Alison Weir: “New” Portrait of Katherine Parr


Catherine the Chameleon: some of the wildly different faces of Catherine Parr.
Perhaps she was just hard to capture in paint.
The image on the bottom right, previously thought to be Elizabeth I, has now been identified by Alison Weir as another portrait of Catherine. (Alex David)

I would love to know on what basis Weir has identified the “new” portrait of Katherine Parr. No other actual historian or biographer of Parr has agreed with her findings and the portrait is not officially recognized.

First off–the one on the bottom right is reported to be done by Holbein, the younger c.1542 (before the marriage of Queen Katherine in 1543). The one of the top right was done posthumously and has been officially identified by Katherine’s biographer Susan James. That portrait was done after her death (d.1548). The two on the left were done during Parr’s time as Queen. Although the two on the left look at tad different as the blogger states (David) — during studies done on the full length portrait done c.1545 show that the face, among other parts of the portrait, were altered. An x-ray study shows this below.

X-ray comparison of NPG portrait of Queen Katherine Parr by Master John compared to the queen's portrait attributed to Scrots (right).

X-ray comparison of NPG portrait of Queen Katherine Parr by Master John compared to the queen’s portrait attributed to Scrots (right). The two without altering do look very similar.

According to Art History Today’s blog (7 October 2011), “Rediscoveries & Revelations. Book Review: The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci,” the portrait is actually that of the future Queen Elizabeth Tudor. The portrait is labeled ‘Hans Hoblein the Younger, Portrait of Elizabeth Tudor, the future Elizabeth I, Private Collection, tempera and oil on oak panel, 52 x 42 cm.’

Graeme Cameron’s last major revelation is the publication of a Holbein’s Portrait of Elizabeth the First a beguiling image of the beautiful, young English princess dating from about 1542. Despite its strong provenance, and its approval by a leading Holbein scholar, Paul Ganz in The Conoisseur in 1952, the painting has never been accepted into the artist’s oeuvre. Cameron supplies strong evidence and arguments for overturning the dis-attribution. Apart from the web of historical evidence and fact tying the work to the young Elizabeth, there is the iconography of the Judgement of Paris, reappearing again, this time on the brooch around the woman’s neck, which must relate to her virtue and beauty. (Art History Today)

Weir, who is no expert on Parr, has more than a few errors in Parr’s section of her book, “The Six Wives.” While I applaud her efforts at writing, I do not use her for a reference and neither do most scholarly authors/historians.

Weir states that the portrait is identified by the necklace the sitter is wearing; which is present in the newly identified portrait of Katherine Parr by Susan James (2009). As stated before, James’s find is posthumous. Christie’s describes it as:

“It has been suggested that the present portrait dates to circa 1590-1620, and may be a rare record of the lost depiction of the Queen by Hans Eworth, showing the Queen in costume typical of 1545-1550.”

Weir states: “actually it’s a carcanet, or choker, and it’s very distinctive, and in fact unique in Tudor portraits of this period – is identical to the one in the portrait said to be Elizabeth (above, right). It’s almost certainly the same one, and fits a description of a carcanet listed in the Queen’s inventory.” To which I ask… which inventory of Queen Katherine? The inventory listed in Janel Mueller’s compilation of Katherine Parr’s works and correspondences has no mention of the carcanet.

"A Lady called Anne Boleyn," Henry Bone Pierce, Royal Collection.

“A Lady called Anne Boleyn,” Henry Bone Pierce, Royal Collection.

The above portrait, the traditional identification of the sitter as Anne Boleyn has now been discredited and the image no longer forms part of the accepted limited iconography of Anne Boleyn. (Royal Collection Trust)

Weir goes on to compare the portrait to a newer version recorded in the Royal Collection as “Anne Boleyn.” The woman in the miniature wears the same necklace — Weir believes it to be a copy of the larger portrait. She then states:

For 300 years, it  was owned by her cousin, Sir Lionel Duckett, and his family. In 1832, it was put on sale in London with the rest of Sir George Duckett’s collection, and sold to Sir Joseph Neeld of Grittleton House near Chippenham Wiltshire. In 1851, it was described in the Grittleton catalogue as ‘the portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn’. It follows that Katherine Parr’s cousin would own a portrait of her. No doubt he was proud to display one of his kinswoman as queen.

"Lady called Anne Boleyn," Christie's Auction.

“Lady called Anne Boleyn,” Christie’s Auction.

Lot Notes for the Christie’s Auction state:

“the traditional identification of the sitter as Anne Boleyn has been questioned, first raised by Lionel Cust in 1880. It has been suggested that the identity of the sitter is possibly that of Katherine Parr (1512-1548), daughter of Sir Thomas Parr (1478-1517) and his wife Jane Fogge. She was the sixth wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England from 1543 until her death in 1548.”

However, anyone who knows anything about Queen Katherine knows that her mother and the wife of Sir Thomas Parr was Maud Green, daughter of Joan Fogge.

Looking back into the genealogy of Queen Katherine, modern genealogy amateurs state there is apparently a connection to Lionel Duckett. It is not clear, though. I looked into it and found a RootsWeb tree that connects an Eleanor Harrington to a daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and Alice Tunstall who apparently married a William Harrington. Looking into the sources, The Duckett line from ‘Pedigrees Recorded at the Heralds’ visitations of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland’, does not spell out who Eleanor’s mother is. It simply says “daug. of Wm. Harrington, of Wresham, in co. Lane”. The lineage also names only two sons of Eleanor–Richard and Robert. No William Duckett is listed; father of Lionel. In the lineage listed for Harrington in the same book, the pedigree lists that William Harrington of Wreysham married to “…dau. and co-heir of … Parr”. This again, leaves us with no solid evidence. Looking into Burke’s ‘A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom’, the Duckett line quotes an Eleanor Harrington, ‘dau of William Harrington, who had considerable possessions both in Lancashire and the barony of Kendal’. No mother listed. As I look through Douglas Richardson’s ‘Plantagenet Ancestry’, 2nd edition, there is indeed a daughter named Eleanor as the child of Thomas and Alice. Eleanor is listed as marrying Sir Henry Agard. Another daughter, Anne, is listed as the wife of William Harrington. However, it ends there with no documentation to further the connection between Duckett and Harrington. It seems to be a big mess that has yet to be figured out.

Lionel married a Mary Leighton — if I’m not mistaken, the Leighton family was connected directly and indirectly to the Boleyn’s via Mary Boleyn’s descendants. Yes, Mary Leighton’s uncle Sir Thomas Leighton married Elizabeth Knollys (granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of Queen Anne). So Weir’s whole thing about them claiming it is Anne Boleyn..[which she doesn’t agree with] would make MORE sense!

Alison Weir's website with the two portraits "she found" of Katherine Parr (2012).

Alison Weir’s website with the two portraits “she found” of Katherine Parr (2012).

Before she put this portrait out as Parr, she had another which was thought to be Lady Jane which has already been thoroughly studied and found not to be her (see “The Norris Portrait”). Weir then tried to pass it off as Parr. It’s odd how the specialist’s findings from “The Norris Portrait” were then found on her site, same portraits and all, only the info was changed around slightly to fit “her” findings (something all too familiar to Weir’s writing). The writing was all very eerily familiar to the website that had already done research on the portrait only her conclusion was that it was “indeed” Parr. As soon as she was confronted by the researcher and page owner, she took it all down and kept this “new” portrait of “Katherine Parr.”

So nice try, but until her biographers and other art specialists agree–the portrait, bottom right, is NOT a portrait of Katherine. Weir should really stick to writing and leave portraiture to the experts!