Lady Jane Grey Revealed (?) - The Syon House Portrait
The following is the full text of the first report submitted to His Grace the Duke of Northumberland following my visit to Syon House in August 2010. Subsequent research and data collection have entirely altered the conclusiosn presented here. This original report is included here principally as a demonstration of the fluid nature of historical research and writing, and of how theories change as new evidence is amassed.


Lady Jane Grey
by unknown artist

Collection of the Duke of Northumberland
Syon House, Middlesex, UK
(Click anywhere on image above to open larger version in new window)

     Among the twenty five monarchs that have ruled England since 1500, authentic portraits are known for all but one: Lady Jane Grey Dudley, the ‘Nine-Days Queen’ of 1553. Various collectors, curators, antiquarians, art dealers, and historians have put forward a multitude of candidate paintings over the centuries, but to date none have been reliably documented as genuine likenesses.[1] Yet a portrait that was certainly an authentic likeness was recorded in 1566. That portrait has been ‘hiding in plain sight’ since first coming to public attention in 1748 through an engraving by George Vertue. But it has remained largely overlooked until the middle of the twentieth century, when it was re-identified as a portrait of Elizabeth Tudor. The portrait, in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House, can now be restored to its original identification as an authentic likeness of Lady Jane Grey.

     The Syon House Portrait is actually one among a group of very similar but not identical portraits, each of which was long identified as Lady Jane Grey. Writing in 1963 on the iconography of Elizabeth I, Roy Strong listed two in addition to the Syon picture, all three of which he tentatively re-identified as portraits of Elizabeth created before 1558.[2] The first depicts what appears to be the same sitter, but with her hands held before her clutching a pair of gloves (below, left). It was acquired by John Pierpont Morgan in the nineteenth century and presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) in 1917. The MMA de-accessioned the picture in 1956, and by 1960 it was with Berry-Hill Galleries of New York.[3] Its current location is unknown. The second was also in New York in 1960 in the possession of author Gardner Soule. Strong did not include a photograph of that painting, and its precise appearance, provenance, and current whereabouts are likewise not known.
     Strong based his re-identification of the Syon, Berry-Hill, and Soule pictures largely on comparison of the costume seen in all three to similar outfits worn by Elizabeth Tudor in several of her early portraits.[4] In the first years of her reign, Elizabeth was indeed repeatedly depicted her wearing black trimmed in ermine, together with a gold-edged ruff.[5] In at least one instance, known as the Clopton portrait (above, right), the identity of the sitter is authenticated by means of an inscription indicating that she is ‘Elizabethe Regina’.[6] But in each of those several portraits, she is also wearing larger, more numerous, and more costly jewels than the lady in the Syon portrait. In only one instance is Elizabeth seen wearing black without significant jewelry, and that is in the Boughton portrait of Henry VIII together with his three children.[7] In that image, a seventeenth-century copy of a lost original, Elizabeth’s black coat is accented by a thick white fur collar, and white fur is visible at the front closure and side seams of the coat, but no jewels are evident.

     A limited similarity of costume is insufficient for declaring two separate sitters to be the same individual. Such similarities can be explained by any number of means, not least of which is prevailing fashion. One often sees in early- and mid-Tudor portraiture women of no relation to each other wearing gowns of similar cut, color, and design. Additionally, women of lesser status are well known to have emulated their social superiors in matters of fashion. The same is no less true of Lady Jane Grey, who reportedly followed Princess Elizabeth’s lead in selection of attire. Jane’s tutor, John Aylmer, recalled in 1559 an incident from his pupil’s youth involving Elizabeth and clothing. Presented with a gift of luxurious fabric from Princess Mary, Jane reportedly declined to have dresses made from it, noting that it would be ‘a shame to followe my lady Mary against Gods woorde, and leave my lady Elyzabethe, whiche foloweth Gods woorde’.[8] Thus Jane was not alone in wearing black coats trimmed in ermine and in sometimes eschewing fine jewels. She was instead following what amounted to a ‘fashion trend’ among her social peers. And the trend was a longstanding one, dating back over a decade. Jane’s own step-grandmother, Katherine Willoughby Brandon, was portrayed wearing a similar outfit in a miniature created by Hans Holbein sometime before his death in 1543.[9]

     Several physical features distinguish the lady in the Syon portrait, in particular, from Elizabeth as she is depicted in her early portraits. Whereas the Syon lady’s hair is auburn and straight, an eye-witness report from 1564 (before she began wearing wigs) describes Elizabeth’s hair as ‘reder then [y]ellow, curlit apparantly of nature’.[10] And though the color of the Syon sitter’s eyes is dark brown, young Elizabeth’s eye color varies with different portraits. They are brown in the famous portrait formerly attributed to Scrots and now in the Royal Collection, but bright blue in the Clopton portrait and in the miniature by Hilliard at the National Portrait Gallery, London.[11] Most critically, the Syon lady has a pronounced cleft in her chin, yet no such cleft is seen in any portrait of Elizabeth. Nor is the cleft evident in the Berry-Hill portrait. So although the ladies in the Syon and Berry-Hill portraits are slightly similar in appearance to Elizabeth Tudor, as one might expect between cousins, the differences — especially the cleft chin — are sufficient to eliminate Elizabeth as the sitter in at least the Syon portrait.

     A third portrait related to this group, apparently overlooked by Strong, is now exhibited at Audley End House, former home of the Barons Brayebrooke (below, left). An inscription over the background identifies the sitter as Lady Jane Grey.[12] The lady holds a closed book in her proper right hand at the level of her waist. The binding of the book displays the name ‘Plato’ in Greek lettering, an allusion to Jane’s famous scholastic achievements.[13] Since the inscription is in a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century hand and the picture itself is on canvas rather than board, it is likely that the Audley End picture was created later than the Syon portrait. The provenance for the Audley End painting is incomplete, indicating only that it came to Audley End from Billingbear (Berkshire), ancestral home of the Neville family, probably when Richard Griffin Neville succeeded as 3rd Baron Brayebrooke in 1825.[14] The painting is not noted in a detailed inventory taken of the contents of Billingbear in 1594, suggested that the Audley End picture entered the Neville collection after that date, probably as a seventeenth-century copy.[15]


Queen Jane Grey
by unknown artist
Probably seventeenth century
Oil on canvas
81 cm. x 71 cm.
Audley End House, Essex, UK
Katherine Grey Seymour
by unknown artist
Sixteenth Century
Oil on canvas
Round, 73.7 cm diameter
Syon House, Middlesex, UK
     Though the provenances of both the Berry-Hill and Soule ‘lost’ portraits are not known, the Syon portrait enters the historical record in 1674 through the will of Frances Devereux Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. It is one of just three portraits explicitly itemized in the Duchess’s will. In addition to the portrait of Lady Jane, the trio included a portrait of Jane’s younger sister Katherine Grey (above, right) and another of Arbella Stuart, first wife of the Duke of Somerset. The Duchess left all three pictures to her granddaughter, Frances Finch Thynne.[16]

     The younger Frances had married Thomas Thynne (1st Viscount Weymouth after 1682) in 1673, but their four children all predeceased them. When Frances, Lady Weymouth died in April 1712, her personal possessions devolved to her husband, who in turn died 28 July 1714. Lord Weymouth’s lengthy will is a problematic document, but in the main body of the original text dated 1709, Lady Weymouth was to have inherited ‘all the Pictures of her Family.’[17] As a direct descendant of the old Duchess of Somerset, this presumably included the pictures of Jane and Katherine Grey as well as the portrait of Arbella Stuart. But Lady Weymouth had predeceased her husband and left no will of her own, so that the paintings became the sole property of Lord Weymouth, who made no explicit provision for their further disposition. Lord Weymouth’s great-nephew inherited the Weymouth titles and the bulk of the estates, but he was not himself a descendant of the Seymour line and thus had no familial interest in the paintings. Since the portrait of Lady Jane is later documented in the Seymour family and conspicuously absent from the Weymouth records, it is apparent that Lord Weymouth honored the spirit of his benefactor’s original will and treated the pictures as though they had been Lady Weymouth’s dower property.[18] He transferred them to Lady Weymouth’s senior lineal heir, her granddaughter, also named Frances Thynne.[19]

     One year before Lord Weymouth’s death in 1714, this youngest Frances Thynne had married her cousin Algernon Seymour, son of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset and his first wife, Elizabeth Percy. The Somerset dukedom was at that time one of the wealthiest in England, owing to Elizabeth’s position as sole heir of Josceline Percy, 11th Duke of Northumberland. When Josceline died in 1670, he left his estates of Alnwick Castle, Petworth House, Northumberland House, and Syon House to an infant Elizabeth. She then brought them with her into the Seymour marriage, and upon her early death in 1722 they became part of the Seymour ducal patrimony. As the sole male heir of Charles Seymour and Elizabeth Percy Seymour, Algernon duly inherited the conjoined paternal Seymour and maternal Percy estates in 1748.

     Possession by Frances and Algernon Seymour of the portrait of Lady Jane Grey is confirmed during the first half of the eighteenth century by the antiquarian-engraver George Vertue. He visited Algernon Seymour in the late 1730s while touring great portrait collections in search of subjects for his engraving efforts. Vertue reports that Algernon sent to his country seat of Marlborough Castle to have a portrait of Lady Jane Grey specially shipped down for Vertue’s viewing pleasure. Algernon informed Vertue that the picture of Jane ‘was left there [Marlborough Castle], by the old Lady Dutchess of Somerset, who had lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and it had been preserved in that Noble Family to the present Time’.[20] Vertue’s engraving of the picture was first published in the early 1740s, but he later created a second, specially embellished engraving and dedicated it to Algernon in commemoration of the latter’s accession to the ducal title in 1748 (below).[21] The portrait image within the larger engraving matches quite closely the portrait now at Syon House.[22]

Lady Jane Dudley (nèe Grey)
by George Vertue, 1748
Line engraving
46.7 cm. by 56.4 cm.
National Portrait Gallery, London
     Seymour history then repeated itself, as Algernon died two years later leaving only one daughter, Elizabeth Seymour, as heir to his personal estate. As before, the duke’s titles and landed estates passed to a distant cousin, while his personal possessions went to his widow, Frances.[23] Upon Frances’s death in 1754, Elizabeth Seymour inherited both her father’s and her mother’s personal possessions, including the portraits of Jane and Katherine Grey and Arbella Stuart. Elizabeth also gained trusteeship over her mother’s real estate holdings, including Marlborough Castle and Syon House.[24]

     More than a decade before her parents’ deaths, Elizabeth had married Hugh Smithson, who took the surname Percy thereafter in honor of his wife’s maternal family. Hugh became Earl of Northumberland in right of his wife in 1748, and was subsequently created 1st Duke of Northumberland in his own right in 1766. The Percys resided primarily at Syon House, having little or no interest in Marlborough Castle. The portrait of Lady Jane was therefore removed to Syon when Marlborough Castle was rented out in 1750 for use as a coaching inn. The portrait is listed in an inventory compiled in the 1760s of Elizabeth, 1st Duchess of Northumberland’s collection of paintings, confirming its presence at Syon by that time.[25] It has remained in the collection of the Percy dukes of Northumberland ever since, and hangs today in the Print Room at Syon House.

          The precise provenance of the Syon picture prior to its mention in Frances Devereux Seymour’s will of 1674 is not fully documented, though it is almost certain that it came to her from either of two families, both of which held close personal connections to Lady Jane. It can reasonably be assumed that Frances acquired the painting herself from her husband William, as sole heiress to all his ‘goods chattells and other personall estate whatsoever’ upon his death late in 1660.[26] William Seymour was the son of Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache, the infant seen in the arms of Katherine Grey in her portrait. As such, William was the grandson of Katherine Grey Seymour and the grand-nephew of Lady Jane Grey. Because the Syon portrait of Jane was consistently bequeathed as one in a pair, together with the portrait of Katherine, it is entirely possible that the portrait of Jane originated with Katherine and was passed via her son to her grandson William, thence to his second wife Frances. This being the case, we clearly can assume that it was an authentic likeness, since Katherine was unlikely to have owned a portrait of her sister that did not actually resemble her.[27]

     Jane’s portrait may otherwise have originated with Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Hardwick. Indeed, this is the more likely of the two scenarios, since a portrait of Jane is actually documented in Bess’s custody little more than ten years after Jane’s death. Bess became a widow for the third time early in 1565, and in an apparent effort to determine her relative wealth, a thorough inventory of her possessions was soon compiled. That inventory noted among her many belongings scattered across several residences a painting of ‘my lady Jane.’[28] It hung in Bess’s private bedchamber at Chatsworth House, together with portraits of her second and third husbands. Though Bess had two sisters named Jane, neither were of sufficient rank themselves to be properly styled ‘my lady Jane’. Because Bess was on intimate terms with Jane Grey and her family, historian Gillian White has concluded that ‘my lady Jane’ was therefore Lady Jane Grey.[29]

     Bess had strong and lasting personal connections to the Grey family, including to Lady Jane herself. After becoming a first-time widow at age seventeen in December 1544, Bess served as a lady-in-waiting to Jane’s mother Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset. Bess was wedded to her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, in the chapel attached to the Grey family mansion of Bradgate in 1547.[30] Members of the Grey family thereafter stood godparent to five of Bess’s first six children, with Jane herself serving as godmother to Bess’s second child, Temperance.[31] Bess Hardwick thus assuredly knew what Jane Grey looked like in life, and is unlikely to have kept in so personal a space as her bedchamber any portrait of Jane that did not actually look like her. We can therefore deduce that the Chatsworth picture was an authentic portrait of Jane Grey.

     The Chatsworth portrait of Jane Grey does not appear on a second, meticulously-detailed inventory of Bess’s goods taken in 1601. Yet no fewer than fifty-two portraits are itemized in that later inventory, ranging from kings of England, Scotland, France and Spain to various of Bess’s relations to religious and mythological figures.[32] There is no firm documentation of the prior disposition of the portrait of Jane, but White concluded that Bess gave it to her granddaughter, Arbella Stuart, who preceded Frances Devereux as wife of William Seymour.[33] If this is indeed what transpired, the painting is rightly absent from Bess’s inventory of 1601 since it was no longer Bess’s property. Arbella’s personal goods held at Chatsworth were not inventoried in 1601, and no other inventory of her goods survives.

     White based her judgment that Bess gave the portrait to Arbella on evidence from Frances Devereux Seymour’s will of 1674, in which the portrait of Jane is mentioned together with a portrait of Arbella. But there is also strong contemporary evidence to support White’s claim. Arbella’s mother died in 1582, when Arbella was seven years of age. Arbella was thereafter raised by her grandmother Bess, primarily at Hardwick Hall. She was usually under close scrutiny during the anxious closing decade of the reign of Elizabeth I on account of her own strong claim to succeed Elizabeth.[34] Arbella was by blood second in her claim only to her cousin James VI of Scotland. And she was not without supporters, many of whom put forward the same arguments that had been used in relation to Jane Grey in 1553. The Jesuit Robert Parsons noted in A Conference About the Next Succession to the Crown of England (1595) that Arbella’s party preferred her over James because she
is an English woman, born in England, and of Parents who at the time of her Birth were of English Allegiance, wherein she goeth before the King of Scots, as hath been seen; as also in this other principal point, that by her admission no such inconvenience can be feared of bringing in strangers, or causing Troubles or Sedition within the Realm.[35]
In other words, Arbella’s xenophobic supporters feared James and his Scottish courtiers just as Jane’s supporters had feared Mary’s natural affinity for Spain and inclination toward a Spanish-born future husband.

     Parsons also noted that Arbella had her detractors as well. Some objected to the prospect of a third successive woman on the throne, ‘whereas in the space of above a thousand years before them, there hath not reigned so many of that Sex, neither together nor asunder’.[36] But of more immediate concern was Arbella’s English relations.
In respect of Alliance with the Nobility of England, she is a meer stranger; for that her Kindred is only in Scotland, and in England she hath only the Ca[ve]ndishes by her Mothers side; who being but a mean Family, might cause much grudging among the English Nobility, to see them so greatly advanced above the rest, as necessarily they must be, if this Woman of their Lineage should come to be Queen; which how the Nobility of England would b[e]ar, is hard to say.[37]
                        Thus Arbella was, by the closing decade of the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, in a heady but precarious position. She was being courted by potential allies and supporters who wished to see her succeed Elizabeth, which must have been quite exhilarating for a young woman about to enter full adulthood. At the same time, she knew there were those who opposed her and who might resist her claims at any cost. Her formidable and politically astute grandmother cannot have failed to sense the potential for both extreme temptation and extreme danger that lay before Arbella. Disagreement over how to proceed may well have been the source of much of the conflict that reportedly arose between the two women late in the 1590s.

     For her part, Bess seems to have attempted to protect her granddaughter as best she could, even requiring Arbella to sleep in Bess’s own bedchamber until Arbella was in her late twenties. But upon achieving her majority in 1596, Arbella began to acquire some limited degree of financial independence. She came into possession of her mother’s dower lands in that year, and Bess supplemented them in 1599 with a gift of over a thousand pounds for Arbella to buy additional land in Lincolnshire. Bess made other gifts to Arbella between 1594 and 1600, consisting of money, lands, and goods, preparing Arbella financially and materially for adult life.[38] As an unmarried woman, however, Arbella nonetheless remained fully under her grandmother’s direct supervision and social control.

     At the same time that Arbella was gaining a measure of financial independence, Bess completed construction of a second Hardwick Hall. The ‘newe buildinge’ was adjacent to Old Hardwick Hall, but the inventory of 1601 indicates that the more modern house was both new-built and new-furnished. Contents of Old Hardwick Hall removed to the new were seemingly limited to plate and paintings.[39] Since the portrait of Lady Jane Grey formerly in Bess’s bedchamber in the old hall does not appear in either building in 1601, we can conjecture that Bess gave it to Arbella between 1594 and 1601, as part of the process of equipping Arbella for adult life. Arbella reportedly ‘felt a certain identification’ with Jane Grey during that period, even drawing upon Jane’s history for the creation of password-like devices in her own series of secret dealings with the Seymours.[40] She was thus likely to have been personally interested in owning the portrait of Jane Grey, having viewed it daily throughout much of her own life while sharing her grandmother’s bedchamber. For Arbella, the painting was perhaps both a sentimental object from childhood and a tangible link to a favorite ancestor. And a gift of the portrait from Bess to Arbella would have transmitted from experienced elder to novice junior a lasting cautionary message, serving to constantly remind Arbella of the perils that often befall those reaching for a crown while standing on insufficient footing. Bess no doubt hoped that Jane’s portrait and tragic story, the latter of which was then being newly re-popularized on the London stage, might dissuade her granddaughter from pursuing her own claim to the throne.[41] In the event, support for Arbella largely dissolved by the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1603, though Arbella would find trouble in others areas.

     Following the unchallenged accession of James I in 1603, Arbella began spending increasing periods away from her worrisome grandmother. Arbella resided briefly with her Talbot cousins at Wrest Park in about 1603, for example, later moving to Sheen (Richmond).[42] She was later given apartments at Greenwich Palace, though as an unmarried woman she could not have resided at Court without direct supervision by an older married or widowed female of similar rank and status. Then in 1608, grandmother Bess died. Arbella subsequently began enjoying a greater degree of personal independence, purchasing a house in London’s Blackfriars district. She bought the house from a brother of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and son of Lord Protector Seymour.[43] Two years later, in a secret ceremony, she married William Seymour, grandson of Edward Seymour and his first wife, Jane Grey’s sister Katherine. As a descendant of the Greys, William was, like Arbella, a direct descendant of Henry VII, giving him his own distant claim to the English crown. Since the couple posed a double dynastic threat to King James, especially so soon after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, they incurred his wrath for having married and were immediately imprisoned. Arbella Stuart remained in prison without formal charge or trial, first at Lambeth and later in the Tower of London, until her death in 1615.

    William Seymour is known to have made use of quantities of his wife’s possessions in order to furnish his own imprisonment.[44] Though it is unlikely, for reasons of succession politics, that Arbella’s portrait of his own great-aunt were among William’s prison goods, the possibility must still be considered on account of William’s escape from prison and flight into exile in 1611. Any goods left behind in the Tower would ordinarily have been seized by the Lieutenant of the Tower as a perquisite of the position. Yet the Lieutenant, Sir William Waad, bitterly complained to the Privy Council that he had been denied this ‘perk’. The goods were instead returned to Arbella, contrary to custom.[45] It is therefore unlikely that any portrait of Jane removed by Arbella from Hardwick Hall might have entirely left the family by this particular route. In all likelihood, it either remained in Arbella’s possession throughout her’s and her husband’s imprisonments or was returned to her from William’s Tower rooms.

     Arbella died in the Tower a few years later, late in 1615, and under English customary law all of her property passed to her surviving husband William, even though he was then in exile. William Seymour thus became the sole owner of the portrait of his great-aunt Jane. William returned to England early in 1616, four months after his wife’s death, and was soon fully rehabilitated, enabling him to reclaim all of his and his deceased wife’s goods and property. William subsequently remarried in 1618, taking Frances Devereux as his second wife. William died at aged 72 late in 1660, but Frances survived him by fourteen years and made provision in her own will of 1674 for the disposition of the portraits of Jane Grey, Katherine Grey, and Arbella Stuart, all of which remain together today at Syon House.

     The portrait depicts a young woman in half length. She is positioned before a plain dark blue-gray background and faces the viewer squarely. Her hair is auburn in color, appears straight, and is worn parted in the center and pulled back beneath her cap. Her face is almost triangular in shape, with a high, wide forehead. Her eyebrows are thin and symmetrically arched. Both upper eyelids have a single deep fold, resulting in a heavy-lidded appearance. The eyes themselves are brown, and she gazes directly at the viewer. The nose appears wide and low at the bridge and contrastingly high and pinched above the tip. The cheekbones are shallow. The mouth is small, with full crimson lips. The jaw line is angular with a pointed chin. There is a pronounced cleft in the chin. The ears are conspicuously unseen.

     The sitter’s costume is subdued and somber in appearance. A plain black cap fits close to her head throughout and displays a rolled forward edge trimmed with widely spaced loops of thin gold cording. No coif or fall is visible. The fabric of her jacket or coat is entirely deep black without any apparent woven pattern or brocading. The jacket has a high closed collar that fits snugly to the neck and throat. No closure is readily discernible. The sleeves of the jacket are also black, and the white fur lining of both the sleeves and the jacket peeks out where the unseen sleeve-points are tied to the torso of the jacket. The edges of the arm-holes of the jacket appear to be rolled. She wears a ruff above the collar of the jacket. The ruff is open at the front, and it consists of two layers of translucent white fabric in loosely rolling figure-of-eight folds. The edges are trimmed in thin gold cording secured by regularly spaced loops of black thread. She wears a plush ermine tippet over her shoulders that drops out of sight below her waist. The lady’s jewels are limited to a single long strand of beads looped twice around the neck and knotted high on the chest before falling out of sight down her torso. The beads are probably pearls, though they are rendered as seemingly translucent, so that they might otherwise be rock crystal.

     The artist who created the Syon portrait is not recorded, and no documentation has yet been discovered to suggest his identity. He (or she) was in all likelihood native English, based on the artistic technique. The execution is somewhat two-dimensional or ‘flat,’ lacking the fine use of glazes to produce delicate shading and subtle contour in the features of the face. Similarly, the costume is monochromatically black, without shadows or highlights to suggest the natural play of light on the fabric. Were these more refined techniques present, artists trained on the continent might be considered. As it stands, the artist was certainly among those lesser skilled painters that gave portraiture of the mid-Tudor period an undeservedly negative reputation until recently. It is also possible that the artist was a regional one, drawn from close to one of the Grey’s country estates, since the Greys should have had ready access within London to the highly skilled continental artists resident within the City.
     The Syon House Portrait was for most of its history identified as a portrait of Lady Jane Grey. Portraits falsely given that identity are legion, perhaps one reason why Roy Strong was prompted to re-identify the Syon picture as a depiction of Elizabeth I before 1558. The rationale for Strong’s re-identification, based almost exclusively in a similarity of costume to that worn by Elizabeth in other documented portraits of her, was insufficient, however. The provenance of the Syon painting, both deduced and documented, strongly supports identifying the lady as Jane Grey. The deduced provenance indicates that the picture probably came from one of two sources with close ties to Jane herself. In the first instance, it is possible that the painting originated with Jane’s sister Katherine Grey Seymour, grandmother-in-law of Frances Seymour, the person with whom the documented provenance begins. Alternatively, a portrait of Jane is documented in the possession of Jane’s close friend, Bess of Hardwick, within a decade of Jane’s death. Bess is very likely to have given her portrait to Arbella Stuart, first wife of William Seymour, so that William’s second wife was able to initiate the documented provenance for the picture through her will of 1674. In either case, the original possessor of the painting was someone who knew with certainty what Jane looked like in life. Neither Katherine Seymour nor Bess Hardwick is likely to have owned a painting of Jane Grey that did not actually look like Jane Grey. We can therefore conclude with reasonable certainty that the painting of Lady Jane Grey now in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House is an authentic contemporary portrait of England’s ‘Nine Days Queen.’

     Whether the picture is itself a portrait taken directly from life or is instead a later (1553 to 1566 or after) copy of some other direct life-portrait is a critical question, as yet unanswered. Steps toward an answer entail first locating and assessing the Berry-Hill and Soule variants. It is then strongly recommended that the Syon portrait and any variant found likely to date to the sixteenth century each be examined by a dendrochronologist. If a sufficient number of growth rings are present in the wood of the boards, a terminus post quem date can potentially be established for the panels. Any panel found to originate sufficiently in advance of 1553 would then be a likely candidate as a true life-portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
30 September 2010 , revised 7 May 2012
My sincerest thanks to Mary Lovell and Sarah Gristwood for their feedback on my conjecture regarding the potential transmittal of the painting from Hardwick Hall to Arbella Stuart to William Seymour.
     During a recent trip to the UK devoted exclusively to portrait research, some new evidence came to light that requires me to reconsider my conclusions regarding this portrait. Rather than alter the original report above, the new evidence and conclusions are presented here as an addendum.

     The National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library maintains a large collection of files devoted to photographs and documentation on portraits of British sitters, regardless of whether or not the original portraits are currently in the NPG collection. The ‘Sitter File’ labeled ‘Elizabeth to 1570 as Princess [sic]’ contains, for example, two photographs of the Berry-Hill variant of the Syon Portrait, discussed above.[46] The file also contains a never-before-published high-resolution black-and-white photograph of the Gardner Soule variant (below, left). That photograph is dated 1937 and a note on the reverse indicates that the painting sold through Christie’s on 24 May of that year.[47] The size of the original painting is given as 13 1/4 x 11 inches, similar in size to the Berry-Hill variant but half the size of the Syon Portrait. In his study Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (1963), Sir Roy Strong reported that the Gardner Soule variant was in 1937 identified as an unknown lady and attributed to the French miniaturist Jean Clouet (d.1541).[48] The painting was again sold through Christie’s on 12 February 1954, Lot 54, ‘A Young Woman by Clouet’. It was purchased by Leger Galleries of London.[49] An additional note on the reverse of the same sitter-file photograph, this note dated 1958, lists the owner of the painting in that year as Gardner Soule of 35th Avenue, Jackson Heights (Queens), New York. That later note also indicates that the sitter might be identified as Elizabeth I and the work that of an unknown artist.
     An inscription in the right upper quadrant of the Gardner Soule variant significantly complicates the issue of identifying the sitter in any of this cluster of portraits, however. That inscription (detail, above right) reads, ‘ÆTATIS SUÆ 20 1602’, an indication that the sitter was 20 years old at the time the painting was apparently created in 1602. If this inscription is authentic, it effectively eliminates both Jane Grey and Elizabeth Tudor as the sitter depicted.[50] Jane did not live to age 20 nor until 1602, while Elizabeth was 69 in the colder, fur-wearing early months of 1602.

     It is readily apparent that the Syon, Berry-Hill, and Gardner Soule portraits are all very closely related to each other, but they are not quite outright copies of each other. Of the three, the Syon is the larger in physical size, though the composition of the smaller Berry-Hill includes a greater portion of the sitter’s body, especially the hands. The ermine-lined gowns are virtually identical in all three, though the rendering of the ermine itself varies slightly among the three, a difference potentially attributable either to artistic license or to varying artistic ability. The three ruffs have almost exactly the same pattern of folds and layers, though the ruff in the Gardner Soule Portrait is wider and bulkier than the other two. The necklaces are likewise exceedingly similar, the only differences being in the number of individual beads visible in each picture, in the less-realistic rendering of the knot in the Gardner Soule Portrait, and in the translucent-transparent appearance of the beads in the Syon Portrait. The crown of the cap is visible in the Berry-Hill and Syon Portraits but not in the Gardner Soule, while the hair is smooth in the Syon Portrait but curly in its companions, especially in the Gardner Soule Portrait. The eyes in all three appear dark (certainly brown in the Syon, but difficult to assess reliably in the black-and-white photographs of the Gardner Soule and Berry-Hill variants). Yet the face in the Syon Portrait is proportionally longer and thinner, and there is a pronounced cleft in the chin not seen in any of the other portraits.
The Gardner Soule Portrait,
The Berry-Hill Portrait,
The Syon Portrait,
Called Elizabeth when a princess, circa 1555,
Elizabeth I circa 1560,
     Among the Syon, Berry-Hill and Gardner Soule Portraits, the latter bears the greatest resemblance to a contemporaneous image usually identified as Elizabeth when a princess (above, second from right). The gown in the princess portrait is heavily embellished with gold embroidery, the pearl necklace is replaced with a thin gold one, and the sitter’s eyes are blue rather than dark in appearance, but the two images are otherwise strikingly similar in every other respect. In a confirmed portrait of Elizabeth circa 1560 (above, far right), however, she wears many more jewels, and those are of a more lavish and costly nature, including a heavy gold necklace set with gemstones and supporting a large gemstone pendant, plus a goldwork billiment set with pearls and gemstones on her head. Noteworthy in this last portrait, however, are the recurring presence of blue eyes and the absence of any cleft in the chin.

     The similarities and differences within this group of portraits make a definitive identification of the sitters based solely on visual clues all but impossible. Certainly the group represents a specific iconographic pattern present in portraiture of the late 1550s and early 1560s. Yet the inscription on the Gardner Soule Portrait argues against that sitter being Elizabeth I, as do the brown eyes, cleft chin, and straight hair seen in the Syon Portrait. Are we looking at three separate and distinct individuals all painted in the same compositional style and wearing very similar costumes? Or are we looking at two female royal cousins with significant but not total similarity of physical appearance resulting from their close genetic relationship? Is the inscription on the Gardner Soule Portrait a later and erroneous addition? Are the physical differences seen in the Syon Portrait the result of artistic interpretation and license — or even of unintentional error — in a copying process? If the Gardner Soule and Berry-Hill Portraits could be located and subjected to scientific analysis (radiography, infrared reflectography, dendrochronology, chemical analysis) and the results compared to similar studies of the Syon Portrait, a more definitive conclusion might be attainable. For the present, however, I must conclude, based on the differences in the physical features of the sitter in the Syon Portrait, that she is not Elizabeth I. The likely, but admittedly not fully documented, provenance of the Syon Portrait still suggests the very great possibility that it is indeed the ‘lost’ portrait of Jane Grey once displayed in the private bedchamber of her friend Bess of Hardwick in the early 1560s.
    J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
1 May 2012
The best known of these is in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 4451), identified as Lady Jane in 1965 by Roy Strong but convincingly re-identified as Katherine Parr in 1996 by Susan James. See Susan E. James, ‘Lady Jane Grey or Queen Kateryn Parr?’, The Burlington Magazine Vol. 138, no. 1114 (Jan. 1996), 20–24. Others, each known by the name of the house, museum, or institution that held or holds it, include the Althorp, Fitzwilliam, Houghton, Melton Constable, Northwick Park, Osterley Park, Somerley, Streatham, and Wrest Park portraits, plus the Yale miniature. Most have either been re-identified or cannot be fully authenticated. The Streatham portrait (NPG 6804), of which the Houghton is a variant, has been shown to be posthumous (and perhaps a copy), while the Northwick portrait has yet to be located and fully studied.
Roy C. Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 53–54. Strong referred to his identifications of the Syon and Berry-Hill portraits as ‘borderline cases, but the full frontal image is entirely consistent with the early Elizabeth iconography’. By 1969, Strong was even less certain, noting that the Syon and Berry-Hill pictures had ‘still to be proven as depicting Elizabeth’. Roy C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, Vol. 1 (London: HMSO, 1969), 109.
National Portrait Gallery (London), Heinz Archive and Library, file on NPG D32035. James Berry Hill of Berry-Hill Galleries indicates that he no longer has ready access to company records pre-dating 1970 and is thus unable to shed light on the whereabouts of the painting. Electronic communication, 9 September 2010.
Strong, Elizabeth, 53.
Cf., Queen Elizabeth I by unknown artist, circa 1560, oil on panel, 39.5 x 27.4 cm, NPG 4449.
Elizabethe Regina by unknown artist, circa 1558, oil on panel, 67.3 x 48.6 cm, collection of Peter James Hall. See Historical Portraits Image Library, Philip Mould Ltd. (accessed 6 August 2010).
The picture was re-discovered in 2008 at Boughton House, the home of the Duke of Buccleuch. See ‘Rare portrait discovered showing Elizabeth I as a teenager’, Times Online, 27 May 2008, accessed 6 August 2010.
John Aylmer, An harborowe for faithfull and trewe subjectes agaynst the late blowne blaste, concerninge the governme[n]t of wemen (London, 1559), ff. 48r–v. Aylmer does not name Jane explicitly, but instead refers to ‘a great man’s daughter’. Because of Aylmer’s brief employment as Jane’s tutor, the daughter is usually assumed to be Jane Grey. Also, Aylmer wrote just months after Elizabeth’s accession. Within a few years, Elizabeth would give full reign to her own fondness for luxurious fabrics and rich jewels, mooting Aylmer’s praise for her ‘sober attire’.
Katherine Willoughby Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk , signed ‘Holben’[sic], miniature, Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Collection.
James Melville, Memoirs of His Own Life, 1549–1593 (Edinburgh: for the Bannatyne Club, 1827), 123.
Elizabeth I when Princess attributed to William Scrots, circa 1546, oil on panel, 108.5 x 81.8 cm, Royal Collection, RCIN 404444; Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard, inscribed 1572, watercolour on vellum, 5.1 x 4.8 in, National Portrait Gallery accession number NPG 108. For the Clopton portrait, see n. 6 above.
Lady Jane Grey by unknown artist, oil on canvas, 81 x 71 cm., Collection of Baron Brayebrooke, on loan to English Heritage at Audley End, loan number 81031212.
Richard Griffin, History of Audley End and Saffron Walden (1836); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. ‘Griffin [formerly Neville], Richard, third Baron Braybrooke’.
Berkshire Record Office D/EN F43, 12 folios. The Audley End picture is rectangular, but the central portrait image is contained within an oval, the surrounding ‘frame’ being a trompe l’oeil depiction, suggesting that the whole was probably derived from either the Syon picture or the later Vertue engraving.
The portrait of Arbella now hangs in the Oak Passage, with an inventory number ‘231’ attached. The portrait of Katherine Grey and Lord Beauchamp is almost certainly that which hangs in the upstairs passage above a doorway. Though much damaged, it was repeatedly copied in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. One copy now hangs in the Print Room. Others are known at Audley End, Petworth House, and perhaps Warwick Castle.
Longleat House, Seymour Papers, Vol. 6, f. 241, Will of Frances Seymour, 1674 (without day or month): ‘I do also give and bequeath to my s[ai]d grandaughter [sic] the lady Frances Thynne ... my picture of the Lady Arabella my dear Lord’s first wife now hanging in the dining roome, and the picture of the Queen Jane Seymour Grey, now hanging in my chamber with another the picture of my Lady Katherine ....’ Accessed via microfilm at the Institute of Historical Research, London.
NA PROB 11/541, f. 307r. The problem with Thomas Thynne’s will arises from an attached codicil. The text of the codicil indicates that it was written in Thynne’s own hand, and a supporting affidavit signed by multiple witnesses attests to that fact. The text of the codicil does not state the date upon which it was written, but the nature of the bequests suggests that it was before the death of his wife in April 1712. The official in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury who transcribed the codicil into the registry, however, appended the date ‘31. mo Julii 1714 o.’ Thynne had died three days previously, and the will was not proved until 4 August. The codicil is lengthy and makes numerous alterations to Thynne’s original bequests, but the issue of the portraits is not addressed by the codicil.
No portraits potentially identifiable as Jane Grey are currently in the collection of the Marquis of Bath, descendant of Lord Weymouth. See Gillian White, ‘That whyche ys nedefoulle and nesesary’: The Nature and Purpose of the Original Furnishings and Decoration of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, 2 vols. (Ph.D. diss., University of Warwick, 2005), 167, note 291.
The younger Frances Thynne was the eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Weymouth’s eldest son, Henry (d. 1708) by his wife Grace Strode (d. 1725).
George Vertue, A description of four ancient paintings, Being Historical Portraitures of Royal Branches of the Crown of England (London: 1740), 4.
National Portrait Gallery, Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey) by George Vertue, line engraving, 46.7 x 56.5 cm, accession number NPG D32035.
The differences are in the positioning of the proper left arm, the treatment of the sleeves, and the removal in the engraving of the chin cleft.
NA PROB 11/777, ff. 109v–r.
NA PROB 11/810, ff. 80r–82r. Frances, Duchess of Somerset, left her personal landholdings to 4-year-old Algernon Percy, second son of Hugh and Elizabeth Percy, with Elizabeth as trustee until Algernon attained his majority.
Archives of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle, DNP MS 122A, f. 13r.
NA PROB 11/302, f. 355v.
British Library Lansdowne MSS 7, ff. 68–71 is a letter from Sir Edward Warner to William Cecil dated 8 September 1563 detailing the possessions Katherine Grey had brought with her into the Tower at the time of her imprisonment. Though representing only a tiny fraction of her total goods, no portrait of Jane Grey is listed. Whether such a portrait was among her stuff outside the Tower cannot now be known.
Chatsworth Devonshire MSS, Hardwick Hall Drawers H/143/6, f. 3v. The inventory is transcribed in White, That whyche ys nedefoulle, Appendix Three to Volume 2, 389–415.
White, That whyche ys nedefoulle, 167. My thanks to the author Gillian Bagwell for alerting me to Bess’s older sister and younger half-sister both named Jane.
William Cavendish noted in a memorandum, ‘I was marryed to Elizabeth Hardwick, my third Wiffe, in Lecestersheere, at Brodgatt, my Lord Marquesse’s House, the 20th of August, in the first Yeare of Kinge Edward the 6. at 2 of the Clock after Midnight.” See Arthur Collins, Historical Collections of the Noble Families of Cavendishe, Holles, Vere, Harley, and Ogle (London: 1752), 11.
Frances Grey stood godmother, along with her own mother Mary Tudor Brandon, to Bess’s first daughter Frances in 1549. Jane stood godmother to Temperance in 1550 with Jane Dudley, her own future mother-in-law. Henry Grey was godfather to the third child, a boy named Henry born in 1551, together with Jane’s future father-in-law, John Dudley. Henry was a godfather a second time, with Queen Mary as a godmother, for Bess’s fifth child, Charles (b. November 1553). Lastly, Jane’s sister Katherine stood godmother in 1555 to Bess’s sixth child, Elizabeth, the future mother of Arbella Stuart. The godparents of Bess’s fourth child, William Cavendish (b. December 1552), were all drawn from outside the Grey family. Collins, Historical Collections, 11–12.
National Archives (NA), PROB 11/111, ff. 193r–208r. The inventories include Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall, and Oldcoates.
White, That whyche ys nedefoulle, 167. No portraits potentially identifiable as Jane Grey are held today in the collections at either Chatsworth House or Hardwick Hall. Electronic communication, Stuart Band, Archivist, The Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth House, 9 February 2006; Nigel Wright, Collections Manager, Hardwick Hall, 15 August 2007.
Arbella’s father was Charles Stuart, a grandson of Henry VIII’s older sister Margaret Tudor Douglas. Arbella was, like James VI, a direct descendant of the senior female line of Henry VII.
Robert Parsons, A Conference About the Next Succession to the Crown of England (R. Doleman, 1681; reprint of Antwerp, 1595), 97.
Parsons, A Conference, 100.
Parsons, A Conference, 101.
Sarah Gristwood, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen (London: Bantam Press, 2003), 132–133.
NA PROB 11/111, ff. 196v–205r covers the new Hardwick Hall, while ff. 205r–208r covers the old house.
Gristwood, Arbella, 145.
The London playwrights Thomas Dekker and Thomas Heywood had presented and published the play Lady Jane in about 1600, though the text of it is now lost. Dekker and Thomas Webster reportedly drew on Lady Jane to write and produce a second version sometime before 1603, the text of which was eventually published in 1607 as The famous history of Sir Thomas Wyat With the coronation of Queen Mary, and the coming in of King Philip (London, 1607).
One of the putative portraits of Jane Grey is known as the Wrest Park portrait (see Bendor Grosvenor and David Starkey, ‘The search for Lady Jane Grey’ in Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture [London, 2007], 85–86). The costume in that portrait dates it to the 1530s or early 1540s, when Jane was a mere child. Grosvenor has suggested that it may be “consciously historical” posthumous portrait.
Edward Seymour’s first wife had been Katherine Grey (d.1568), sister of Lady Jane Grey, by whom he had a son, Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache.
Tower prisoners of high rank and status were commonly held in large rooms or in suites of rooms on upper floors, despite Hollywood film portrayals placing them in dark and damp dungeon-like cells below ground. High-status prisoners routinely brought in furnishings to make their stay in the Tower more comfortable. William Seymour’s prison goods included five pieces of tapestry, a bed and its bedding, quantities of “stuff of the kitchen”, a cup of great value, six silver dishes, a silver-gilt basin and ewer, candlesticks, a collection of books, and sundry other items. Under English marriage and property laws of the sixteenth century, Arbella’s goods and chattels became fully William’s own at the time of the marriage, enabling him to use and dispose of her goods freely and without her prior consent. See Elizabeth Cooper, The Life and Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1866), II:216–221.
Elizabeth Cooper, The Life and Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1866), II:216–221.
The photographs are dated 1923 and 1938. Inscriptions on the reverse indicate that the painting is a ‘cabinet portrait’ measuring just 12 5/8 x 9 inches, much smaller than the Syon Portrait.
The painting appeared in that sale as Lot 131.
The costume dates without question to well after Clouet’s death in 1541, making it all but impossible that he could have created this portrait.
Roy Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 54.
Inscriptions were not infrequently added to portraits long after their original creation and were often erroneous. Determining the authenticity of the inscription on the Gardner Soule Portrait would require an ‘eyes-on’ inspection, possible only if the painting is located.
The originals from which these two details were taken can be viewed at Luminarium’s ‘The Faces of Elizabeth I’. Elizabeth I circa 1560 can be confirmed as an authentic portrait by the presence of the Royal Cloth of State (or Estate) comprising the background, suitable only for a sitting monarch.
    Introduction to Portraiture of Lady Jane Grey
    The Althorp Portrait     The Anglesey Abbey Portrait  
    The Bodleian Library Portrait     The Chawton House–Hever Castle Portrait  
    The Elliot–Gedling House Portrait     The Fitzwilliam Museum Portrait  
    The Houghton Hall Portrait     The Jersey Portrait  
    The King’s College Portrait     The Madresfield Court Portrait  
    The Melton Constable Hall Portrait     The Norris Portrait  
    The Northwick Park Portrait     The Portland Portrait  
    The Rotherwas Portrait     The Somerley Portrait  
    The Streatham Portrait     The van de Passe Engraved Portrait  
    The Wrest Park Portrait     The Yale Miniature  
    Other Portraits Called
‘Lady Jane Grey’



Page Created 5 April 2011, Addendum added 1 May 2012, Main text revised 7 May 2012, Page updated 30 July 2013

Copyright © 2007 – 2014, J. Stephan Edwards
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