1907.  The auction catalogue for this sale records that all “pictures are part of a very large collection which was made by James, Earl of Fife towards the end of the eighteenth century and all were displayed at Duff House.”[2]  A portrait thought by the family to depict Lady Jane Grey in 1907 was also included in this auction, and the catalogue does give us our first detailed description.

item 43 Lucas De Heere, portrait of Lady Jane Grey, in rich flowered bodice with lace cuffs and collar, green skirt and crimson robe, lace headdress with red bows.  Holding a kerchief in her left hand and leaning her right arm upon the back of a chair.  On panel 41 ½ x 29 ½ inches[3]

Though the artist associated with this work had changed since the 1798 reference, it is possible that the portrait sold in 1907 was the same image as that described as being Jane Grey in the earlier book. 

I have as yet been unable to locate any reference regarding who purchased the painting at the 1907 sale.  Due to this, I am unable to track fully the documented provenance from this portrait, though I do have a suggestion.

A portrait matching the above description does show up in 1908, one year after the Duff House sale. This painting is described as being in the collection of French collector and gallery owner Edward Brandus (1857-1937).  Brandus was well known for purchasing Old Master portraits at a low price and then selling them on to other collectors via his gallery in New York.   The magazine “American Art News” dated 28th March 1908 records the painting in his collection as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Mor Van Dashorst[4].  A photograph of the portrait was also included in the article, and though it is not clear from the poor quality image, when magnified this image does show a female sitter with a flowered embroidered bodice, holding a kerchief in her left hand and leaning her right arm upon the back of a chair as described in the 1907 auction catalogue. Various bows are also seen around the headdress and down the front of the bodice, like those mentioned in the catalogue of 1907. This then gives us the impression that this painting was the portrait sold from the Duke of Fife’s collection.

Lady Jane Grey by Antonis Van Dashorst-Edward Brandus Collection 1908

This painting was then sold by the Edward Brandus Gallery in April 1908. It eventually ended up in the collection of a “Mrs Flake” and was subsequently purchased as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey by John George Graves, an English collector, at Christie’s auction in July of 1930.[5]

In 1935 Graves gifted this portrait along with others from his collection to the Museum of Sheffield.  The painting remains in the museum’s collection today, though it is rightfully catalogued and referred to as a portrait of an unknown lady rather than its previous title of Jane Grey.

Unknown Lady
oil on panel
41 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches
(c) Museum of Sheffield

When looking at the colour photograph of this image, this portrait is closer in comparison to the description given in the 1907 auction catalogue that also refers to the green skirt and red robe. The measurements of the wooden panel used as the support for the painting also matches the measurements provided in 1907.

Due to the lack of documented provenance for this painting, it cannot be said for certain that this is indeed the portrait described as being that of Jane Grey at Duff House in 1798.  This is the closest image related to the description given in 1907, however, and this painting has also been identified in the past as an image of Jane Grey. 

The costume seen in this painting is again inconsistent with that worn by ladies during Jane Grey’s lifetime, and therefore this is not an authentic portrait of her taken from life or a panting which was created at later period which was meant to represent her.  From the style of clothing worn by the sitter, it appears to date towards the end of the sixteenth century or early seventeenth century.  There is some evidence to state that the embroidered jacket worn by the sitter was in use toward the later decades of Queen Elizabeth I reign, with several being documented in the inventory made in July of 1600 listing clothing stored within the royal wardrobe.  This style of jacket does appear to have become popular between the period of 1600-1620 where it appears in many paintings of female sitters from this time.

Elizabeth Cary?
oil on canvas
c.1610
William Larkin

The ruff also worn by the sitter gives us some indication that this was painted after 1600 as it no longer folds into the figure of eight pleats worn during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and is now seen as a flat collar which was probably heavily starched or suspended using a wire frame or “underpropper,” as it was referred at the time.  The style of headwear seen in the painting is also of interest and does not fit with anything worn by English sitters during this period. This suggests that the painting may possibly be continental in origin, though until testing is done on the pigment used and the painting is studied further this cannot be established.

What this painting does demonstrate is the extreme measures that people would go to when wanting to own a portrait of Lady Jane Grey.  The identification, given to this portrait was done with little research into the period in which she lived, and her name was simply attached to an image that did not really fit with what was known about her at the time.   It is now clear that she can be eliminated as the possible sitter due to the costume worn by the lady depicted.  If the portrait now in the collection of the museum of Sheffield is in fact the painting from Duff House, it can, however, be removed from the list of portraits that potentially depict Jane Grey.


[1]Catalogue of The Portraits and Pictures in The Different Houses Belonging to The Earl of Fife, 1798, page 15-16

[2] Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters and Historical Portraits, The Property of His Grace the Duke of Fife, Messrs. Christie, Mason & Wood. 7th June 1907, page 2

[3] Catalouge of Pictures by Old Masters and Historical Portraits, The Property of His Grace the Duke of Fife, Messrs. Christie, Mason & Wood. 7th June 1907, page 10

[4] American Art News, Volume 6, No 24, March 28, 1908, page 24

[5] Electronic communication, Museums of Sheffield, 31st May 2018