The Portraits of Robert Dudley (5)

Robert Dudley in 1576, by Nicholas Hilliard

Another portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1961.

Importantly, this miniature is inscribed with the words ‟Ano.Dni.1576 Aetatis Sue 44“, which clearly indicates that Leicester was 44 years old in 1576, which would establish his year of birth as 1532. (He was born on 24 June, as Leicester himself wrote in a letter to William Cecil; he didn’t mention his age, though).

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The Portraits of Robert Dudley (4)

Robert Dudley c.1571/72 by Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard was a young goldsmith when in 1571 he produced a ‟booke of portraitures‟ for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. 1571 was also the year of Hilliard’s first known work as a ‟limner“ or painter of portrait miniatures. Leicester was one of the earliest patrons of the young artist and may have introduced him to court.

Hilliard would paint Leicester many times, and the earliest surviving portrait miniature (now in the Victoria & Albert Museum) of the earl was painted sometime between 1571 and 1574, when Leicester would have been around 40. It seems likely that Leicester sent the picture as a gift to his sister, Mary, Lady Sidney.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.
Alan Haynes, The White Bear: The Elizabethan Earl of Leicester, 1987.
Karen Hearn, Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, 1995.

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The Portraits of Robert Dudley (3)

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in red, and with a characteristic wart on his right cheek

The portrait of Robert Dudley in silver brocade, painted in c.1563 and with his dog by his side, seems to have been copied a lot. One particular set of copies shows Robert wearing red sleeves under a slashed leather jerkin, as well as a red trunk hose. The dog has vanished.

The headgear is the same as in the silver brocade portrait. It again shows the mythical Roman hero, Marcus Curtius, on horseback. Marcus was famed for saving his hometown (Rome) from the abyss by riding into a chasm that had opened in the Forum. It was a fitting allusion to the Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley’s chief office at Elizabeth’s court.

All these paintings have sometimes been attributed to the Flemish painter Steven van der Meulen or his workshop (Steven may be the same Steven as the artist called Steven van Herwijck).

Another version without the wart in the Yale Center for British Art

A version that was cut down to head and shoulders of the above portrait now in the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). The wart is clearly visible.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

Karen Hearn (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, 1995.,-Earl-of-Leicester-

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Did Lady Jane Grey Wear Chopines?

The following supposed eyewitness description of Lady Jane Grey is from a 1909 book, Lady Jane Grey, by Richard Davey: ‘”This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. … The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines [clogs] to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.”‘ (Davey, Lady Jane Grey, 1909, p. 253)

As many of you will be aware, this alleged description by a certain Benedict Spinola has been shown to be a fake by the Jane scholars Leanda de Lisle and John Stephan Edwards. This Benedict Spinola seems not to have existed. I was therefore surprised to find the following in a book by Agnes Strickland:

‘In regard to the person of the Lady Jane, her features and her form were alike diminutive. Our Italian authority, Luca Cortile, who was in England during her lifetime, asserts: – “Jane was beautiful, but very small.” Her sister, Lady Mary, was a dwarf. Disraeli the elder, in one of his clever works, mentions gilt chopines, a sort of cork shoe, about four inches in height, worn by Lady Jane Grey to raise her to a more majestic altitude.’ (Strickland, Lives of the Tudor Princesses, 1868, p. 138)

Lady Jane Gray in the Tower, by William Frederick Yeames, c.1860

The elder Disraeli must be the father of the prime minister: Isaac D’Israeli (1766–1848), who wrote some historical works. Did he really mention the chopines? Strickland wrote some 40 years before Davey, and did Davey use her book for his Spinola ‘eyewitness report’?

And who was Luca Cortile, the man Strickland quoted as speaking of Jane as ‘very small’? Eric Ives mentioned him as Luca Contile, and he apparently wrote or edited a version of an Italian text otherwise known as being written by Giulio Raviglio Rosso. Rosso, however, apparently only plagiarized a report by the papal envoy to England during the summer of 1553, Giovanni Francesco Commendone. Since Rosso was a Ferrarese diplomat and there were also Ferrarese diplomats called Cortile in the later 16th century, Luca’s name may indeed have been Cortile.

Further reading:
Eric Ives: Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (2009)
Leanda de Lisle: The Sisters Who Would Be Queen (2009)
John Stephan Edwards:

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The Portraits of Robert Dudley (2)

Robert Dudley, c.1563

The portrait of Robert Dudley dressed in silver brocade now at Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire) is believed to have been painted c.1563. The Flemish painter Steven van der Meulen is sometimes believed to be the artist, and he died in 1563 or early 1564. Other than in the other surviving portraits of Robert Dudley, he has a dog at his side, although this portrait was not the only one with a dog, originally: In the early 1580s Robert commissioned a likeness of himself in “full proportion [full-length] … with Boy his dog by him”, as well as “my lady’s whole proportion … and my young lord standing by her”.

In the earlier portrait with his dog Robert Dudley is wearing a jewel in his hat depicting the mythical heroic Roman Marcus Curtius on horseback. According to legend, Marcus literally saved Rome from the abyss by riding into a chasm that had opened in the Forum. The allusion was particularly fitting for the queen’s Master of the Horse (an office Robert had held from the second day of the reign, 18 November 1558).

The portrait also has a pair of Ionic columns in the background; they were possibly intended to symbolize the Pillars of Hercules, the emblem of the Emperor Charles V. Robert Dudley’s left arm rests on a chair upholstered in red velvet, and he is holding a pair of gloves in his left hand. Both the pillars and the dog looking up to his master, perhaps even the red chair, art connoisseurs could associate with the iconography of Charles V, as the Imperial portraits were well-known at the time (through copies, but mostly through woodcuts and prints).

Robert Dudley was raised to be Earl of Leicester on 29 September 1564 and on this occasion a coronet was added to the coat of arms representing his membership in the Order of the Garter, on the right. The other coat of arms, on the left, was only added later, in 1566, after Robert Dudley had also become a member of the prestigious French Order of St. Michael. The Order of St. Michael had been founded in 1469 as a French counterpart to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece and the English Order of the Garter.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

Karen Hearn (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, 1995.

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The Portraits of Robert Dudley (1)

Robert Dudley, c.1560

Apart from the queen herself, the most portrayed person of Elizabethan England was none other than Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. As the most often painted Englishman of his time, Leicester sat for a new portrait about every two years, which was really a lot. He started in about 1560, when the first known portrait can be dated (it is unlikely that he had ever have himself painted before).

The painting, which forms now part of the Wallace Collection, London, consists of a panel of wood with an inscription on its back, “AETATIS 28 156-“. The inscription, if correct, would mean that the portrait was executed when Robert Dudley was 28, which in turn would indicate a date between 24 June 1560 and 23 June 1561. His birth date has been a subject of speculation, due to William Camden’s claim that Elizabeth and Robert Dudley were born under the same star; but Robert himself makes clear in a letter that he was born on 24 June, although he regrettably forgot to mention the year. However, another likeness of his, a 1576 miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, gives his age as 44, so 1532 is likely the year of his birth.

In the portrait, Robert Dudley proudly displays his Garter chain with his “George” (he had recieved the order in 1559), and his hand rests on his helmet, indicating his military achievements (he had served as Master of the Ordnance in King Philip’s expedition to France in 1557).

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

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Handkerchiefs and Tennis

On 31 March 1565, the English ambassador in Scotland reported to the former English ambassador in France an incident that had (probably) occurred at Hampton Court. He had heard it from the Earl of Atholl, a grandee at the court of Mary Queen of Scots. Thomas Randolph, the ambassador in Edinburgh, described a scene between the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth I, and the Duke of Norfolk:

That early the Duke’s grace and my lord of Leicester were playing at tennis, the Queen beholding of them, and my Lord Robert being hot and sweating took the Queen’s napkin out of her hand and wiped his face, which the duke seeing said that he was too saucy, and swore that he would lay his racket upon his face; whereup rose a great trouble and the Queen offended sore with the Duke.

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. He has got a handkerchief in his purse.

Since a nobleman in Scotland had told him what had happened in an English tennis court (as opposed to a courier from England), Randolph concluded that “What is most secret among you is so soon at this Queen’s ears, that some would think it should be out of the Privy Chamber door where you are.”

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He has the same kind of purse hanging from his belt as Norfolk, with handkerchief.

In fact, nothing about this incident has survived in any other source than Randolph’s letter to Throckmorton (who was at that time at the English court). Still, this story has often been cited as evidence of both Elizabeth’s intimacy with Dudley and Norfolk’s enmity with him (although they were friends enough to play tennis). Leicester also stayed at Norfolk’s house in 1567 and Norfolk came upon him while Leicester was fishing in the Thames in 1569.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, with purse and handkerchief

Kendall, Alan (1980): Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Cassell.
Williams, Neville (1964): Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk. Barrie & Rockliff.

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Did Good Queen Bess Kill More People for Religion than Bloody Mary?

Did Mary I kill fewer people because of religion than Elizabeth I? – The short answer is no.

I have seen many claims over the last few years on the internet that Mary I executed fewer people on grounds of religion than Henry VIII and/or Elizabeth I, or even Edward VI. I thought this to be an alarming trend, as my gut feeling told me this couldn’t be true; from reading several books it seemed to me that Mary executed a good deal more people than either Henry VIII or Elizabeth. I decided to count the beans (as best as I could) and here is the result, as derived from Wikipedia’s

List of Protestant martyrs of the English Reformation


List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation

Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, a leader of the great northern rebellion of 1570. Executed at York in 1572, he was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.

The Wikipedia list of persecuted Protestants is entirely based on John Foxe’s famous Book of Martyrs for the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. The Wikipedia list of Catholic martyrs during the English Reformation enumerates people who died because of their faith between the reigns of Henry VIII and Charles II, according to the statistics of the Catholic Church. I have here included only the persons persecuted under the Tudors (until 1603).

I didn’t count in Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, executed in York 1572 for his leading part in the Northern Rebellion and beatified in 1895. Neither did I count in Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, executed for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554; though his story is related in Foxe’s book, he is not listed by historians as a victim of religious persecution. A handful of other political rebels later beatified are included in the list of Elizabeth’s victims, though. This list, unlike the Foxe list, also includes many people who died while incarcerated for their faith.

Henry VIII:
4 Lollards
63 Protestants
65 Catholics
Total 132

Edward VI:
2 Protestants (“Anabaptists”)
Total 2

Mary I:
284 Protestants
Total 284

Elizabeth I:
6 Protestants (“Puritans”)
184 Catholics
Total 190

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Sir Clements Markham on John Dudley

Sir Clements Markham (1830–1916) was Secretary and later President of the Royal Geographical Society, a sailor, explorer and geographer, but also a prolific author and translator. Friends of Richard III will always love him for his 1906 biography, Richard III: His Life & Character, in which, as one reviewer wrote at the time, “he has done something to clear the character of an unhappy king”. Oddly enough, the one other monarch Markham wrote a book about was the boy king, Edward VI.

Bust of Sir Clements Markham at the Royal Geographical Society. Photo by Geographer CC BY-SA 3.0

Markham, who had travelled widely in Peru where he researched the history of the Incas, also edited and translated many volumes of original Spanish reports for the Hakluyt Society, whose president he became after his time as President of the Royal Geographical Society. Markham’s work for the Hakluyt Society’s early text editions ranged from Early Spanish Voyages to the Straits of Magellan to the Embassy of Ruy González de Clavijo at the Court of Timour at Samarcand, 1403–1406.

He also translated a Spanish novel, first printed at Burgos in 1554, by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a Spanish intellectual and diplomat from an illustrious family of magnates. While staying in Venice as the Emperor Charles V’s ambassador, Mendoza was even portrayed by the great Titian. As it happens, the same Diego de Mendoza also became Guildford Dudley’s godfather on his stay in England in 1537/1538. In 1553, Mendoza congratulated Guildford on becoming king.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, by Titian

The book Markham translated was The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. It relates the adventures of a boy who starts life as a beggar, one chapter being entitled: “Success of the poor should be a lesson to the rich”. There were no less than two translations in Elizabethan England, and the book turned out very popular.

In his biography, King Edward VI: His Life & Character, Clements Markham observed that

THE reign of King Edward VI. in our histories is the reign of Somerset and the reign of Northumberland, not the reign of Edward, who is left in the background, quite overshadowed by less noteworthy personages. The result of my studies has been the conviction that the young King was by no means a cypher.

Nevertheless, and very remarkably for the time he wrote, Markham believed that Northumberland had been unfairly treated by historians:

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, translated by Clements Markham

JOHN DUDLEY, Baron de Somerie, Viscount Lisle, Earl of Warwick, and Duke of Northumberland, was a man of mark. He guided the destinies of England for three years and eight months. It was the happiest period of King Edward’s short life, and an advancing time for the country. The work done was destroyed by Mary for a time, but only for a time. Yet hitherto historians have dealt out nothing but abuse to this remarkable and very able man. He may have committed many faults in the last three years of his life. He was brought up in a bad school. He was as rapacious as Somerset. But, as has truly been said of the Emperor Tiberius, a man does not live to the verge of old age in high repute, and then suddenly become a monster without a redeeming virtue. This is the picture history draws of John Dudley. It conveys a false impression.

Clements Markham was also sympathetic towards Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in his book, The Fighting Veres, about two notable soldiers of the de Vere family who fought in the Dutch war of independence.

You can find the books by Clements Markham at or google books.

Wikipedia: Clements Markham

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The Sieur de Vieilleville’s Memoirs – A 16th Century Fake?

The French ambassadors, who in early 1547 observed the strange habits of the English when serving their monarch at table and spoke to a mysterious but very outspoken English nobleman, were led by François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville, who later became also Marshal of France. François de Scépeaux’s grandfather served as chamberlain to Charles VIII, and he himself was raised in the household of Louise of Savoy, the mother of Francis I. With his king he served in the Battle of Pavia in 1525, and many other military feats followed.

Francois de Scepeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville, Marshal of France, by Francois Clouet, 1566

Early in Elizabeth I’s reign the Sieur de Vieilleville made another diplomatic trip to England, trying unsuccessfully to dissuade her from sending help to the French Protestants. He was greatly trusted by King Charles IX, who employed him with the enforcement of several pacification edicts between Protestants and Catholics, a task to which Vieilleville was well-suited because of his moderation and desire for peace. The King of France visited him at least three times at his feudal castle of Durtal, and it was during such a royal visit that he died there in November 1571 – it was claimed by poison.

As we have seen in the two previous articles on this blog, François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville and Marshall of France, is supposed to have left memoirs; such memoirs were an extremely popular literary genre in France from the 16th right into the 19th century. Very often they were not actually written by the person whose life they purported to relate. In the case of the Sieur de Vieilleville’s memoirs they are believed to have been written by Vincent Carloix (1535–1571), secretary to the Sieur de Vieilleville.

The Jesuit Abbé Griffet prepared a printed edition in 1757, with a foreword and notes – however only 21 years later, in 1778, the Abbé Garnier (another Jesuit) expressed doubts about the veracity of some of Vieilleville’s adventures. In 1893 a third abbé, Father Ch. Marchand, published a book in which he demonstrated that many stories were simply fakes, taken directly out of other contemporary works about other war heroes. Whether such fakes also concerned Vieilleville’s diplomatic missions is hard to tell. Marchand accepted the facts “with caution”. The matter probably hinges on whether Carloix (Vieilleville’s secretary and an eye-witness) was actually the author at all.

Vieilleville’s colourful life as reported by the memoirs inspired a 19th century biography by Mme Goignet, which was published in English in 1887; the embassy to the court of Edward VI is missing from this account, though.

Anglophone historians have made use of Vieilleville’s “memoirs” in a few instances. The Lord Vartich of the memoires (the mysterious English courtier who gave a very long and detailed talk in French to the ambassadors) has been assumed to be the Earl of Warwick (John Dudley) by those authors who have made use of this episode. They are Hester Chapman (in 1958 and 1961) and Alison Weir (in 1996). Neither, though, has taken in account the whole story of the French embassy in England – not the weird report of Henry VIII’s love life, not the odd view of the English succession to the throne, not even the erroneous chronology.

Wikipedia: François de Scépeaux

Wikipedia: Vincent Carloix

Revue Historique Vol. 48, Janvier-Avril 1892, pp. 215-216

Some books making use of Carloix’s memoirs:
C. Coignet: A Gentleman of Olden Time (1887)
Hester Chapman: Edward VI: The Last Tudor King (1958)
Hester Chapman: Lady Jane Grey (1961)
W.K. Jordan: Edward VI: The Young King (1968)
Alison Weir: The Children of England (1996)
Jennifer Loach: Edward VI (1999)

continued from:
How Henry VIII Got Rid of His Wives

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