Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Mary Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk (1540-1557) Eighteenth Century

 English School 

Mary Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk (1540-1557),  English School
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Oil on Panel
18th Century
17 x 13¼ inches
 
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Since recently, this painting has been mistakenly considered to be a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, aged 16; arguably this understanding was directed by the jewelled crucifix around her neck – something which is so frequently present in other portraits of Queen Mary and paramount in her iconography.

However, this is in fact a depiction of Mary Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk. Her clothing, with the white lace ruffles, red velvet and triangular head dress are almost identical in the Hans Eworth’s full figure portrait of Mary Fitzalan, painted in 1555, not to mention the clear similarities in their facial expressions. One must conclude that this portrait of Mary is a copy, or rather, a segment in response to Eworth’s portrait.
Mary Fitzalan, born 1540, was the youngest daughter of Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel and his first wife Lady Catherine Grey. Her only brother had predeceased her which meant she and her elder sister, Jane Fitzalan were co-heiresses to the earldom of her father and later led to the merge of the Arundel earldom into the dukedom of Norfolk. Mary received an excellent education; in fact, several of her translations from Greek to Latin have been preserved, which she wrote out in a singularly beautiful Italic hand.
At the age of fifteen she married Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk. Theirs was the great social event of the spring of 1555 - 'all the Council being busy' over Norfolk's wedding, the business of government slowed to a standstill. In 1557, she gave birth to son Phillip who was christened four days later at Whitehall Palace, by Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor. The two god-fathers, Felipe of Spain, after whom the boy was named, and the Earl of Arundel, his grandfather, were present in person for the ceremony.
The Duchess never recovered from his birth. She lingered for eight weeks, but never left her bed, until Duchess Mary died, a young girl of seventeen. Bonner, Bishop of London, and the last Abbot of Westminster together conducted the funeral service, where twelve dozen torches were lit, while the choir of St Paul's sang. She was by all accounts, a sweet-natured and pious girl. 'All who knew her could not but love and esteem her much'.
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