The van de Passe Engraved Portrait
Iana Graya (Jane Grey)
engraved by Willem or Magdalena van de Passe
first published in Heroωlogia Anglica
by Henry Holland, 1620

     Sir Roy Strong, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in 1965, referred to the above engraving as ‘the only authentic portrait of Jane Grey’.[1] The engraving had been accepted for over three centuries as a genuine likeness of Jane and used as a reference point by most historians when evaluating other potential portraits of her. In the example of Strong, he relied on the engraving to ‘authenticate’ as Jane Grey a painted portrait that the NPG was then in the process of acquiring. Strong determined that the portrait depicted Jane Grey based on certain similarities between the engraving and the painting.[2] Strong thought the faces of the two sitters appeared all but identical, for example. But the most compelling evidence was the presence in both of the coronet-shaped brooch attached to the bodice of the lady’s gown. The painting was subsequently displayed for almost three decades by the NPG as an authentic portrait of Jane Grey.

     The identity of the sitter in the NPG portrait was later challenged, however, resulting in a consequent questioning of the identity of the lady in the van de Passe engraving. Susan James determined in 1996 that the lady in the painting is almost certainly Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII.[3] She did so by correlating the seemingly unique coronet-shaped brooch with an almost identical item described in an inventory of royal jewels from about 1550. If James is correct and the brooch design is indeed as unusual as she suggests, the sitter in the van de Passe engraving must also be a relative of Henry VIII, probably Katherine Parr.

     James further argued that the brooch is ‘most unlikely to have passed through the hands of Jane Grey’, thereby explicitly eliminating Jane as the sitter.[4] In addition to the inventory of 1550, James cites a second inventory of royal jewels dated 1587 that lists a brooch ‘with a Crown garnished with xv small diamonds and in the midst of the [brooch] is a ruby with two diamonds and one Emerald, and the three pearls pendant’. The records of the royal wardrobe for the later reign of James I indicate that the brooch was subsequently broken up and the gold melted down in 1609.[5] From the various inventories spanning almost sixty years, James concludes that the brooch is unlikely ever to have been out of the possession of the immediate royal family.

     While James is probably correct that the brooch is unlikely to have passed through Jane Grey’s hands, she did not offer sufficiently detailed evidence to support that assertion. Those familiar with the narrative of Jane’s life will know that Katherine Parr took Jane into her household during at least the last year of Henry’s reign, it being common practice for young ladies to receive social training in the household of someone of higher rank. Jane resided in the Parr household off and on until Parr’s death late in 1548.[6] Indeed, Jane acted as chief mourner at Parr’s funeral.[7] These circumstances would seem to give Jane a degree of access to Katherine’s jewels. Yet Katherine had deposited the majority of her jewels in the treasury at the Tower during her period of mourning following the death of Henry VIII in January 1547.[8] Though Katherine later petitioned for their return to her, the new Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, declared them to be the property of the State and refused.[9] An inventory of the jewels in her possession at the time of her death does not include the coronet-shaped brooch, evidence that it was probably among those seized by Seymour early in 1547.[10] Thus the brooch is almost certain to have remained in Crown possession throughout its history and, as James has indicated, it is highly improbable that Jane ever possessed the brooch, despite her own closeness to Katherine Parr. The lady in the van de Passe engraving is therefore almost certainly Katherine Parr, not Jane Grey.

     The engraving was first published in 1620 by Henry Holland in a book containing laudatory accounts of fifty nine eminent figures of the Tudor period, many of whom were religious reformers or martyrs.[11] A preface to Holland’s Heroωlogia Anglica indicates that the engravings were created by various members of the van de Passe family, noted Dutch engravers, drawing where possible upon pre-existing genuine painted portraits.[12] And of the fifty nine engraved portraits in the volume, twenty eight can in fact still easily be matched today to surviving authenticated portraits of those same individuals.[13] The question therefore arises as to why the engraving of Jane Grey is the only one in the volume that is almost certainly mislabeled. How did a portrait of Katherine Parr become incorrectly identified as Jane Grey less than 75 years after both their deaths?

     The answer may lie in the relative presence of the two women in the general culture of the late-Tudor and early-Stuart periods. Katherine Parr was certainly still present as a historical figure, but she was not the object of popular admiration and the subject of myth-building in the same way or to the same degree as Jane Grey. Throughout the reign of Elizabeth I, memories of Jane were repeatedly resurrected in relation to discussions on the succession. Her sisters Katherine Grey Seymour and Mary Grey Keyes were alternately put forward as successors to the childless Elizabeth, though both eventually predeceased the queen by many years.[14] Jane was inevitably remembered in the context of the debates surrounding her sisters. And by the last decade of the sixteenth century, when it was apparent that Elizabeth’s reign would soon end, Jane became a focus around which the succession could be openly argued with less fear of incurring censure.[15] Several popular plays with Jane as the central character and the succession dispute of 1553–4 as the focus of the action were produced in London between 1590 and 1610.[16] Jane was also enduringly popular as a figure around whom questions of religion could be debated, and her religious writings were published numerous times between her death and 1620.[17] Further, it does appear that large painted images of Jane Grey were still in demand in the 1590s.[18] It is therefore likely that the portrait of Katherine Parr from which the van de Passes engraved their depiction of Jane Grey had, for any number of reasons, simply lost its identity following Parr’s death and become erroneously re-identified as her more-popular and better-remembered friend and ward, Jane Grey.

     Manuscript marginalia in a single copy of the first edition of Henry Holland’s Heroωlogia Anglica identifies the owner of the painting from which the van de Passes engraved Iana Graya as ‘Mr Jo: Harison’ and the artist as Hans Holbein.[19] Art historian Arthur Hind speculated that ‘Mr Harison’ was perhaps John Harrison (d. after 1638), Groom of the Privy Chamber to James I’s son Prince Henry Frederick (1594–1612).[20] Hind seems to have assumed that the marginalia was written at about the same time as the publication of the volume, i.e., 1620. Hind’s speculation has been accepted and repeated over the years, most notably by Roy Strong.[21] Yet the identity of ‘Mr Harison’ remains unconfirmed.

     A Mr John Harison/Harrison was indeed a Groom of the Privy Chamber in Ordinary to Prince Henry at a wage of 13l 6s 8d and a livery allowance of 26l 13s 4d, each per annum.[22] He had previously served in the wars in Ireland during Elizabeth’s reign, but was never knighted. Harrison seems to have been involved in some way in sea-borne trade, since he was a charter investor in the East India Company at its founding in 1600.[23] Perhaps because of his maritime connections, he served after the prince’s death as sheriff of the Bermuda Islands in 1622,[24] followed in 1625 by a term as the Crown’s envoy to Barbary (North Africa).[25] There is evidence indicating that Harrison may have been dispossessed of his household goods in 1630 during an absence in North Africa as a result of nonpayment of a debt.[26] The outcome of the debt dispute and the eventual disposition of Harrison’s goods are unfortunately not recorded, though it has been speculated that Harrison fled to the Low Countries in order to avoid debtors prison.[27] More importantly, it is not documented whether he actually owned any portraits or paintings, casting doubt on the possibility that he owned the portrait of Parr from which the van de Passe’s produced their engraving.

     Arthur Hind’s apparent assumption that the marginalia in Holland’s Heroωlogia dated to 1620 is perhaps incorrect. The style of handwriting dates to a period after 1620, so that the anonymous marginalist was perhaps recording who held the paintings at the time of his own writing rather than who held them when they were engraved by the van de Passes. The specific copy containing the marginalia is also inscribed ‘P Mariette 1682’. This is probably Pierre Mariette, an engraver and bookseller based in Paris late in the seventeenth century. If Mariette was the author of the marginalia, it may not have been inserted into the volume until the 1680s. It is nonetheless possible, however, that it was written at any point between 1620 and the 1680s. Indeed, because a large number of the paintings from which the engravings were taken are identified as being located in various English royal palaces, it is very likely that the marginalia dates to sometime before 1650, the year in which the Commonwealth Parliament voted to liquidate the art collection of the recently-executed Charles I.

     Jerry Brotton has made a careful study of the sale of Charles I’s art collection during 1650–1652.[28] Brotton notes that the collection was used as a form of payment-in-kind to settle the debts of the former king, with creditors receiving paintings and other art objects in lieu of cash. Many of those creditors were formerly suppliers of goods and services to the royal household, including one Edmund Harrison, until 1649 the King’s Embroiderer. Harrison was a commissioner in the sale and in charge of the distribution of a significant portion of the collection. Harrison was also the brother-in-law of Edmund Godfrey, a large-scale London woodmonger. Godfrey’s business partner was, in turn, one James Harrison of Sellinge, Kent.[29] Further, James Harrison had a brother John Harrison who was a lawyer at Gray’s Inn, London.[30] This cluster of inter-related Harrisons (and Godfreys) is important because they are mentioned by the Civil War-era diarist Richard Symonds, who in December 1652 inspected their collections of paintings removed from the Royal Collection.

     Symonds left only very vague accounts of the collections, written in the pages of a small manuscript volume of notes on painting that survives today in the British Library. Symonds recorded simply that one ‘Harison the woodmonger of the Kings’ sold to the Spanish Ambassador, Alonso de Cardenas, a collection of paintings worth one hundred English pounds sterling.[31] And on 30 December 1652, Symonds visited a wharf-warehouse owned by ‘Harison the Kings Embroyderer’ situated on the Thames near Somerset House. Symonds noted explicitly that this second collection was the seized property of the former king, Charles I.[32] Though Symonds did not enumerate the precise contents of the Harrison’s collections, it undoubtedly contained a sampling of the many works amassed by the Crown over the preceding century. And while we can today only speculate, it is entirely possible that the collections included a portrait of Katherine Parr attributed to Hans Holbein, and that the three Harrisons (embroiderer, woodmonger, and lawyer) acquired the painting in 1651 or 1652 as payment for a debt owed to one of them by the Crown.[33]

     It is far more likely that the ‘Mr Jo: Harison’ of the marginalia in Holland’s Heroωlogia is one of the Harrison tradesmen of 1652 rather than the Harrison Groom of the Privy Chamber before 1612.



J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
15 November 2010

Sir Roy Strong, pre-acquisition assessment of NPG 4451 dated 25 June 1965, Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, file on NPG 4451
The painting sold through Sotheby’s on 30 June 1965 as Lot 106 and was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery. It is now catalogued as accession number NPG 4451.
Susan E. James, ‘Lady Jane Grey or Queen Katherine Parr?’, The Burlington Magazine 138: 1114 (January 1996), 20–24.
James, 21.
James, 23 and n.19.
Susan E. James, Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s Last Love (Stroud: Tempus, 2008), 118.
James, Catherine Parr, 294–295.
James, Catherine Parr, 259.
James, Catherine Parr, 270–271
Susan E. James, ‘Appendix VII: The Sudeley Chest’, in Kateryn Parr: The Making of a Queen (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 1999), 435–442.
The volume is divided into two ‘books’ or sections, the first of which is comprised principally of secular figures, the second of reformist clergymen and theologians.
Henry Holland, Heroωlogia Anglica (Arnhem, 1620), f. 6v and 7v. The family included Crispin, his sons Crispin (II), Willem, and Simon, and his daughter Magdalena. Simon and Willem both lived for a time in England, though the two Crispins and Magdalena remained on the continent.
Fifteen can be precisely correlated with surviving life portraits of the given individuals. For thirteen of the confirmed portraits, it is possible to match the face to dissimilar surviving life portraits of the same individual (i.e., the costume or position is different in the engraving). Of the remaining thirty one engravings, five are copies of engravings created by other artists before 1620 and two are probably misidentified (those of John Harrington [I and II] of Exton). Others, such as those of Edward Seymour, Henry Prince of Wales, and Robert Montagu, are described as having been in buildings that were destroyed by fire or neglect later in the seventeenth century. The remainder depict mostly persons who are today relatively obscure and thus for whom no portrait may have survived.
Katherine Grey Seymour died in custody in 1568. Mary Grey Keyes died in 1578.
Public discussion on the matter of the succession was potentially a treasonous offense in that it “countenanced the death of the monarch’. By masking those discussions through reliance figures involved in past successions as substitutes for contemporary persons, accusations of treason could usually be avoided.
See, for example, Lady Jane, a play (now lost) by Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, John Webster, Henry Chettle, and Wentworth Smith, written and produced before 1603. Dekker and Webster wrote and produced a second play on a related theme in 1607: The famous history of Sir Thomas Wyat With the coronation of Queen Mary, and the coming in of King Philip. As it was plaied by the Queens Maiesties Seruants (London: Printed by E[dward] A[llde] for Thomas Archer, 1607). This second work was sufficiently popular that it was reprinted in 1612.
See, for example, The life, death and actions of the most chast, learned, and religious lady, the Lady Iane Gray, daughter to the Duke of Suffolke. Containing foure principall discourses written with her owne hands. The first an admonition to such as are weake in faith: the second a catechisme: the third an exhortation to her sister: and the last her words at her death (London: G. Eld, for John Wright, 1615; London: printed by I. H[aviland] for John Wright, 1629 and 1636).
See, for example, the Streatham Portrait, which is believed to have been produced after 1594.
The marginalia is photographically reproduced in Arthur M. Hind, The Reign of James I, Volumes 2 of Engraving in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 32, 153, and plate 87. The marginalia identifies the artist of the portrait as ‘Halbens’, a misspelling of ‘Holbein’. Henry VIII did not develop serious interest in Parr until the early 1543, leaving only a few months during which Holbein could have created a portrait of Parr before he died on 29 November of that same year.
Hind, Engraving, 153.
Roy Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2 Vols. (London: HMSO, 1969), I: 78.
Thomas Birch, The life of Henry, prince of Wales: eldest son of King James I (London, 1760), 452.
Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Japan, Volume 2: 1513-1616, edited by W. Noel Sainsbury (London: HMSO, 1864), 113–118.
Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Vol I: 1574–1660, edited by W. Noel Sainsbury (London: HMSO, 1860), 32–33.
Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891), XXV: 33.
Lord President Conway to Sir William Blake, 27 February 1630, Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1629-31, Vol. 161: February 14–28, 1630, edited by John Bruce (London: HMSO, 1860), 188–200. During his absence in the Mediterranean, Captain Harrison placed his household goods in a trust, with a London goldsmith, ‘Mr Wheeler’, as his trustee. This goldsmith Wheeler is almost certainly William Wheeler, a known member of the London Goldsmiths’ Company and Comptroller of the Royal Mint in 1627. Many goldsmiths of the seventeenth century evolved into bankers, offering various types of financial services to their clients. It is possible, in light of the customary governmental practices of the period regarding reimbursement for expenditures by bureaucrats, that the ‘trust’ was actually a mortgage arrangement in which William Wheeler loaned Captain Harrison a sum of money to cover his expenses, with the contents of Harrison’s household pledged as collateral. Harrison later claimed to have spent large sums of his own money during the pursuit of his duties as a Crown representative, without receiving proper repayment. The debt became so great that he would petition the Crown in 1638 for compensation in the amount of 3648l. But in 1630, Harrison owed Wheeler just 20l. Despite the relatively small amount, Harrison was nonetheless unable to pay, leading Wheeler to seize Harrison’s goods. Harrison appealed to the king for redress, but ‘going away [again] suddenly to Barbary ... [he] wishe[d Sir William Blake] to advance the amount on security of his goods’. Since Blake was himself deeply indebted and died just eight months later, it is conceivable that Wheeler was not paid and therefore retained some portion of Harrison’s household goods as compensation. On Wheeler and early goldsmith bankers, see See Frederick George Hilton Price, A handbook of London bankers: with some account of their predecessors, the early goldsmiths (London: Leadenhall Press, 1890-1), 30–37; Frederick George Hilton Price, ‘Some Notes on the Early Goldsmiths and Bankers to the close of the seventeenth century’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archæological Society, Volume 5 (London: JB Nichols, 1881), 270. On Blake’s own indebtedness, see Charles T. Gatty, Mary Davies and the Manor of Ebury, Part One (London: Waverley Book Company, 1921), 99–100. For Blake’s date of death, see Charles Perkins Gwilt, ‘A Short Account of the Trustees Appointed by Henry Smith’ in Notices relating to Thomas Smith, of Campden, and to Henry Smith, sometime alderman of London (London: George Woodfall, 1836), 68.
Francis Burton Harrison, ‘Some XVII Century Virginians: Commentaries upon the Ancestry of Benjamin Harrison. II: Captain John Harrison, Governor of Bermuda in 1623’, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 53, no. 1 (January 1945), 26–27.
Jerry Brotton, The Sale of the Late King’s Goods: Charles & and his Art Collection (London: Pan Books, 2007).
Alan Marshall, ‘The Westminster Magistrate and the Irish Stroker: Sir Edmund Godfrey and Valentine Greatrakes, Some Unpublished Correspondence’, The Historical Journal 40, no.2 (1997), 501.
John Foster, Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1714: Abannan-Kyte (London: Parker and Co, 1891), s.v. ‘Harrison, John’,652–678.
British Library Egerton Manuscript 1636, f. 101r.
British Library Egerton Manuscript 1636, f. 90v.
Any original portrait of Parr attributed to Holbein could easily have been lost or destroyed during the period between the break-up of the Royal Collection in 1651/2 and its re-assembly after 1660, with only copies surviving (the Melton Constable Portrait may potentially be one such copy).
    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 Syon House Portrait  
    The Wrest Park Portrait     The Yale Miniature  
    Other Portraits Called
‘Lady Jane Grey’


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Page Created 15 November 2010, Revised 28 December 2011, Updated 20 August 2012

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