The poet Edmund Spenser writes to Helena, Marchioness of Northampton dedicating his poem “Daphnaïda: An Elegy upon the Death of the Noble and Vertuous Douglas Howard, Daughter and Heire of Henry Lord Howard, Viscount Byndon, and Wife of Arthure Gorges Esquier” to her.
Helena Parr, marchioness of Northampton (1548-1635), a courtier, was born in 1548 in Sweden, the daughter of Ulf Henriksson (d. 1560×68), a nobleman of Östergötland, and his wife, Agneta Knuttson (d. after 1568). Helena (Elin) had two brothers and several sisters. Her father was a supporter of Gustav Vasa, king of Sweden, and came from the old noble family of Bååt, while her mother was a descendant of the jarls or earls of Orkney. The name Snakenborg was taken from her mother’s family, which was originally from Mecklenburg.
Helena was one of six young Swedish girls appointed from 1564 to 1566 as maids of honour to Princess Cecilia, margravine of Baden, daughter of Gustav Vasa. Late in 1564, when she was fifteen, they embarked on a voyage to England. It was rumoured that Cecilia decided to visit England to revive the suit of her brother Erik XIV to marry Elizabeth I, but it is not clear that this was the case. Taking a roundabout route over land and travelling through Poland and Germany, in order to steer clear of hostile countries, the party was so hampered by bad weather that almost a year passed before it reached its destination.
On its arrival in England many prominent members of the nobility received the party. Helena was by all accounts a beautiful woman, having large brown eyes, red hair, and a perfect pink and white complexion. She caught the attention of William Parr, marquess of Northampton (1513-1571), nobleman and courtier, the third and only surviving son of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Westmorland, and his wife, Maud. He soon endeavored to court her. Northampton presented her with many extravagant gifts such as clothes and jewels, and ‘being an impressionable and romantic young girl, Helena was swept off her feet by the experienced older man’ (James, 395). Cecilia built up large debts due to a lavish lifestyle and left England in April 1566 in order to escape her creditors. She wanted to take Helena back to Sweden with her; however, her young maid, enjoying life in her new country and becoming close to the marquess, was keen to remain. This wish was granted through Elizabeth’s influence.
Northampton hoped to marry Helena but felt prevented from doing so because, although divorced in 1551, his first wife, Lady Anne Bourchier, was still alive. Elizabeth was fond of Helena and appointed her a maid of honour from about 1567, before promoting her to gentlewoman of her privy chamber-a highly respected position at the heart of the court in which she was among the queen’s most intimate servants and controlled access by the press of courtiers. She was entitled to many privileges, such as her own lodgings at court, servants, and a horse. However, she was not a waged member of the privy chamber and it is not known how regularly she attended court. Bourchier died on 26 January 1571 and Northampton and Helena were finally able to marry in May. The wedding took place in Elizabeth’s presence in the queen’s closet at Whitehall Palace. The bride was twenty-two and the groom fifty-seven. They seemed happy together and divided their time between their houses in Guildford, Surrey, and at Stanstead Hall, Essex. The marriage came to a sudden end within a few months when the marquess died on 28 October in Thomas Fisher’s house in Warwick. There were no children. The marchioness received a substantial dower of £368 per annum, drawn from her husband’s estates in Cumberland. This may have been exchanged for lands worth £400 per annum in Huntingdonshire.
It was not too long before Helena captivated another admirer, Thomas Gorges [see below]. The queen was originally in favour of his approaches to Helena but changed her mind and refused to consent to a marriage, perhaps as a result of her notorious sexual jealousy regarding gentlewomen of her privy chamber or because she had strong views on unequal marriages; Helena was a marchioness and Gorges only a gentleman. The couple wed in secret about 1576. When Elizabeth learned of their deceit, Helena was banned from court, although she was later reinstated, possibly with the help of her influential friend Thomas Radcliffe, third earl of Sussex, the lord chamberlain. The queen warmed to her again and with wholly uncharacteristic generosity granted her manors in Huntingdonshire and Wiltshire.
The couple’s first child was born in June 1578 and named Elizabeth (1578-1659) after the queen, who was her godmother. Their first son, Francis (d. in or before 1599), was probably born in 1579. Gorges was persuaded by his wife to make his property of Longford, Wiltshire, bought after 1573, more appealing by rebuilding it. The mansion had been damaged by fire when he acquired it and a replacement was completed at great expense by 1591, under the final supervision of John Thorpe, since the entrance on its north-east front bears that date. Longford was the model for the ‘Castle of Amphialeus’ in Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia. Gorges was knighted in 1586. During this time Helena settled down to raise her family. She had two more daughters, Frances (1580-1649) and Bridget (1584-c.1634), and four more sons, all of whom were knighted: Edward Gorges, first Baron Gorges of Dundalk (b. 1582/3, d. in or before 1652); Theobald (1583-1647); Robert (1588-1648); and Thomas (b. 1589, d. after 1624).
The marchioness was still valued highly by Elizabeth and often acted as her deputy at the baptism of the children of distinguished noblemen, particularly towards the end of the reign, when the queen’s health was deteriorating. Helena must have been distressed when Elizabeth, whose friendship and guidance she had known ever since her arrival in England, died in March 1603 and she was the chief mourner in the funeral procession as senior peeress because Arabella Stuart refused to undertake the role. The accession of James VI to the English throne paved the way for the removal of many of Elizabeth’s old courtiers and Gorges was demoted. Helena did not retain all her privileges but was probably glad to escape the rivalry that existed among the gentlewomen of the privy chamber to Anne of Denmark. After Gorges died on 30 March 1610 at the age of seventy-four, Helena increasingly retreated from public life, although she remained a devoted member of the Church of England.
Helena died on 10 April 1635 at Redlynch, Somerset, the residence of her son Sir Robert Gorges, and was buried on 14 May in Salisbury Cathedral. She had no fewer than ninety-two direct descendants at the time. She granted over £1700 in annuities and bequests in her will.
Sir Thomas Gorges (1536-1610), courtier, was born in Wraxall, Somerset, the fifth son of Sir Edward Gorges, landowner, of Wraxall, and his wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Poyntz of Iron Acton, Gloucestershire, and his wife, Elizabeth. He was a member of the royal household, groom of the privy chamber from 31 December 1571, JP for Huntingdon and Wiltshire from about 1579, special ambassador to Sweden in 1582, and MP for Longford, Wiltshire, in 1586, as well as keeper of many important royal estates. Gorges acted as Elizabeth’s ‘high grade messenger’ (HoP, Commons, 1558-1603, 2.208). He was one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Wiltshire. Gorges, like his wife, was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.
C. A. Bradford, Helena, marchioness of Northampton (1936) · S. E. James, Kateryn Parr: the making of a queen (1999), 394-7 · HoP, Commons, 1558-1603, 2.208 · will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/167, sig. 41 · TNA: PRO, PROB 11/116, sig. 64 · administration, TNA: PRO, PROB 6/2, fol. 22r · GEC, Peerage, 4.16 Paul Harrington, ‘Gorges , Helena, Lady Gorges [other married name Helena Parr, marchioness of Northampton] (1548-1635)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/69751
Tate Gallery Report, 1960-61, pp.16-17 Gunnar Sjogren, ‘Portrait of a young lady, 1569; an identification’, Burlington Magazine, October 1980, pp.698-700
By Meg Mcgath, 22 March 2023 *be kind and if you find info here…leave breadcrumbs. Thanks!*
Lady Maud Parr, (6 April 1492 – 1 December 1531) was the wife of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Knt. She was the daughter and substantial coheiress of Sir Thomas Green of Greens Norton, Northamptonshire. The Greens had inhabited Greens Norton since the fourteenth century. Green was the last male heir, having had two daughters. Her mother is named as Joan or Jane Fogge. However, I haven’t been able to prove her parentage. According to Linda Porter, Katherine Parr is a great-granddaughter of Sir John Fogge. When asked for a source, Porter said it came from Dr Susan James. In her biography on Katherine, Susan James states, “he [Green] had made an advantageous with the granddaughter of Sir John Fogge, treasurer of the Royal household under Edward IV”. Fogge was married to Alice Haute (or Hawte), a lady and cousin to Edward’s queen, Elizabeth. By her father, Maud descended from King Edward I of England multiple times. Her sister, Anne, would marry Sir Nicholas Vaux (later Baron). Vaux married firstly to Maud’s would be mother-in-law, the widowed Lady Elizabeth Parr, by whom he had three daughters including Lady Katherine Throckmorton, wife to Sir George of Coughton. Her father spent his last days in the Tower and died in 1506 trumped up on charges of treason.
Ten months after the death of her father, the fifteen year old Maud became a ward of Thomas Parr of Kendal (c.1471/1478 (see notes)-1517) a man nearly twice her age. Around 1508, Maud married to Thomas, son of Sir William Parr of Kendal (1434-1483) and Elizabeth FitzHugh (1455/65-1508), later Lady Vaux. At the time, he was thirty seven while she was about sixteen. He would become Sheriff of Northamptonshire, master of the wards and comptroller to King Henry VIII. He would become a Vice chamberlain of Katherine of Aragon’s household. When Princess Mary was christened, he was one of the four men to hold the canopy over her. He would become a coheir to the Barony of FitzHugh in 1512 and received half the lands of his cousin, George, 7th Baron (d.1512). Had he lived, he most likely would have received the actual title as a favored courtier. The barony is still in abeyance.
Maud became a lady to Queen Katherine of Aragon along with Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of the future Queen Anne. It seems as though the Parrs and Boleyns were indeed in the same circle around the king—something rarely noted! Both Thomas Boleyn and Thomas Parr were knighted in 1509 at the coronation of King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon.
Maud’s relationship with the Queen was a relationship that went much deeper than “giddy pleasure”. Both knew what it was like to lose a child in stillbirths and in infancy. It was Katherine Parr’s mother, Maud, who shared in the horrible miscarriages and deaths in which Queen Katherine would endure from 1511 to 1518. The two bonded over the issue and became close because of it. Lady Parr became pregnant shortly after her marriage to Sir Thomas Parr. Most people think that Katherine Parr, the future queen and last wife of Henry, was the first to be born to the Parrs; not so. In or about 1509, a boy was born to Maud and Thomas. The happiness of delivering an heir to the Parr family was short lived as the baby died shortly after — no name was ever recorded. It would be another four years before Maud is recorded as becoming pregnant again. In 1512, Maud finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She was christened Katherine, after the queen, and speculations are that Queen Katherine was her godmother. In about 1513, Maud would finally give birth to a healthy baby boy who was named William. Then again in 1515, Maud would give birth to another daughter named Anne, possibly after Maud’s sister.
In or about 1517, Maud became pregnant again. It was in autumn of that year that her husband, Sir Thomas, died at his home in Blackfriars of the sweating sickness. Maud was left a young widow at 25, with three small children to provide for. It is believed that the stress from his death caused the baby to be lost or die shortly after birth. No further record of the child is recorded. In a way Maud might have been relieved. He left a will, dated 7 November, for his wife and children leaving dowry’s and his inheritance to his only son, William, but as he died before any of his children were of age, Maud along with Cuthbert Tunstall, their uncle Sir William Parr, and Dr. Melton were made executors. He left £400 apiece as marriage portions for his two daughters. He provided for another son and if the baby was “any more daughters”, he stated “she [Maud] shall marry them at her own cost”. In his will, Parr mentions a signet ring given to him by the King which illustrates how close he was to him. He was buried in St. Anne’s Church, Blackfriars, beneath an elaborate tomb. His tomb read, “Pray for the soul of Sir Thomas Parr, knight of the king’s body, Henry the eigth, master of his wards…and…Sheriff…who deceased the 11th day of November in the 9th year of the reign of our sovereign Lord at London, in the Black Friars..” Maud chose not to remarry for fear of jeopardizing the huge inheritance she held in trust for her children. She carefully supervised the education of her children and studiously arranged their marriages.
In October 1519, Maud was given her own quarters at court. From 7 to 24 June 1520, Maud attended the queen at The Field of the Cloth of Gold, the meeting between King Henry VIII and King Francis I of France. Her sister, Anne, now Lady Vaux, and her husband, Nicholas, along with her other in laws, Lord Parr of Horton and his wife, were also present.
“In 1522, Maud was assessed for a “loan” to the King for the French Wars, of 1,000 marks, a very substantial sum, the same as the amount provided by Lord Clifford. She appears in the various household accounts of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon as entitled to breakfast at Crown expense and to suits of livery for her servants, as well as lodgings, which were very hard to come by.
In 1523, Maud started writing letters to find a suitable husband for her daughter, Katherine. Henry le Scrope (c.1511-25 March 1525), son and heir to Sir Henry le Scrope, 7th Baron Scrope of Bolton by his wife Mabel Dacre, was a cousin. The negotiations lead to nothing. By 1529, Maud found a match for her daughter in Sir Edward Borough, son of Sir Thomas.
When regulations for the Royal household were drawn up at Eltham, in 1526, Lady Parr, Lady Willoughby and Jane, Lady Guildford were assigned lodgings on “the queen’s side” of the palace. If an emergency arose, yeoman were sent with letters from the queen “warning the ladies to come to the court”. Maud was still listed, along with only five other ladies, which included the King’s sister, as having the privilege of having permanent suites in 1526. Maud was friendly with the King as well—her husband had been a favored courtier—and gifted him a coat of Kendal cloth in 1530. She was gifted miniatures of the King and Queen from the Queen herself.
In the summer of 1530, Maud visited her daughter, now Lady Katherine Borough, in Lincolnshire. She stayed at her own manor in Maltby, which was eighteen miles from Old Gainsborough Hall. It is thought that her presence there influenced Sir Thomas Borough to give his son, Edward, a property in Kirton-in-Lindsey. This gave Katherine an opportunity to manage a household of her own.
Maud continued her position at court as one of Katherine of Aragon’s principal ladies and stayed close to the Queen even when her relationship with the king started to decline. Henry’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn, one of the Queen’s ladies, became apparent and inevitably the ladies began to take sides. In these times, Queen Katherine never lost the loyalty and affection of women like Maud Parr, Gertrude Courtenay, and Elizabeth Boleyn, who had been with the Queen since the first years of her reign. At the time of her death, Maud was still attending Queen Katherine.
Maud died on 1 December 1531 at age thirty nine and is buried in St. Ann’s Church, Blackfriars Church, London, England beside her husband.
“My body to be buried in the church of the Blackfriars, London. Whereas I have indebted myself for the preferment of my son and heir, William Parr, as well to the king for the marriage of my said son. As to my lord of Essex for the marriage of my lady Bourchier, daughter and heir apparent to the said Earl. Anne, my daughter, Sir William Parr, Knt., my brother, Katherine Borough, my daughter, Thomas Pickering, Esq., my cousin and steward of my house.”
In her will, dated 20 May 1529, Maud designated that she wanted to be buried Blackfriars where her husband lies if she dies in London, or within twenty miles. Otherwise, she could be buried where her executors think most convenient. Maud left her daughter, Katherine, a jeweled cipher pendant in the shape of an ‘M’. Maud also left Katherine a cross of diamonds with a pendant pearl, a cache of loose pearls, and, ironically, a jeweled portrait of Henry VIII. To her daughter, Anne, she left 400 marks in plate and a third share of her jewels. The whole fortune, Lady Parr had directed, was to be securely chested up ‘in coffers locked with divers locks, whereof every one of them my executors and my … daughter Anne to have every of them a key’. ‘And there’, Lady Parr’s will continued, ‘it to remain till it ought to be delivered unto her’ on her marriage. She also provided 400 marks for the founding of schools and “the marrying of maidens and especial my poor kinswomen”. Cuthbert Tunstall, who was the principal executor of Maud’s will, she left to “my goode Lorde Cuthberd Tunstall, Bisshop of London…a ring with a ruby”. Tunstall had been an executor of her late husband’s will as well. An illegitimate son of Sir Thomas of Thurland Castle, he was a great-nephew of Alice Tunstall, paternal grandmother to Sir Thomas Parr. To her daughter-in-law, Anne, she left substantial amounts of jewelry, “to my lady Bourchier when she lieth with my son” as a bribe to get the marriage consummated. Maud also left a bracelet set with red jacinth to her son, William. She begs him “to wear it for my sake”. Maud was also stated in her will, “I have endetted myself in divers summes for the preferment of my sonne and heire William Parr as well”. For her cousin, Alice Cruse, and Thomas Parr’s niece, Elizabeth Woodhull or Odell, Maud left “at the lest oon hundrythe li”. She wills her “apparrell [to] be made in vestments and other ornaments of the churche” for distribution to three different parish churches which lay close to lands that she controlled. She bequeathed money to the Friars of Northampton. For centuries, historians have confused the first husband of her daughter, Katherine, with his elder grandfather, Edward, the 2nd Baron Borough or Burgh of Gainsborough (d.August 1528). He was declared insane and was never called to Parliament as the 2nd Baron Borough. Some sources mistakenly state she was just a child at the time of her wedding in 1526. Katherine’s actual husband, Sir Edward Borough (d.1533), was the eldest son and heir of the 2nd Baron’s eldest son and heir, Sir Thomas Borough, who would become the 1st Baron Borough under a new writ in December 1529. Katherine and Edward were married in 1529. At the time, Thomas Borough was still only a knight. Maud mentions in her will, Sir Thomas, father of the younger Edward, saying ‘I am indebted to Sir Thomas Borough, knight, for the marriage of my daughter‘. Edward was the eldest son and heir to his father, Sir Thomas, Baron Borough. He would die in 1533. Maud’s will was proved 14 December 1531.
Maud and Thomas had three children to survive infancy.
Katherine or “Kateryn” (1512-1548), later Queen of England and Ireland, would marry four times. In 1529, Katherine married Sir Edward Borough. He died in 1533. In 1534, Katherine became “Lady Latimer” as the wife to a cousin of the family, Sir John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer (of Snape Castle). He was dead by March 1543. A few months later, on 12 July, Katherine married King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. The king died in January 1547. In May of that year, Katherine secretly wed Sir Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour (d.1549) of Sudeley Castle, a previous suitor from 1543. Their love letters still survive. By Seymour, Katherine had a daughter, Mary. Katherine died 5 September 1548. Seymour would be executed 20 March 1549 for countless treasonous acts against the crown (his nephew was King Edward VI).
William (1514-1571) married on 9 February 1527, at the chapel of the manor of Stanstead in Essex, to Anne Bourchier, suo jure 7th Baroness Bourchier (d. 26 January 1571), only child and heiress of Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex (d.1540). In 1541, she eloped from him, stating that “she would live as she lusted”. Susan James states the next year, Parr secured a legal separation. James also states that on 13 March 1543, a bill was passed in Parliament condemning Anne’s adulterous behavior and declaring any children bastards. Wikipedia states “On 17 April 1543 their marriage was annulled by an Act of Parliament and any of her children “born during esposels between Lord and Lady Parr””(there were none) were declared bastards. The source is G. E. Cokayne, ”The Complete Peerage”, n.s., Vol.IX, p.672, note (b). I have not been able to access The Complete Peerage to confirm. On 31 March 1551, a private bill was passed in Parliament annulling Parr’s marriage to Anne. She predeceased Parr by a few months. William married Elisabeth Brooke (1526-1565), a daughter of George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham of Cobham Hall in Kent, by his wife Anne Bray. A commission ruled in favour of his divorce from Anne shortly after he married Elizabeth Brooke in 1547, but Somerset punished Parr for his marriage by removing him from the Privy Council and ordering him to leave Elizabeth. The divorce was finally granted in 1551, and his marriage to Elizabeth was made legal. On 31 Mar 1552, a bill passed in Parliament declaring the marriage of Anne Bourchier and Parr null and void. Their marriage was declared invalid in 1553 under Queen Mary and valid again in 1558 under Queen Elizabeth who adored William. Each change of monarch, and religion, changed Elizabeth’s status. She died in 1565. William married Helena Snakenborg in May 1571 in Elizabeth’s presence in the queen’s closet at Whitehall Palace with pomp and circumstance. Parr would die 28 October 1571.
Anne (1515-1552) who married Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke in 1538. They had three children: Henry, Edward, and Anne. They are ancestors to the current Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, Earl of Carnarvon, Earl of Powis, Marquess of Abergavenny, and other nobility.
Porter, James, and Mueller state Thomas Parr was born in 1478. However, in James’s biography of Katherine, she states he was 37 at the time of his marriage to Maud Green in 1508. So that would be about 1471, right?
Sir Nicholas Nicolas. Testamenta Vetusta: being illustrations from wills, of manners, customs, … as well as of the descents and possessions of many distinguished families. From the Reign of Henry II. to the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Volume 2, 1826. Google eBook
Elizabeth Norton. “Catherine Parr Wife, Widow, Mother, Survivor, the Story of the Last Queen of Henry VIII”, 2010. Google eBook (preview)
Linda Porter. Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin Publishing, 2010)
Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, 2011. Google eBook (preview)
Gareth Russell. Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII, 2017. Pg 215. Google eBook (preview)
Agnes Strickland. Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest With Anecdotes of Their Courts, Volumes 4-5, 1860. Pg 16. Google eBook
Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty, ed. Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, Danna R. Messer, Elena Woodacre, J. L. Laynesmith, 2022. Google eBook (preview)
The Antiquary: A Magazine Devoted to the Study of the Past, volume 24, 1891. Google eBook
‘The Master of the Countess of Warwick’, ‘Portrait of a lady, aged 21, possibly Helena Snakenborg’, dated 1569. (Tate)
10 APRIL 1635: THE DEATH of Helena, the Dowager Marchioness of Northampton (c.1549-10 April 1635) was the daughter of Ulf or Wulfgang Henriksson Snakenborg or Snachenberg of Ostargotland (d.c.1565) and Agneta Knuttson (d.1568+).
Princess Cecilia of Sweden (Cecilia Gustavsdotter Vasa) (16 November 1540 – 27 January 1627)
She came as a maid-in-waiting to Princess Cecilia of Sweden on a state visit in the autumn of 1565 and stayed on when Cecilia left in May 1566. She was being courted by Sir William Parr, Marquess of Northampton who had asked her to marry him. Queen Elizabeth stepped in, taking Helena into her keeping at court, as a maid of honor. Helena was given private quarters at Hampton Court Palace. Later she was a gentlewoman of the privy chamber, although without pay. Helena and Parr finally married in May 1571, after the death of his first wife, from whom he had been separated (and annulled) for decades. The Queen attended the wedding which took place in the queen’s closet at Whitehall Palace with pomp and circumstance. The Marquess died soon after, leaving Helena a wealthy widow and, as Dowager Marchioness of Northampton, senior to every other lady at court save the queen and the queen’s cousin, Lady Margaret Douglas.
Longford Castle in Wiltshire. Longford Castle is located on the banks of the River Avon south of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. In 1573 Thomas Gorges, of Langford acquired the manor (at the time written “Langford”), which was originally owned by the Cervingtons. Prior to this the existing mansion house had been damaged by fire.
Around 1577 she remarried, taking as her second husband Thomas (later knt.) Gorges. Helena was a patron of the arts, rebuilt Langford Castle in Wiltshire, and was chief mourner at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth Tudor. She was buried at Salisbury Cathedral where an effigy is still present.
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 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.
When in doubt–don’t post a portrait of an unknown noble in the place for someone who has no known portrait. I have noticed that certain blogs have taken unknown portraits of Tudor women and used them as an example for their blog. What’s wrong with this? Well thanks to PinInterest and other sites, people come by web pages and snatch the portraits without properly identifying them. I should know, it’s happened to me several times. And due to this..there is a circulation of one portrait for a certain relation of Queen Katherine Parr who in fact has no known portrait. What’s worse is the woman in the painting is pregnant when we know there were no children by her husband, but rather by her lover.
Unknown Woman by Gower, 1578 is NOT Anne Bourchier.
So let’s get this straight. Wives 1, “2”, and 3. Sir William Parr, Baron Parr of Kendal, Earl of Essex, and eventually 1st Marquess of Northampton had three wives. Only two are known to have legit portraits. That’s William’s common law wife, Elisabeth Brooke, whom he wasn’t technically allowed to marry due to the fact that he could not get a divorce from his first wife, Lady Anne Bourchier who had left him for her lover. William could only file for an Act of Parliament to keep any illegitimate offspring of Anne and her lover from inheriting from him. This, he was granted during Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I’s reign. In the reign of Mary I, however, Parr had to endure his wife after being thrown in the Tower for trying to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. People think that Lady Anne saved Parr’s life — honestly, she was only after money and property. Queen Mary finally relented however and let him go free but without his titles, etc.
Back to the portraiture — Elisabeth Brooke and his third wife, Helena were painted.
Elisabeth Brooke, Lady Northampton from the family portrait of the Brooke family.
Elisabeth Brooke’s portrait is from a larger portrait of her family. There is also a coin issued for her.
The Brooke Family of Elisabeth Brooke.
The portrait of Helena — there are thought to possibly be two.