Wednesday, 19 December 2012

New Katherine Howard biography

I am so excited to announce that it looks like I will be researching and writing a biography of arguably England's most tragic queen, Katherine Howard (c.1523/1524-1542). Readers may be aware that I have conducted research into aspects of her life before, namely her birth date and family relations, and on the nature of her downfall in 1541 (which I am still looking into).

The major reason I am looking to do this is because I feel much of Katherine's life has been thoroughly misunderstood and misinterpreted. As historian Retha Warnicke has noted, there is too great a focus from largely male historians on political aspects of Tudor history, rather than delving into aspects of gender and sexuality. This is, of course, particularly relevant when looking at female figures, whether queens, noblewomen or ordinary women.

In view of this, my work will have an underlying focus of gender, women, and sexuality more generally to provide, in my view, a more nuanced view of this queen's life. While politics and faction are, of course, essential in any study of the Tudor court, a more balanced approach is necessary if we wish to de-construct the enigma of Queen Katherine.

The work should be published by CreateSpace, Amazon's own publishing company, and I am tentatively looking at a date of August 2013.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Tudor Mystery: What Happened to Amy Robsart?

Portrait of a lady, possibly Lady Amy Dudley nee Robsart (1532-1560).

The death of Lady Amy Dudley nee Robsart on 8 September 1560 has generated considerable controversy. What led to the death of this prosperous gentlewoman, discovered at the bottom of a flight of stairs in Cumnor Place, Oxfordshire? The only child of Sir John Robsart, Amy married the wealthy and successful Robert Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland, in 1550 aged eighteen. Rumours circulated at the time and have intensified in modern times that the couple's marriage was unhappy, prominently because of Robert's close relationship - some believed love affair - with the Princess and later Queen Elizabeth. An impenetrable mystery surrounds the circumstances which caused Amy's death, although there are several possible explanations: suicide, cancer, murder (by either the Queen's agents, Dudley's agents, or Cecil's agents) or, simply but tragically, an accident. For an enjoyable - if taken with a pinch of salt - fictional take of Amy's relationship with Robert and her eventual death, readers should consider reading Philippa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover.

First, let us begin with the facts. Amy Dudley, despite being the daughter-in-law of a duke (later disgraced), did not accompany her husband Robert to court in 1559 when he served the new Queen, Elizabeth I, as her faithful courtier. She seems to have spent her time travelling around the country and visiting family friends, while she seems to have enjoyed spending money on clothes from London.

We do not know the personal details of Robert and Amy's marriage. In an age in which marriages between the gentry and aristocracy were arranged for social, material and political advantage, individual couples did not prioritise finding happiness or love in marriage, although of course it was beneficial when this did occur. The couple had no children, yet we do not know whether this was due to fertility problems or whether it was because the couple were often separated. Rumours have circulated that Dudley enjoyed a love affair with Queen Elizabeth, scandalously conveyed in Gregory's novel, yet again, we lack any real proof to fully substantiate this claim. However, courtiers did mention that for over a year before Amy died, the queen and her favourite had merely been waiting for Amy to die so that they could marry.

It is plausible, however, that Robert and Amy's marriage was not entirely happy. They were often separated, had no children, and since many believed after Amy's death that Robert had actually murdered his wife, it seems credible to argue that contemporaries were aware that the marriage was somewhat difficult. After the summer of 1559, Robert never saw Amy again.

On 8 September 1560, the day after the Queen's birthday, Amy Dudley sent away her servants from Cumnor Place, as described by Robert's steward Thomas Blount:

would not that day suffer one of her own sort to tarry at home, and was so earnest to have them gone to the fair, that with any of her own sort that made reason of tarrying at home she was very angry, and came to Mrs. Odingsells ... who refused that day to go to the fair, and was very angry with her also. Because [Mrs. Odingsells] said it was no day for gentlewomen to go ... Whereunto my lady answered and said that she might choose and go at her pleasure, but all hers should go; and was very angry. They asked who should keep her company if all they went; she said Mrs. Owen should keep her company at dinner; the same tale doth Picto, who doth dearly love her, confirm. Certainly, my Lord, as little while as I have been here, I have heard divers tales of her that maketh me judge her to be a strange woman of mind.

Perhaps suspiciously, she was later described as being angry when her three servants resisted her desire that they leave. Later that day, she was discovered at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a broken neck and two head wounds. So what caused Amy's death?

Firstly, this article will consider the modern explanation of Amy suffering a malady in her breasts which caused her death. It was assumed at the time of the death in 1560 that a simple fall could not have caused Amy's death - there were not particularly many steps as it was a short flight, while Amy's headdress was described as still remaining perfectly undisturbed on her head.  In 1956, Ian Aird proposed this theory, arguing simultaneously that "a verdict of misadventure, in the case of accident, [is] not easily acceptable". Aird's profession as a professor of medicine undoubtedly aided him in putting forward the theory that, rather than suicide, accident or murder, Amy was suffering from breast cancer and so may have meant that her neck was particularly fragile and could break easily. This theory has become somewhat popular in modern times. As he noted: "in a woman of Amy's age the likeliest cause of a spontaneous fracture of the spine would be a cancer of the breast..." Indeed, the Count of Feria reported in April 1559 that Amy Dudley "had a malady in one of her breasts". When one reads Aird's article, his argument that Amy's death resulted from a fall down the stairs, which was worsened than it would otherwise have been by a weakened spine caused by breast cancer, his viewpoint is compelling. Yet it has been attacked. Simon Adams, for instance, asserts that "this theory accounts for a number of the known circumstances, but a serious illness in April 1559 is difficult to reconcile with her extensive travelling in the following months".

An alternative explanation is suicide. If she was suffering illness or depression, even potentially breast cancer, this may have led her to commit suicide in an attempt to escape a life no longer bearable. This can be supported by evidence of her "desperation" in some sources, while some historians have put forward the hypothesis that Amy sent away her servants on the morning of 8 September in order to commit suicide secretly. Robert Dudley himself may have alluded to this possibility. However, Aird attacked this view, stating that "to project oneself down a flight of stairs would not occur to a suicide now, and would have occurred even less to an Elizabethan suicide at a time when the steps of staircases were broad and low, and the angle of descent gradual". Furthermore, it is difficult to believe that, if Amy killed herself, her headdress would still have remained upright on her head when she would not have been able to do this if she was dead by the time she fell to the bottom of the stairs.

Others have suggested that Amy's death was accidental. James Gairdner, in 1898, suggested that her death was a tragic accident. The coroner's verdict in 1561 was that Amy Dudley, "being alone in a certain chamber... accidentally fell precipitously down" the stairs next to the chamber "to the very bottom of the same". This caused two head injuries and injuries to one thumb. Tragically, she had broken her neck in the fall. Because of this, she "died instantly... the Lady Amy... by misfortune came to her death and not otherwise, as they are able to agree at present". However, historians have suggested that Robert Dudley, as an influential and powerful courtier, was able to influence the jury. Aird has argued that "there are several circumstances in relation to Amy Robsart's death which made her contemporaries, and which have made the historians of later times, a little hesitant to accept unreservedly the jury's verdict of misadventure". 

Perhaps most famously, it has been theorised that Amy was, in fact, murdered. Following her death, there was "grievous and dangerous suspicion, and muttering" in both court and country, as people murmured about Amy's death and the renewed relationship between the Queen and her favourite, Dudley. William Cecil, who was Principal Secretary and who has been argued felt threatened by Dudley's increasing influence, informed the Spanish ambassador in the aftermath of Amy's death that Elizabeth and Dudley had been plotting to murder Amy by poison, "giving out that she was ill but she was not ill at all" (which somewhat contradicts the evidence put forward earlier that she was ill). In 1567, Amy's half brother John Appleyarde, in irritation with Dudley, stated that he "had not been satisfied with the verdict of the jury at her death; but that for the sake of Dudley he had covered the murder of his sister". Contemporary evidence raises the possibility that Amy was murdered.

The discovery of the contemporary Spanish ambassadors' correspondence in the nineteenth century supported the theory of murder, reporting that Amy was ill and her husband had been trying to either poison or divorce her as early as the spring of 1559. The report from 11 September 1560, three days after Amy's death, states that Cecil believed that Dudley had murdered his wife. A 1563 chronicle, written by someone violently hostile to the Dudleys, suggested that Robert Dudley's retainer, Sir Richard Verney, murdered Amy by breaking her neck (this is fictionalised in The Virgin's Lover). Catholic exiles wrote the satirical Leicester's Commonwealth in 1584 and, hostile to Dudley, suggested that Verney sent Amy's servants to the market when he arrived at Cumnor Place before breaking Amy Dudley's neck and placing her at the bottom of the stairs. The Victorian historian James Anthony Froude, having found the Spanish ambassadorial correspondence, wrote in 1863 that: "she was murdered by persons who hoped to profit by his elevation to the throne; and Dudley himself... used private means... to prevent the search from being pressed inconveniently far". Alison Weir, in 1999, suggested that Cecil, rather than Dudley, arranged Lady Amy's death because he had a murder motive, ie. to prevent Dudley's potential marriage to his mistress, Elizabeth I, and because Cecil would benefit as a result of the scandal. Other evidence has been put forward: considerable time before Amy did die, both Robert and the Queen predicted to the Spanish ambassador that she would shortly die.

However, many historians have discredited rumours that Amy was murdered. Dudley's correspondence with Thomas Blount and William Cecil in the preceding days has been seen as evidence that he was innocent, while others have noted that both he and Queen Elizabeth were highly shocked when news of Amy's death were brought to them. It has, plausibly, been suggested that he would not have had his wife killed because of the tremendous scandal  that would ensue if he were implicated in his wife's murder. David Loades went so far as to state that "we can be reasonably certain that Lord Robert had no hand in his wife's death". Aird states that there "was no evidence that he [Dudley] had any thought of murdering his wife" even if he did wish to marry the Queen. He also asserts that "a staircase [is not] a convenient weapon for murder. To throw a person downstairs is too uncertain", it cannot be argued that "she was first murdered by some extreme violence and then thrown downstairs". Historians have also recognised that poison was a "stock-in trade accusation" in the sixteenth century to discredit political rivals and the fact that sources support one another in suggesting Amy was murdered was "no more than a tradition of gossip". As Catholic sources, and thus hostile to both Queen and Dudley, we should consider them very cautiously and sceptically. 

To conclude, I have to admit, personally, that I know too little about these mysterious events to put forward my belief of what actually happened on that day. I can only say, however, that it was very suspicious. Why did Amy send away her servants on that particular day? Was it because, to put it nicely but bluntly, she was going mad or even insane due to her illness; was it because she wished to be alone to commit suicide, or was it for some other reason? Why did the Queen and Dudley hint to the Spanish ambassador that Amy Dudley would soon die - was it because they knew she was fatally ill, or is it evidence of murder? Almost all of the sources we have about this event are highly suspect. Thus we cannot conclude with any real certainty about what happened. 

I have suspicions, however. Aird has discredited the notion that Amy was found with her headdress perfectly intact, but if this was true, surely suicide seems much less likely. If Amy threw herself down a flight of stairs, it seems highly unlikely that, dying shortly afterwards, her hood would still be perfectly in position on her head. I am also persuaded by Aird's arguments that falling down a short flight of stairs is hardly a foolproof method of suicide. However, if Amy was melancholy or despairing at this time, as some sources may indicate, perhaps she did have a motive in wishing to end her life prematurely, particularly if her marriage was unhappy, as possibly the case. Out of all the explanations, however, I believe that suicide is the least likely theory.

This leaves accident, murder, or illness. An accident is perfectly possible, but again, we are left with the simple fact that a short flight of stairs would not ordinarily kill a person. Therefore we must consider Aird's argument that Amy's body, because of the malady of her breasts, was weakened considerably, and so a short flight of stairs which, though usually would not result in death, may have caused her death if she was more fragile and physically vulnerable than a 'normal' person would be. This was the verdict recorded after her death, and many historians have suggested that it is what happened. Thus accident and illness are intertwined to provide an explanation, tragically, of accidental death.

A more unsettling interpretation is possible. If one literally accepts the Spanish ambassador's comments, bearing in mind that ambassadors occasionally spoke little to none of the language in the court in which they served, relied on informers, and were frequently deceived by officials and courtiers, it is possible to believe that Amy Dudley was murdered, either by Cecil's agents or Dudley's agents. I have to agree, however, with modern historians who argue that Dudley would not have dared have his wife murdered, as the scandal would almost certainly have meant that the Queen would not have dared marry a man who would only bring controversy and even ridicule to her status. But desperate people do desperate things - if Dudley was so determined to marry the Queen, and only saw his wife as an unnecessary complication, who knows what he might have done? 

To conclude, it is impossible to know what really happened. On the basis of the evidence, I would tentatively conclude that Amy's death was caused by both her breast cancer and an accident; ie. if she had been physically healthy, and had fallen down the stairs, she would not have died, but in tragic circumstances, when her body was physically much more fragile, a simple fall led to her death due to the thinning of her bones. I believe that we can reject suicide as a likely explanation. It is possible that she was murdered, but if one believes that much of the evidence we have for this theory is based on hostile Catholic sources which openly vilified both the Dudleys and Queen Elizabeth, this theory becomes much less tenable. Therefore, I would suggest that accidental death, acting in conjunction with breast cancer, caused Amy's death, but we cannot rule out murder.

Further Reading

Simon Adams, 'Amy Dudley, Lady Dudley (1532-1560)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008), online edition (Last accessed 13 December 2012).
Ian Aird, 'The Death of Amy Robsart', The English Historical Review 71 (1956), pp. 69-79.
James Gairdner, 'The Death of Amy Robsart', The English Historical Review 1 (1886), 235-259.
James Gairdner, 'Bishop de Quadra's Letter and the Death of Amy Robsart', The English Historical Review 13 (1898), pp. 83-90.

For a fictional take on Amy's death and Robert and Queen Elizabeth's relationship, Philippa Gregory, The Virgin's Lover (2004) (please take it with a pinch of salt, it's not fact, it's fiction!)

Wikipedia for a general overview.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Tudor Portraiture - or the game of Guess the Sitter

Tudor portraiture is notorious in leading to frequently incorrect identifications of sitters who were almost certainly not the sitter actually painted. Yet portraiture is highly influential in our interpretations of these supposed sitters' lives, careers, choices, and actions. Drawing upon four specific case studies here, this article considers why and how Tudor portraits are incorrectly identified, and how these incorrect identifications inform our interpretations of Tudor personages.

A portrait of Mary, Lady Dacre and her son Gregory; often mislabelled as Frances Brandon, duchess of Suffolk and the mother of the 'Nine Days Queen' Lady Jane Grey, and her second husband Adrian Stokes. This portrait has proved fundamental in leading to misguided views of Frances as being a cruel woman who bullied her daughter, due to the sitter's fierce characteristics.

This article begins with Frances Brandon (1517-1559), duchess of Suffolk by right of her marriage in 1533 to Henry Grey, marquis of Dorset and later Duke of Suffolk, niece of Henry VIII, king of England, and mother of Jane Grey, later queen of England (c.1537-1554). Frances lived a remarkable life, yet her reputation has been slandered over the course of history due to the view of her being a cruel, spiteful woman who frequently bullied her daughter Jane, often violently, which is still conveyed in modern works (Alison Weir's fictional Innocent Traitor often portrays Frances violently hurting Jane both physically and psychologically). This myth occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century, acting in parallel with the depiction of Jane Grey as a Protestant martyr who died for her religion at only seventeen years old, executed on the orders of a vengeful queen, her own cousin Mary I. 

In view of this, a portrait of Lady Mary Dacre and her son Gregory - actually painted the year Frances died, 1559 - was relabelled as Frances Brandon and her second husband, Adrian Stokes, whom she married following the execution of her first husband Henry Grey as a traitor. Supposed similarities between the sitter's features and that of her uncle, Henry VIII, were drawn to emphasise the duchess' cruel, domineering nature. It has, furthermore, been deduced that Frances and Henry physically mistreated Jane in her childhood, due to something Jane informed her tutor, Roger Ascham, as a child:

"For when I am in presence of either Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing or doing anything else, I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world, or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea, presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs, and other ways, (which I shall not name, for the honour I bear them), so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell". 

This passage, of course, needs to be viewed critically, particularly because this passage was only recorded much later after the actual events, and Jane's tutor Ascham actually praised her parents in an earlier letter. Furthermore, since the Victorian period, a more balanced appreciation of the character of Lady Jane Grey has developed. Rather than viewing her as a perfect child martyr, innocent and passive, as the Victorians did, historians have regarded her more critically, and while recognising her intelligence and determination, have also suggested that she was a proud, stubborn, narrow-minded, even arrogant  young woman. Frances, conversely, in contemporary sources was noted for her goodness and kindness to friends. 

We can therefore see how an incorrect identification of a sitter in a Tudor portrait can develop or intensify myths and legends surrounding that personage. Because Lady Dacre is depicted as unfriendly, cold, even ruthless, this was deployed by those who believed that it was actually a portrait of Frances, duchess of Suffolk to present her as a domineering woman who was prone to physical violence. This myth needs to be recognised for what it is: a myth.

Left: Katherine Howard, Elizabeth Seymour, or another Tudor woman? For centuries, controversy has raged as to who this sitter is.
Right: Angela Pleasance as Katherine Howard in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970).

No less important than the portrait of 'Frances Brandon' in informing interpretations of Tudor personalities is that of a portrait supposedly depicting Katherine Howard, queen of England. Identified as being the tragic queen c. 1898 and furthered by the renowned biography of the queen by Lacey Baldwin Smith (1961), this portrait has widely been used to put forward arguments surrounding Katherine's birth date, thus influencing our views surrounding her childhood, her personality, and the nature of her sexual relationships. Baldwin Smith arguably used this portrait to support his view of Katherine as 'a juvenile delinquent'. Recently, the identification of this sitter as Queen Katherine has been challenged, notably by Lady Antonia Fraser in her biography of the six wives of Henry VIII (1992). She identified this portrait as actually depicting Elizabeth Seymour nee Cromwell, younger sister of Queen Jane Seymour; strengthened by the fact that this portrait was housed in the collection of the Cromwell family.

While agreeing with Fraser that this portrait is not Katherine, in view of the fact that it does not match up either with notions of the queen's age or her physical appearance, I disagree that it represents Elizabeth Seymour. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, as has been recognised, at least three versions of this portrait exist. The sitter was therefore far more important than the daughter of a knight, as Elizabeth was. Whoever this woman was was clearly of noble, if not royal, rank. Secondly, we do not know when Elizabeth was born, but if it was around c.1511, as has been suggested, the sitter cannot be her, because this portrait dates to the mid to late 1530s or the early 1540s, when Elizabeth was likely in her mid twenties, not aged 21, as the sitter's age is. As Janet M. Torpy stated, "a necklace, rings, a brooch bearing the Biblical story of Lot, lace, and golden embroidery all signify extreme wealth and the appropriate piety and purity". It is entirely likely that this portrait actually depicts another royal woman, of which there are no less than four possible candidates in this period: the king's daughter Mary Tudor (aged 21 in 1537), Lady Margaret Douglas, his niece (aged 21 in 1536), or either of the king's Brandon nieces, Frances (aged 21 in 1538) or Eleanor (aged 21 in 1540). 

But this portrait, like the one thought to be of Frances Brandon, has informed interpretations and representations of Katherine Howard, whom it was commonly thought to portray for a long period of time. In the television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), as depicted above, Angela Pleasance, in her appearance as Queen Katherine, is clearly shown wearing a costume based on the dress worn by the sitter in this portrait. Her portrayal of Katherine is as a hedonist teenager who selfishly manipulates Thomas Culpeper to impregnate her, while she is seen to use physical violence against her cousin and is given to hysteria. This portrait was fundamental in Baldwin Smith's interpretation of Katherine as an older, knowing girl who firmly held the upper hand in her relationships and was prone to manipulating her lovers. Yet as my research has indicated, she was probably somewhat younger than this portrait suggests.
This portrait has also led to historians suggesting that Katherine was not as beautiful as legend indicated that she was. This can be refuted, since there are at least three contemporary statements which suggest that the queen was uncommonly attractive; one Spanish citizen gushingly stated that she was the most beautiful woman 'in the kingdom'. This does not support the notion that the woman in this portrait is of the queen.

Left: a portrait inscribed as being Anne Boleyn, 1530s.
Right: unknown woman. Identified as being Anne Boleyn by Roy Strong, yet others have identified this woman as being another of Henry VIII's queens, either Katherine of Aragon or Jane Seymour. Alison Weir suggests convincingly that it shows Mary Boleyn, Anne's sister.

Thus we can strongly see that portraiture is highly influential in guiding assessments and interpretations of Tudor personages. It seems unsurprising, therefore, that this is arguably best illustrated with the case of Anne Boleyn. The two portraits above have both been identified as showing the second queen of Henry VIII - despite the fact that neither bears any resemblance to contemporary descriptions of the queen. 

The sitter on the left was identified by noted Tudor historians David Starkey and John Rowlands as a contemporary likeness of Anne Boleyn. This has resulted largely from a hostile account of Anne at her coronation in 1533, which described the queen as having a fat, even disfigured, neck, resulting from a swelling which she then tried to conceal at her coronation. Further problems arise from the fact that this woman is blonde, whereas Anne was, famously, dark. This woman clearly wears a nightrobe, while the somewhat plain, rounded face bears little resemblance to contemporary reports of Anne as being narrow-faced, with high cheekbones. Yet, again, a misidentified portrait has been used to promote interpretations of its supposed sitter. Here the case seems to be that hostile accounts which vilified the queen should be regarded as historically accurate, or at least not as wild in their claims as historians have conventionally supposed. 

The portrait on the right epitomises the game of 'Guess the Sitter' in Tudor portraiture. To my knowledge, there has been no less than four sitters put forward. Originally identified as being of Henry VIII's first queen, Katherine of Aragon, this was ruled out by the fact that the portrait was painted in c.1525, when Katherine was aged forty, yet the sitter is twenty-five. This also rules out another identification of the sitter as being Jane Seymour, who was twenty-fine in c.1533 and so comes too late after this portrait was painted. Roy Strong, however, suggested that it depicts Queen Anne. There are, again, problems here. The sitter is blonde, while Anne Boleyn did not come to public attention until 1527, when the king proposed marriage to her. In 1525-6 she was a maid of honour to Queen Katherine, and so was not important enough, in a sense, to be painted in a portrait miniature. It is more likely to portray Mary Boleyn, Anne's older sister, who gave birth to a son - possibly the king's - in 1525; if one supports the view that she was born around 1499, this may tentatively be said to present Mary Boleyn. 

Above: a portrait identified as being Thomas Boleyn, earl of Wiltshire and father of Anne. Recently, however, it has been argued that it actually depicts James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond.

Developing the game of 'guess the sitter', the portrait above has often been cited as a likeness of Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and father of Anne. Indeed, we can see how this has informed interpretations of the earl's physical appearance and supposed resemblance to his daughter Anne, as seen in Joanna Denny's biography of the queen published in 2004. Denny suggests that Anne Boleyn was not dark, as is often believed to be the case, but was actually fair in her complexion, while having auburn, as opposed to black, hair, on the basis of this portrait showing 'striking' similarities between father and daughter. However, this is almost certainly untrue, since historian David Starkey has indicated that it portrays James Butler, not Boleyn. As Starkey notes, there is "an utter dissimilarity between the Windsor drawing [of Boleyn] and Boleyn's superb tomb brass". Once again, we have been deceived as to the real sitter of a Tudor portrait.

Above: Lady Jane Grey or Queen Katherine Parr?

A portrait above shows a superbly dressed noblewoman, dated to the early-to-mid 1540s. It was initially identified as portraying Lady Jane Grey, England's first queen regnant, in 1965 by Roy Strong. This occurred due to Strong's perception of similarities between this portrait and an engraving of Jane published in 1620. Yet, as Susan E. James has convincingly suggested, the portrait actually portrays Katherine Parr, sixth queen consort of Henry VIII. This seems all the more convincing since Katherine was queen in the period 1543-1547, when this portrait was executed, and since Lady Jane was born in around 1537, she would have been only eight years old, or thereabouts, when this woman sat for  the portrait. This is clearly not a portrait of an eight year old girl. The fact that this sitter wears jewellery which other queen consorts of the period, such as Katherine Howard, adorned, indicates that it represents Katherine Parr, who would have obtained this jewellery in her right as queen. Yet, once again, a misidentification of a portrait has influenced judgements about the sitter. Frequently, this portrait is advertised in both written works (ie books) and online as showing the tragic Nine-Day queen. It probably represents her one time great-aunt, Katherine.

Tudor portraiture is therefore precarious. Whether one uses it as a source in interpretations or not, it must be carefully scrutinised before making grandiose claims. The game of Guess the Sitter is, unfortunately, a very frequently occurring one in terms of Tudor portraiture, yet it serves to show how mysterious and yet compelling this period continues to remain.