I’ve been busily working on a number of projects this month – everything from talks to book proposals! From 16 -25 April I’ll be away on Alison Weir Tours Richard III tour, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ll be starting in London, and travelling as far north as the beautiful city of York – there are lots of historical treats in store!
One of the things I’ve been studying lately is Tudor portraiture. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to talk a little more about one of my favourite paintings.
The Family of Henry VIII: An Allegory of the Tudor Succession. Lucas de Heere (1534-1584).
Now in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, Lucas de Heere’s masterpiece is one of the most iconic paintings of the Tudor era.
The painting, completed in the early 1570s by the Flemish artist, was commissioned by Elizabeth I and given by the Queen to Sir Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth is the central figure, and the painting exemplifies the prosperity England had enjoyed through her rule. This is highlighted by the fact that the Queen can be seen on the right, holding the hand of Peace followed by Plenty.
Elizabeth’s prominent celebratory appearance in the painting is in direct contrast to that of her half-sister and predecessor, Mary I, and her husband, Philip II of Spain, who appear on the left. Standing behind the couple is Mars, the God of War, who signifies the wars in which the couple became embroiled.
The central figure is Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, who sits enthroned, and passes the sword of justice to his son, Edward VI. The painting exemplifies the Queen’s vision of herself as the culmination of the Tudor dynasty and her concern with the legitimacy of her regime. This is further highlighted by the inscription around the frame, which partially reads as follows (in modern English):
FOUR STATES WITH THEIR CONDITIONS HERE SHADOWED IN. A SHOW A FATHER MORE THAN VALIANT. A RARE AND VIRTUOUS SON. A ZEALOUS DAUGHTER IN HER KIND WHAT ELSE THE WORLD DOTH KNOW. AND LAST OF ALL A VIRGIN QUEEN TO ENGLAND’S JOY WE SEE SUCCESSFULLY TO HOLD THE RIGHT, AND VIRTUES OF THE THREE.