Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) 

 English School 

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603),  English School
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Oil on Panel
16th Century
77¼ by 55¼ inches, 196 by 140 cm
 
Provenance:
By descent through the Hampden family and the Earls of Buckinghamshire at Hampden House (Bucks.)
Literature:
J.B. Burke, A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain, 1852, Vol. I, p. 186; James Sheahan, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, 1862, p.145; F. O'Donoghue, A Drescriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, 1894, no.9; Alison Uttley, Buckinghamshire, 1950, p.198; R. Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, 1963, p. 57, no. 15; R. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, text volume, p. 110; R. Strong, Gloriana, 1987, p.61
To view portraits of Elizabeth I for sale, please visit the Tudor and Stuart portraits at Philip Mould.

This picture is unique in the portraiture of Elizabeth I; it is the only image of the ‘Virgin Queen’ that alludes to her becoming a wife and a mother. The background to the right of the portrait, a brilliantly painted array of foliage, fruit and flowers (perhaps the first serious attempt at still life in England), portrays the Queen as fertile and ready for marriage. The portrait was most likely painted in the early 1560s, when Elizabeth was forced to address the issue of her marriage during the first serious test of her reign – the succession crisis of 1562/3. It is the only surviving visual record of the moment when Elizabeth’s hand in marriage was sought as the greatest prize in Europe, and is the earliest individual full-length of her. Formerly in the collection of the Earls of Buckinghamshire at Hampden House (and until recently hanging in Aylesbury courthouse) the picture has been little known, and has not been reproduced in any of the modern literature on either Elizabeth or Tudor portraiture. Its reappearance and recent conservation raises new questions about Elizabeth’s celebrated determination never to marry, and casts new light on Elizabethan portraiture.

The Hampden portrait is probably the first quality likeness of Elizabeth as Queen. It stands in contrast to Elizabeth’s earlier portraiture, which, aside from the celebrated portrait of her as a princess in the Royal Collection, is markedly plain when compared to the pictures of her siblings Edward VI and Mary I, who sat regularly to distinguished painters. It seems that on Elizabeth’s accession little was done to secure the services of an artist able to produce royal portraits to the standard comparable to those earlier in the century, with the possible exception being the ‘Coronation’ portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London (this picture has long been thought to be a later copy of c.1600, but it may well be contemporary). This is surprising, since there were talented candidates of the calibre of Hans Eworth. Eworth had painted Mary frequently [for example, Society of Antiquaries, London], but is not known to have painted Elizabeth. He may have been too closely associated with the Marian regime for the new Queen’s liking. In 1563 it was said that Elizabeth 'hath been always of her own disposition unwilling' for anyone 'to take the natural representation her majesty'.

The earliest portraits of Elizabeth as Queen, such as the accession portraits of c.1558 [see Catalogue entry no.1], are testament to the Queen's initial aesthetic indifference to her image at her accession. There were other more pressing matters, such as the war with France inherited from Mary I and a new religious settlement. But five years into the reign, in December 1563, the Privy Council turned its attention to the relatively poor quality of Elizabeth’s portraiture, 'which did nothinge resemble' her, and took steps to stop production of such images. A proclamation was drawn up forbidding reproductions of the Queen’s portrait until 'some speciall person' had been selected to paint an approved likeness, which 'after finished, her majesty will content that all other painters or gravers' could then copy. The Hampden portrait not only presents the Queen at her most ‘official’ (in front of the royal coat of arms, a cloth of state and the throne), but was replicated in a number of highly finished smaller examples in just the way envisaged by the privy council. Sir Roy Strong has designated this group of pictures the Barrington Park type, after a high-quality version formerly in that collection. It is tempting to assume that the artist who painted them or oversaw their production was the ‘speciall person’ the council had in mind.

The rich complexity of the iconography in the Hampden portrait is not perhaps immediately apparent. What the viewer first notices is a potent image of Elizabeth. The gold background projects the Queen out of the picture and its frame. The quantity of gold used exceeds the amount known in any other English portrait from the period. To a Tudor audience the visual effect must have been stunning, despite their familiarity with depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints in altarpieces. In its illusionism the picture probably attempted to rival Hans Holbein's mural in the Privy Chamber at Whitehall which presumably inspired the artist in composing it. The picture shares another distinctive feature with the mural, most noticeably a low view point. This suggests that the original location was known in advance to the artist. Unfortunately, the picture affords no clue as to its original location. It could have been Whitehall, or equally well the Picture Gallery at St James's, or another royal palace. The fact that the picture was meant to be seen from a distance as well as close by suggests that it once hung at the end of a gallery, which the viewer would have advanced along.

As with so many Tudor royal portraits, the Hampden picture is a feast of symbolism. Many apparently small details in the picture would have been immediately apparent to the Tudor viewer. For example, in her right hand Elizabeth holds a carnation. In Greek, a carnation is dianthus which means the love of God. The carnation was an attribute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here it alludes to Elizabeth being the Handmaid of God and the Queen of Heaven (England). She was not only Queen but the supreme governor of the Church of England, which she had re-established in 1559 on breaking with Catholicism. At first sight, to our modern eyes, such allusions may appear sacrilegious. But whoever saw the portrait in the 1560s, in the years following the new Church Settlement, whether Catholic or Protestant, the subtlety of the allusions would have been instantly recognisable. The carnation had other resonances. It was also a symbol of love and betrothal, and can be interpreted here as a public declaration of the Queen's intention to marry.

Another small but important detail is the armillary, or celestial, sphere that hangs at the end of a string of large pearls hanging from the Queen's waist. The armillary sphere was a device much in favour in the sixteenth century but none of the contemporary handbooks explaining the significance of such devices include it. The device recurs in portraits of Elizabeth and her courtiers throughout her reign. The inclusion of an armillary sphere in the Hampden portrait is the first such example. It is thought to refer to the harmony which the Queen by her uprightness and wisdom has brought, and will continue to bring, to the kingdom: the religious settlement, the ending of the war with France inherited from her sister Mary I, and, perhaps by her marriage and child-bearing, a settled succession.

However, the most obviously symbolic area of the picture is the background to the right of Elizabeth. This is a prominent allusion to the Queen’s marriage potential, and shows a decorated tapestry of the type seen in Tudor royal palaces. Here the flowers, such as the honeysuckle, and some of the fruit are carefully arranged in pairs, and indicate the Queen’s willingness to get married, while elsewhere in the tapestry we see ripened fruit, such as an open pomegranate, and even vegetables such as peas about to burst out from their pod, all of which are obvious symbols to the Queen’s ability to bear children.

Such a symbolically laden portrait must have been commissioned with some specific diplomatic or political purpose in mind. Here we should look to the period early in Elizabeth’s reign, when marriage was one of the most important decisions that faced her.

When Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558 the universal expectation was that she would marry. As David Starkey has put it, she 'felt that her queenship was defective without a king'. An amusing letter written by Baron Breuner in 1559 to the Emperor Ferdinand II describes Elizabeth as: 'somewhat dejected. She told me that she was daily pestered with petitions from her subjects desiring her for her honour’s sake and for the welfare of her Kingdom … to marry'. Elizabeth was not only a woman, but the last of the Tudor line. This was also the time of John Knox, and his infamous Blast against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. A well-negotiated marriage, therefore, was seen as crucial to cement her hold on the throne.

History, however, tells us that Elizabeth was famously averse to the idea of marriage. Early in 1559 the new Queen told Members of Parliament that she had no wish to marry. She preferred to remain in 'the kind of life in which I live'. She would never marry against the kingdom's interest. Even so, she entertained, at least diplomatically, numerous suitors from England and abroad. 'Here is a great resort of wooers and controversy among lovers', wrote Sir William Cecil in October 1559 . Philip II of Spain, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, even suggested himself, but Elizabeth declined, reminding him that he was ‘a heretic’. The suits of two of the Emperor Ferdinand II’s sons, Archdukes Ferdinand and Charles, while earnestly promoted by Secretary Cecil, also foundered on the question of religion. The most persistent foreigner was Erik XIV of Sweden, who promised endless riches and protested his love for Elizabeth. He wrote extravagant love letters, signing them 'Your Serenity’s most loving Eric'. His suit was somewhat diminished when it was found that the gold coins scattered freely in London by his embassy, in a bid to win public support, were fake.

Domestically, the Queen’s suitors were no less ardent. Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel, steward of the royal household until November 1564, had rank and family but little else to commend him. Sir William Pickering, a Yorkshire gentleman with experience as an ambassador, was briefly spoken of as a candidate for the Queen's hand. Pickering, at least, realised this to be groundless: the Queen 'would laugh at him and at all the rest of them as he knew she meant to die an old maid'. Very early in the reign, however, Lord Robert Dudley emerged as the only English candidate for Elizabeth’s hand. He was slightly older than her, but not by much. It was her affection for him that precipitated in part the succession crisis of 1562-3 – an episode to which the Hampden portrait is probably closely linked.

The grandson of Edmund Dudley, Henry VII's much hated minister and the son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Edward VI's minister who tried to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne in 1553, Lord Robert Dudley was viewed with great suspicion. Even so, he was undoubtedly Elizabeth’s favourite, and enjoyed enormous influence over her. Cecil ‘foresaw the ruin of the realm through Robert’s intimacy with the Queen, who surrendered all affairs to him, and meant to marry him’. As the master of the horse, he was a leading figure in the Elizabethan regime, not least the task of transporting the Queen’s enormous peripatetic court.

Rumours circulated that Dudley and Elizabeth would murder Dudley’s wife in order to marry. These were given some substance when in September 1561 Lady Dudley was found with a broken neck, dead at the foot of stairs in the house where she was staying. Everyone was aghast. Dudley was officially cleared of any involvement, but the timing and nature of the death dashed whatever hopes Dudley may have had of marrying Elizabeth. Mary, Queen of Scots commented sourly: ‘The Queen of England is going to marry her horsekeeper, who has killed his wife to make room for her’.

Even if Elizabeth had ever contemplated marriage with Dudley, the circumstances of his wife's death provided her with an excuse not to marry him. Though a Queen regnant, that is in her own right, her status would be much impaired by marrying one of her English subjects. She may have had an aversion to marriage arising from her own observations and experience of the licentiousness of the mid-Tudor court combined with her knowledge as she grew older of the circumstances of her own mother’s downfall. In July 1561 Elizabeth spoke in great ‘bitterness of the holy estate of matrimony’ to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. Parker was left ‘in a horror to hear her’. Cecil, ever perspicacious, accurately summarised her fears when he wrote: ‘how tickle a matter it is for princes to be provoked to determine their successors’.

And so Elizabeth continued, until in late 1562 she caught smallpox while at Hampton Court. Her condition deteriorated quickly, and within days she was in a coma and near death. The noted physician, Dr Burcot, was summoned, and, following the so-called ‘red treatment’ then used to combat smallpox, wrapped Elizabeth in a scarlet blanket and placed her near a fire. In a neighbouring room, Elizabeth’s key leading courtiers gathered with a sense of increasing panic.

Who would succeed the Queen if she died? Possible claimants were largely the descendants of Henry VIII’s two sisters, Margaret and Mary. Margaret had married James IV of Scotland, and her granddaughter was Mary, Queen of Scots (who already, in fact, called herself Queen of England as a result of Elizabeth’s ‘bastardy’). But the Scottish Queen was a Catholic and, since 1560, a widow who until then had not remarried. She could not have been less enticing to the English. The rival claim came through Mary Tudor’s descendants, the three Grey daughters of the Duke of Suffolk. The Grey’s were at least Protestants, but they were hardly monarch material, as Lady Jane had shown. After Jane came her two sisters, Katherine, an anorexic imprisoned in the Tower, and Mary, a dwarf. Finally, there was the wild card, Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, a Plantagenet descended from George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV and lover of malmsey wine. To Elizabeth’s courtiers, all the available options seemed problematic.

There would have been a complete power vacuum had Elizabeth died. To the anxious assembly at Hampton Court civil war may even have seemed likely. The country was still racked by conflicting religious affiliations, and each side of the divide would doubtless have backed rival claimants to the throne. Matters were made worse, however, when Elizabeth recovered consciousness, and declared that Dudley should be declared Protector, with a peerage and an income of £20,000. The Spanish ambassador, de Quadra, had once recorded that Dudley faced death threats, 'for not a man in the realm can suffer the idea of his being king'. Now, the prospect of Dudley standing as Protector beside an empty throne left his fellow courtiers in dismay.

After her recovery, therefore, Elizabeth was faced with mounting demands to choose a husband and a successor. At the service to mark the opening of parliament in January 1563, Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul’s, delivered a frank sermon to the Queen and the peerage on the virtue of marriage: ‘All the Queen’s most noble ancestors have commonly had some issue to succeed them’, he said, ‘but Her Majesty none … the want of your marriage and issue is like to prove a great plague.' He went on: 'If you parents had been of your mind, where had you been then?'

Such remarks bordered on the insulting, but for Elizabeth there was more to come. Not satisfied with her answers to an earlier petition, the House of Lords, echoing an earlier attempt by the Commons, requested again that she name an heir. Elizabeth was furious, and sent the deputation of peers away, assuring it that the marks on her face were smallpox scars, not wrinkles. As the parliamentary session carried on, however, Elizabeth seemed to be losing control of events. There were rumours that Mary, Queen of Scots might marry a husband hostile to England: Don Carlos of Spain had been mooted. To further complicate matters, her closest English heir, Catherine Grey, had secretly married the Earl of Hertford without consent from the Queen, and was busy mothering male heirs. Finally, as an added headache, the English expedition to Normandy, meant to aid the French Huguenots, was turning into a disaster.

In March 1563 Elizabeth suddenly, and seriously, declared to the Scottish ambassador, Sir James Maitland, that Mary, Queen of Scots, should marry Dudley. If Mary did so, Elizabeth would recognise her as her heir. The idea was a brilliant one, for it presented at one stroke a solution to the issue of her own succession, as well as the questions of Dudley’s influence and Mary’s future husband.

It was, however, still then an idea, and could not be made public. So, faced with growing discontent in parliament, Elizabeth gave a full reply to the petitions she had received at Whitehall. The speech was given in the House of Lords on 10 April 1563, and was delivered by the Lord Keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon. It was written by Elizabeth herself, however, and her text, heavily amended, survives in the British Library. She went straight to the point:

‘…the two proceedings that you presented me, in many words expressed, contained these two things: my sortie in marriage, and of your cares the greatest, my succession, of which two the last I think is best be touched, and of the other a silent thought may serve, for I had thought it had been so desired as none other tree's blossoms should have been minded or hope of my fruit had been denied you.’

Having side-stepped the question of naming a successor by ridiculing the belief that she would not yet produce her own heirs, Elizabeth touched on the question of marriage: 'if any here doubt that I am, as it were, by vow or determination bent never to trade that life [i.e., marriage], put out that heresy; your belief is awry'. She concluded by confirming that ‘I hope I shall die in quiet with nunc dimittis; which can not be without I see some climpse [glimpse] of your following surety after my graved bones [i.e., death]’. It was Elizabeth’s most emphatic public indication that she would marry and produce an heir.

There are compelling reasons to link the Hampden portrait with the moment of Elizabeth’s speech and the sentiments in it. The tapestry in the background alludes to Elizabeth’s own representation of herself as a tree ready to bear fruit, while the pairing of the fruit and flowers relate to her promise to marry. The portrait also appears to present Elizabeth in the Parliament Chamber, or at the very least to allude to it. The throne, with its finials and cross-braced design, is strikingly like those seen in other representations of parliament in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and differs in turn from those with their multi-coloured cloths of estate and canopies found elsewhere in Whitehall and other royal palaces. We know too that the throne in the Parliament Chamber was not only gold, but was covered with cushions of cloth of gold, as seen in the Hampden portrait. The cloth of state seen here behind the throne also fits the description of a German visitor, Lupold von Wedel, who in 1584 witnessed Elizabeth entering a 'chamber, on the platform of which was a splendid canopy of golden stuff and velvet, embroidered with gold, silver, and pearls, and below it a throne on which the queen seated herself'. Finally, we know from Sir Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum of 1565 that the Parliament Chamber was 'richly tapessed and hanged’, as also seen here.

Whilst the costume seen here is not what Elizabeth would have worn to attend parliament, it does appear to echo the emphasis of her speech. She is portrayed everywhere in red and white. The colour combination is highly significant. In choosing a dress of these colours Elizabeth was alluding to the union of the house of Lancaster (the red rose) with the house of York (the white rose), which had been achieved by the marriage of her grandparents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth was the living fruit of this union, and the prominence of the Tudor colours here shows her commitment to producing her own Tudor heirs. This theme is also taken up by the red and white roses interlinked in the collar that she wears at her neck.

The overall impression given by Elizabeth's garments and her accessories is one of rich, but restrained, elegance. This contrasts strikingly with the pieces worn by her later in life. Their relative simplicity suggests a taste shared in common with her elder sister, Mary I, and with Mary's court, of which Elizabeth was, of course, an occasional member. It also suggests that the image of Elizabeth that has come down to us from the early years of her reign, was, notwithstanding the occasional poor quality of its reproduction, reasonably faithful to the subject.

Unfortunately, neither the wardrobe accounts nor the lists of her jewels extant from this period refer specifically to any of the items worn by Elizabeth in the Hampden portrait. Although no garments known to have been made for the Queens fit precisely with what she is wearing in the portrait, they are like those that she ordered and wore in the opening years of her reign. One of her costume makers, Walter Fish, made a number of gowns in russet velvet that were decorated extensively with pinking, with 'pulled out' or 'tuffed' sarsenet and with guards in both the French and Flemish style. The use of red textiles for garments was restricted to the monarch and the monarch's immediate family, the peerage and certain officials in the royal household.

Historians are divided as to Elizabeth’s sincerity in her publicly declared intention to marry. Certainly, her resolve to remain the ‘Virgin Queen’ becomes ever more apparent soon afterwards. But in the early 1560s Elizabeth went to great lengths to convince her closest advisers that she would indeed marry. The Hampden portrait would therefore have been the perfect visual reminder of Elizabeth’s statement in the Lords, and would have continued to remind those anxious Members of Parliament of Elizabeth’s intention after the speech, when the matter continued to be the subject of intense debate for months, much the Queen’s annoyance. The portrait would also have acted as a riposte to the rumours that Elizabeth was sterile, which are found scattered amongst the diplomatic correspondence of the period as the only possible explanation for the lack of a husband.

Unfortunately, we know nothing of the picture’s early provenance. Unlike the extant inventories of Henry VIII and Edward VI, the records of Elizabeth’s possessions are meagre. There are also few surviving household accounts, and almost nothing that covers the period in which the Hampden portrait was painted. We can surmise, however, that the portrait became politically obsolete soon after completion. Elizabeth’s determination not to marry, fully apparent by the late 1560s after the collapse of negotiations with Archduke Charles, would have rendered the portrait an embarrassment.

The first certain trace of the picture so far discovered dates from the mid nineteenth century when it was in the collection of the Earls of Buckinghamshire at Hampden House (Bucks.). In 1852 J.B. Burke noted 'portraits of Queen Mary and her sister Elizabeth one of them supposed to be meant for Mary Queen of Scots'. The portrait of Elizabeth may be identifiable with one mentioned as being in the house in 1887. Another account describes a portrait of 'Queen Mary, with the Royal arms near her; and Queen Elizabeth in crimson robes lined with ermine'. Elizabeth wears no ermine in the present picture, but the description could relate to another portrait of Elizabeth recorded at Hampden in an inventory of 1887. An 1862 account mentions a portrait of a ‘lady in a chair of state, conjectured to be Mary Queen of Scots’, but also decries the fact that ‘many of the numerous family pictures of the Hampdens have neither names, dates nor coats of arms annexed to them, by which they might be known.’ There was clearly considerable confusion amongst the pictures in the house.

Any attempt at pinning down the picture’s earlier history is therefore problematic. Only three contemporary large full-lengths of Elizabeth survive, the Hampden picture, and two others painted towards the end of the reign; the Ditchley portrait of c.1592, now in the National Portrait Gallery, and the c.1599 Hardwick portrait at Hardwick Hall. While there were undoubtedly others now destroyed or cut-down, it may be worth seeking references to earlier full-lengths of the Queen.

Lord Robert Dudley owned at least two full-lengths of the Queen. The pair hung at Kenilworth Castle, and they are listed there in two inventories compiled compiled before Leicester's death in 1588, in about 1578. Among the earl's possessions were ‘two greate tables of the quenes maiesties pictures with one curteine of chaungeable silk'. One of these was almost certainly a full-length of Elizabeth by Frederigo Zuccaro, painted in 1575, now lost, but for which a drawing survives in the British Museum. In an article in the Burlington Magazine in 2005, Elizabeth Goldring suggested that Dudley’s other portrait may have been a picture now in Reading Museum, on the basis of similarities between a costume worn by Elizabeth and one given to her by Leicester. But beyond the fabric used, the description of the doublet of white satin 'garnished with goldesmithes work enamuledd, every payre sett with fyue Dyammondes and Eight Rubyes, one Dyamond in euery paire bigger than the rest ... with a fayre passamyne lace of Damaske golde and Damaske lace' given by the Earl to the Queen as a New Year's gift in 1575, does not in fact tally with the doublet in the Reading picture. Goldring was unable to ascertain if the three-quarter length at Reading has been cut down, and in its present condition it seems to be a mediocre work.

Goldring may have been unaware of the Hampden picture. Since it is the only extant full-length painted early enough to tally with the Kenilworth inventory it must be a candidate to be Dudley’s second ‘greate table’. Here it may be worth examining the prominent but iconographically curious arrangement of oak leaves around the red rose on Elizabeth’s left shoulder. The placing of oak leaves in place of rose leaves must be symbolically important. One interpretation is that it attests to the strength of love, the rose being love and the oak leaves being strength. But in other portraits of the Queen, such as the Ditchley portrait and the ‘Pelican Portrait’ [National Museums Liverpool], a similar red or pink rose is always surrounded by rose leaves. And in the Hampden portrait we cannot be sure that Elizabeth’s ‘love’ is directed at any one individual. We may therefore need to seek another interpretation for the oak leaves, not least because further inspection reveals that they appear to be painted in a different, weaker hand than the foliage in the tapestry, and are very obviously placed on top of the red dress. Paint analysis suggests that while the oak leaves are contemporaneous with the rest of the picture, they do seem to be painted in a different type of green pigment; the green in the foliage in the tapestry (a sample was taken from the pea, centre) is made up of a copper glaze of darker green, with a lighter mixed green on top composed of lead tinyellow and a greenish blue. The green in the oak leaves, however, is made of an azurite (ground glass) mixed with lead tinyellow. The other figure to make use of oak as a symbolic badge was Robert Dudley. An inscription made by the Dudleys during their imprisonment in the Tower of London after the Lady Jane Grey debacle alludes to Robert as oak leaves and acorns; the symbolism derived from the similarities to Robert and the Latin for oak, Robur. Could it be, therefore, that the oak leaves were an addition by Dudley, and that the Hampden picture belonged to him at Kenilworth after it ceased to be politically appropriate for public display? Such a hypothesis may be strengthened by the presence of a portrait of Dudley that is strikingly similar to the Hampden picture in composition, technique and date [Private Collection, reproduced in K. Hearn ed., Dynasties, p. 97]. If the idea of Dudley placing his personal badge on Elizabeth’s portrait seems sacrilegious, then one need only look at the numerous instances of similarly playful behaviour between him and the Queen. In 1564 Elizabeth granted Dudley the Earldom of Leicester, along with significant royal lands, including Kenilworth.

Almost the only other early reference to a full length of Elizabeth I is that seen in Somerset House in 1613 by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his entourage. This is identifiable with a picture from the Cross Gallery there sold in the sale of Charles I’s collection during the Interregnum: a ‘Queene Elezebeth. at Length’. George Vertue noted the sale but without giving any details about the picture. It may, or may not, have been one of those that belonged to Dudley, given that much of his property reverted to the crown soon after his death. The picture fetched £15. It was not among the items dispersed under the Commonwealth which re-entered the royal collection at Charles II's restoration. As it had hung at Somerset House, which was assigned successively to Queen Anne of Denmark and Queen Henrietta Maria, the wives respectively of James I and Charles I, it was not mentioned in the inventory of Charles I's collection compiled by Abraham van der Doort in 1638-9. None of these references so far discovered give any measurements.

The Hampden picture has been attributed for some time, and with general acceptance, to the Dutch artist Stephen van der Meulen. It is clearly painted in the well established Anglo-Flemish tradition, and follows on from the style practiced most recently in England by Anthonis Mor. Moreover, the apparent arrival of van der Meulen in England coincides with the production of a number of high-quality portraits of Elizabeth and some of her courtiers by a quite distinctive Flemish hand, which can be dated from the early 1560s onwards.
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