Problems with Identification: Tudor Portraits

Portrait of an Unknown Lady c.1565-8 by Hans Eworth active 1540-1573
Portrait of an Unknown Lady c.1565-8 by Hans Eworth (1540-1573), Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom

There is a yet another discrepancy as to who the sitter is in another Hans Eworth portrait from the Tudor era. This time around, the actual sitter is, in fact, unknown. The proposed sitter of the painting was (and still is often) Lady Eleanor Clifford. Wikipedia has the portrait as Lady Eleanor’s main portrait. However, there has been a nod to perhaps the sitter being Eleanor’s daughter, Lady Margaret Clifford. As to who is really is–we’re not sure, so let’s study the background of each woman.

Lady Clifford was born Lady Eleanor Brandon in 1519 – 27 September 1547) She was the second daughter of Sir Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and his wife the former Princess Mary, Queen of France. Her mother was the younger sister of King Henry VIII; making Eleanor a grandchild of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. In March 1533, a marriage contract was written up for Lady Eleanor and Lord Henry Clifford, the eldest son and heir of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland by Lady Margaret Percy.[2] However, since her mother died nine months later, she waited to go and live with her young husband and in-laws. Eleanor officially married Lord Clifford at Brandon house, Bridewell, in 1537; her uncle King Henry VIII was present.[3][4][5][6] 

Lady Clifford served several of her uncle’s queens. In 1536, she was Chief Mourner to Queen Katherine of Aragon; the deposed wife Henry put aside for his second, Anne Boleyn.

Lady Eleanor and her husband had one surviving child, Lady Margaret, who was born in 1540. Eleanor died on 27 September 1547, nine months after her uncle Henry VIII. At the time of her death, her cousin Edward VI was King.

Lady Margaret Clifford would have been born in the process of King Henry VIII’s wife swaps. In 1540, Katherine Howard was consort. A short lived marriage that put Katherine on the chopping block dissolved and Henry was single again. In 1543, the King would marry for the 6th and final time to the widowed Lady Latimer (born Katherine Parr). Queen Katherine had a sturdy circle of religious women around her at all times. In her list of ladies-in-waiting, we see that both Lady Cumberland (mother to Margaret) and the Duchess of Suffolk (Lady Frances Brandon; aunt to Margaret) are listed. Margaret would have only been three when her granduncle married Katherine Parr.

The scandal of Lady Jane Grey hit Lady Margaret’s immediate family hard. Her cousin, Jane was in line to the throne after King Edward VI and his two sisters; Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. King Edward saw fit to bypass his sisters in his will and give his cousin Lady Jane the crown. Jane was the daughter of Lady Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk. As such, Jane was the niece of Lady Eleanor Clifford; mother of Lady Margaret. The scandal was quickly suppressed and the will of Henry VIII (Edward’s father) was upheld. Lady Mary Tudor came to court to denounce her cousin Jane. The will of Henry VIII held more sway over Edward’s. Also, the blood descendants of King Henry VIII were preferred over the descendants of his father, Henry VII. There were two still living. Mary claimed her right to the throne and Jane was disposed. Jane, her father, her husband, and a few others were implicated and eventually executed under the new queen. As for Lady Margaret? She joined the court of Queen Mary. Queen Mary consented to the marriage of Lady Margaret to the heir of the Earldom of Derby and the two were married at Westminster Palace on February 12, 1555.

In 1557, Lady Margaret started to cause somewhat of a ruckus by claiming a superior succession to the crown than her cousins, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey. Margaret stated that because her cousin Jane had been tainted, tried, and executed, the whole line of the Grey family should be barred from the succession.

The death of Queen Mary set Lady Margaret in the attendance of the new Queen, Elizabeth. She held the rank of two of the highest noblewomen in the country along with her cousin, Lady Margaret Douglas (daughter of the eldest sibling of Henry VIII; Queen Margaret of Scots). Lady Margaret Clifford’s status may have been enough for a portrait. Her cousin, Margaret Douglas, certainly got a few.

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Full-length portrait of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515-78), standing with a Griffon at her feet. She is holding gloves in her left hand and resting her right on a table on which stands a clock in the form of a tempietto, the dial surmounted by a hound and a shield with the arms of Scotland. Inscribed: THE LADY MARGARET. HIR GRACE / LATE WIFE TO MATHEW ERLLE / OF LENNOX REGENT OF SCOTLANDE / AND MOTHER TO HENRY KINGE / OF SCOTLAND / Aetatis 55 Aí Dni. 1572.

 

What We Know About the Portrait

The coat of arms in the top left corner, which may have been added later, are the impaled arms (those of a husband and wife) of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, and his wife Lady Eleanor, daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France. As a result the painting has been frequently exhibited in the past as a portrait of Lady Eleanor, regardless of the fact that she died in 1547, well before the date of this portrait [the roman numerals MDLX at the top right = 1560]. It is, however, a rule of heraldry that impaled arms are not used by the children of a marriage, as they would have their own. Hence the later addition and erroneous use of the arms here suggests that the identity of the portrait was already unclear only two or three generations after it was painted, a situation by no means unusual amid the frequent early deaths, multiple marriages, and shifting alliances and fortunes of the most powerful families of the Tudor era. Later the portrait was thought to represent the only child of Eleanor and Henry to survive infancy, Margaret. Unfortunately the inscription on the right which might have provided a check (Margaret would have been aged 25-28 at the time of this portrait) has been truncated; although the Roman numerals of the year can apply only to 1565-8, the age of the sitter cannot be ascertained with any useful accuracy. The National Portrait Gallery has an online sketch of this portrait identified as Lady Eleanor, but the portrait remains in dispute.

Another unfortunate aspect of the portrait is the clothing; the clothing does not match the time period of Lady Eleanor Brandon. The dress is third quarter of the 16th century and is of Spanish influence.

According to Richard Davey. The sisters of Lady Jane Grey and their wicked grandfather, E.P. Dutton and co., 1912:

The Lady Eleanor Brandon was a better looking woman than her sister Frances. When her tomb in Skipton Church was disturbed in the seventeenth century her skeleton which was in perfect condition proved her to have been very tall and large boned whereas the Lady Frances was of medium stature. Lady Eleanor, if we may judge by her portrait, which hangs at Skipton Castle, was pretty rather than beautiful. The writer confesses that the portrait at Skipton did not impress him as that of one who could have put forward the slightest pretensions to good looks; the cheeks are high, the forehead abnormally broad, the eyes however are fine, and the hair fair but the complexion according to this venerable picture must have been quite ghastly. The portrait is very badly painted; a poor thing worth little as a work of art but none the less interesting.

The site for the Tate Gallery concludes that the painting is still unidentified, yet there is an identical sketch on the site for the National Portrait Gallery identified as Lady Eleanor. Who’s who?

Another proposal for the sitter is given as Hon. Margaret Wentworth, daughter of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron and his wife Margaret Fortescue. Sir Thomas was a nephew of Queen Jane Seymour’s mother, Margaret Wentworth. Thomas’s daughter, Margaret, married three times; Sir John, Baron Williams of Thame; Sir William Drury; and Sir James Croft. The new identification is given by Dr. Roy Strong based on the comparison to her sister, Jane Wentworth, Lady Cheney [below].

Problems with Identifying Tudor Portraits

npg_4451_Katherine_Parr
Queen Katherine Parr attributed to Master John c. 1544. NPG, London. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

For years Queen Katherine Parr’s many portraits were thought to be Lady Jane Grey; it is just recently that the portrait in the NPG in London (first portrait) was finally changed permanently to Queen Katherine Parr based on the research of the Queen’s inventory of jewels which was recorded in the documents of King Henry VIII. They are also recorded in the back of the recently published book, “Katherine Parr: Works and Correspondences.” Those very same jewels that belonged to the Queens of England were last worn by Queen Katherine Parr. After the death of King Henry, and after Edward Seymour proclaimed himself Lord Protector, the jewels, along with her personal jewels, were put into the Tower for safekeeping. Since Edward VI had no queen the jewels would not have been in use unless Edward’s wife Anne Stanhope got a hold of them; which she was not entitled to. Lady Jane Grey was in the household of Queen Dowager Katherine Parr until her death in 1548, but as stated the queen’s jewels were not accessible to Lady Jane and the portrait which is dated in the early 1540s also proves that the person painted had to have possession of those jewels; and who had possession during that time — only Queen Katherine Parr.

Let’s Talk to an Expert

The portrait at the Tate is certainly not of Eleanor Brandon. The artist of that painting is identified as Hans Eworth, an artist who did not become active in England until after Brandon’s death. Too, the style of the sitter’s costume also quite firmly dates the painting to at least a decade after Brandon’s death.
It seems quite logical that a portrait of Eleanor would have hung at Skipton, since that castle belonged to the family of Eleanor’s husband Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland. I do see that Richard Davey claims to have viewed the portrait in situ just prior to World War I. Whether or not his claim is factual is an open question, however. Davey too often simply invented the “facts” presented in his books. His list in Nine Days Queen of portraits of Jane Grey is packed with errors and deliberate falsehoods.
I understand that Skipton is now partially derelict, though it may still have some limited habitable spaces. Have you contacted Skipton Castle directly through their website to ask for any information they may have? That is certainly where I would start. I did check the Getty Research Institute’s Provenance Research Database, but that did not turn up any portraits of Eleanor Brandon Clifford appearing at public auction between 1700 and 1900. But the portrait may have been sold privately. –Dr. Stephan Edwards (Author of A Queen of a New Invention and The Lady Jane Grey Prayer Book)

I have contacted Skipton Castle looking for information. I have yet to receive and email. So for now, as of the end of 2016, the portrait remains unknown.

Sources

  • Lawrence Manley, “From Strange’s Men to Pembroke’s Men: 2 “Henry VI” and “The First Part of the Contention”.”, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 253-287.
  • Sir Sidney Lee. Dictionary of national biography, Volume 54, Smith, Elder, & co., 1898. pg 70.Google eBook 
  • Eleanor Clifford (née Brandon), Countess of Cumberland, probably by Alfred Thomas Derby, after Unknown artist, Purchased, 1893, Reference Collection NPG D23066. National Portrait Gallery 
  • The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.66-8. Tate Collections
  • Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545. Purchased with help from the Gulbenkian Foundation, 1965 Primary Collection. Reference Collection NPG 4451

  • Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515-78), c.1572, British School, 16th Century, Royal Collection Trust. RCIN 401183
  • Kathy Lynn Emerson Who’s Who in Tudor Women.
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Queen Katherine Parr: The Coronet Brooch

Katherine Parr attributed to Master John c. 1544
Katherine Parr attributed to Master John c. 1544

In 1965, the National Portrait Gallery bought a portrait which was labeled “Katherine Parr.” In the late 60s however, one man came to the conclusion that it was not Parr, but “Lady Jane Grey,” the nine day queen who followed King Henry VIII’s only legitimate son, King Edward VI. Most people don’t even realize that the painting came in as “Katherine Parr.” In fact, unless you do thorough research you won’t even know that the portrait was originally at Glendon Hall, the seat of the Lane family. Glendon Hall once belonged to Sir Ralph Lane who married Hon. Maud Parr, a cousin and lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine Parr. The portrait came to be generally accepted as Lady Jane for decades. The re-naming to “Lady Jane” was based on what you ask?

Seventy-two years after Kateryn Parr’s death
in September 1548, the bookseller Henry Holland published a
volume of plates purporting to be portraits of famous people, entitled
Henwologia Anglica. Holland asserts in the preface that he had
taken great pains to establish the identities of those in the portraits.
One of the plates shows a woman called ‘Iana Graya’ (Fig.28),
wearing the same crown-headed brooch as the sitter in our portrait;
a note on the plate indicates that the engraving was copied
‘from Mr James Harrison’s Holbein’. It was on the basis of the similarity
of the two brooches that Strong re-identified the panel portrait
as Jane Grey. However, Holland’s information in 1620 may
well have been incorrect, and nothing is known of Mr Harrison or
his ‘Holbein’ (which, on the evidence of the engraving would
appear to have been a variant of NPG 4451, quite close to the one
at Seaton Delaval). And the evidence of the jewellery indicates that
the crown-headed brooch did belong to Kateryn Parr and is most
unlikely to have passed through the hands of Jane Grey. (James)

Jane_Grey_KParr

Following research published in 1996 the identity of the sitter has been reassessed and the traditional identification of the sitter as “Katherine Parr” has been re-confirmed (James, 1996). Several of the jewels worn in the portrait can be traced to certain lists. James used several different inventories of jewels belonging to queens Katherine Howard (inventory as of 1542), ‘The Quene’s Jewells’ (inventory as of 1550), and a third undated list entitled “Inventory of jewels — parcel of the Queen’s Jewels and other stuff which came from the late Admiral’s [Thomas Seymour] house of Sudeley.” The 1542 list is of particular interest due to the fact that after Howard was arrested, her jewels were handed over to her lady-in-waiting, Lady Anne Herbert (sister of the future queen Katherine Parr). The list of 1550 was ordered by the Lord Protector as part of a comprehensive inventory of the ‘goods of Henry VIII.’ This list was entitled “The Quene’s Jewells.” Each list was looked at by James. The coronet shaped brooch was not found in the list for 1542. However, a similar one was described in the 1550 list and that of Parr’s possessions. The brooch may be identified with one described in the 1550 jewel list as,

Detail of the Coronet Brooch of Katherine Parr, NPG; © Susan James (black&white detail) © National Portrait Gallery (color detail)
Detail of the Coronet Brooch of Katherine Parr, NPG; © Susan James (black&white detail) © National Portrait Gallery (color detail)

‘one ouche or flower
with a crown containing two diamonds, one ruby, one emerald; the
crown being garnished with diamonds, [andl three pearls pendant’
(an ‘ouche’ or ‘flower’ was a brooch worn pinned to the bodice).

The inheritors of the Coronet Brooch, Elizabeth I and Anne of Denmark.
The inheritors of the Coronet Brooch, Elizabeth I and Anne of Denmark.

As for the brooch and what happened to it — it is believed the brooch was uniquely made for Katherine by her favorite goldsmith, Peter Richardson. The brooch, with the rest of the royal jewelery, was passed to Elizabeth I. The brooch appears in her list of 1587 listed as

‘a flower with a crown, garnished with xv small diamonds and in the midst of the flower is a ruby with two diamonds and one emerald, and the three pearls pendant.’

At Elizabeth’s death (1603), the brooch passed to James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark and is also described in her inventory of 1606 as

‘a jewell being a crownet of gold garnished with small diamonds upon a circle, having had one emerald, one rock ruby and two other triangle stones nowe wanting in collets, with three pearles pendant, of ancient making, in weight 2 oz 1dwt 6grs.’

A working copy of of the documentation kept in the jewel house describes the fate of the brooch. By 1606, the the brooch was missing two triangular cut diamonds. It was ordered to be

‘delivered to Mr. Nicasius Russell, Jeweler, the 8th September 1609 by her Majesties’ direction, for the making of Gold plate; the stones by number, the Gold by weight.’

The sixty-six year history of the brooch can be traced through the jewel inventories of three queens, Katherine Parr, Elizabeth I, and Anne of Denmark. Now, if only we could find a portrait of Elizabeth actually wearing the brooch!

Sources

  • Susan E. James. “Lady Jane Grey or Queen Kateryn Parr?” The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 138, No. 1114 (Jan., 1996), pp. 20-24.