Holbein Pendant of Helena, Marchioness of Northampton

Drawn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1532-1543
Drawn by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1532-1543

Pendant, with a lady holding a stone, and three hanging pearls, one of three designs for jewellery with inscriptions, from the ‘Jewellery Book’; half-length figure of a lady facing front, her head turned slightly to right and wearing a head-dress, holding an inscribed rectangular tablet in front
Pen and black ink, with grey wash.

The drawing was acquired in 1753, bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane. Transferred from the Dept. of Manuscripts to Prints + Drawings on 20 July 1860. For a history of the contents of Sloane 5308, see SL,5308.1.

Inscription Content: Rowlands 1993
Inscribed by an early hand, in brown ink on the stone, “WELL / LAYDI / WELL”

'The Master of the Countess of Warwick', ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569.
‘The Master of the Countess of Warwick’, ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569. The brooch can be seen around her neck hanging from a gold chain.

‘Although there appears to be no surviving example of this type, as Sjögren has noted, the sitter in the painting, according to Strong, by ‘The Master of the Countess of Warwick’, ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569 (R. Strong, ‘The English Icon’, London and New York, 1969, p. 113, no. 61, repr.) in the Tate Gallery (T400) is wearing a very similar pendant jewel, in which the half-length figure of a lady is depicted holding a large stone. This suggests that the inscription was a later, although probably still sixteenth-century, addition. Sjögren makes the tempting, not impossible, proposal that they are one and the same jewel and further conjectures that it was given to the sitter by William Parr (1513-71), the Marquess of Northampton, brother of Queen Katherine Parr, prior to her becoming his third wife in 1565. It is conceivable, if so, that the jewel had originally been ordered in the 1540s for Parr’s first wife, Anne Bourchier.’

By 1540, Parr’s marriage was already in trouble. It is doubtful Parr ordered this for his adulteress wife who ran away in 1541 with her lover. Helena also did not become Parr’s wife until the death of Anne Bourchier on 28 January 1571. Perhaps it was ordered for Elisabeth Brooke, Parr’s common wife by law.



Author: tudorqueen6

Meg McGath is the author behind the articles on tudorqueen6; she has been studying the history and genealogy of the Parr family since 2007. Now, a decade later, she is still writing about her favorite Tudor queen, Kateryn Parr. Meg studied Women's Studies with an emphasis on English Women's History at the University of Maryland. One of her goals is to end the myth that Kateryn Parr was nothing more than a nursemaid to the aging King Henry VIII. "It simply isn't true, she did so much more for the Royal Family and her country," says Meg. And, of course, to educate Tudor enthusiasts on the prestigious lineage and connections of the Parr family. "Kateryn was related to everyone at court by blood or marriage. She was a descendant of the Beaufort line of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, and Katherine Swynford. She shared this line with two of her husbands, Lord Latimer and the King," Meg states. A book is always her end game with Parr, but Meg has yet to put all the information together and send it to a publisher. "I've been told by many, including Professors, that I am a good writer..." says Meg. "The book, would focus on the generations before the Queen and how the Parr family became courtiers and relatives of The Crown." Meg has also done extensive research on the massive jewels and tiara collection of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty's collection was built starting with Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenberg, wife of King George III, and grandmother of Queen Victoria. Meg is now putting together a separate blog that coincides with her Tudor Wiki contributions which started in 2007.

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