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Henry VI of England, National Portrait Gallery

Henry VI of England, National Portrait Gallery

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National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is an art gallery in London housing a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. It was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856. [4] The gallery moved in 1896 to its current site at St Martin's Place, off Trafalgar Square, and adjoining the National Gallery. It has been expanded twice since then. The National Portrait Gallery also has regional outposts at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire and Montacute House in Somerset. It is unconnected to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, with which its remit overlaps. The gallery is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Princess Catherine Of Valois: An Unlucky Childhood

Catherine of Valois was born in Paris on Oct. 27, 1401 and grew up as the lonely and neglected youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria.

Bibliothèque de Genève | Wikimedia Commons Catherine’s father, King Charles VI of France.

Her father, known as “Charles the Mad,” experienced tragic bouts of mental illness, during which he killed four of his own knights and thought he was made of glass.

Catherine’s mother, meanwhile, has been credited with selfishness, sexual promiscuity, and political ineptitude during her time as regent in her husband’s emotional and mental absence — though many of these qualities were ascribed to her after her death, probably for political reasons.

Catherine’s older sister, Isabella, was briefly Queen of England through her marriage to King Richard II, but she returned home once Henry IV seized the English throne. It’s at this point that to betroth Henry’s son and heir to Catherine began.

While Catherine only makes her entrance at the end of The King, she is present in the background during Shakespeare’s play, depicted as a demure young princess being groomed for marriage.

In reality, we do not know much about this period of her life. Despite the important role she played in shaping English history, the historical sources on Catherine’s early life are very scarce.

Henry VI may have had a “sex coach” – plus 4 more curious facts about his life

Henry VI (1421–1471) was not a successful king. Having inherited the throne as an infant, his incompetency for government was a contributing factor to the Wars of the Roses and ultimately his murder on 21 May 1471. Here, Rachel Dinning brings you the most curious facts about his life – from his relationship with his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to his mysterious 18-month illness

This competition is now closed

Published: November 26, 2020 at 4:00 pm

How much do you know about Henry VI? We reveal the most curious facts about the king’s life – from his relationship with his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to his mysterious 18-month illness…

When Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, visited the king’s bedroom, they were sometimes joined by “trusted attendants”

Pious, simple and puritan. This is how Henry VI is often described by historians and scholars. And the label certainly fits: the medieval king spent his free time meditating on the sufferings of Christ staying in monasteries and practising Devotio Moderna, a movement for religious reform that advocated humility and obedience.

It was therefore unsurprising when historian Lauren Johnson revealed that Henry VI may have had a “sex coach” in his marriage bed in 2019. Johnson, who had been investigating the king’s private life, claimed to have discovered evidence in the National Archives and royal household accounts that suggests Henry and his wife, Margaret of Anjou, were occasionally joined by “trusted attendants” in the bedroom.

Was it because the famously chaste Henry didn’t know what he was doing? “I think it’s entirely possible that it had reached a certain point where it perhaps became necessary to make clear to him what he should be doing,” Johnson told the Observer. “That couldn’t be done in a public way at all. The king’s chamber is the most private place [where] you could be having this conversation or, indeed, checking what was going on.”

Read Lauren Johnson’s article on Henry VI in the March 2019 issue of BBC History Magazine

He was more popular after he died than when he was alive

Henry VI was not a vengeful king – if anything, he was quite the opposite. He once ordered a deceased traitor’s impaled ‘quarter’ to be taken down, commenting: “I will not have any Christian man so cruelly handled for my sake.” And in 1452, on Good Friday, he issued 144 pardons following an attempted rebellion by the Duke of York.

While the king was certainly a kind man, he made for a poor monarch. “He failed spectacularly as a ruler, losing two kingdoms,” wrote historian Desmond Seward in the April 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine. “Not only did he lose Lancastrian France but his inability to provide good government resulted in the Wars of the Roses and eventually in his own murder.”

Despite his poor leadership, people across England venerated Henry as a saint-like figure following his death on 21 May 1471. An increasing number of people embarked on pilgrimages to Chertsey Abbey, where the king was buried, before Richard III had Henry’s remains reinterred at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. The idea of ‘Henry the holy man’ was rapidly accepted, and in 1500 a book materialised that suggested the king could perform miracles, even after his death – from resurrecting plague victims to saving a servant unjustly accused of a capital offence.

So why did the cult of ‘Saint Henry’ take off? The answer, claims Seward, lies in the fact that he was unjustly murdered: “There was widespread pity for a king who, after his deposition, was treated as a thief, then put to death without having committed any crime.”

He experienced a mysterious illness that lasted 18 months

In August 1453, Henry VI fell into an inertia that lasted 18 months. Some historians believe he was suffering from catatonic schizophrenia, a condition characterised by symptoms including stupor, catalepsy (loss of consciousness) and mutism. Others have referred to it simply as a mental breakdown. He certainly had the genetic disposition for it his maternal grandfather, Charles VI of France, suffered from recurrent bouts of mental illness for the last 30 years of his life.

There are few contemporary accounts that shed light on the matter, but those that do exist suggest Henry had a notable lack of interest in the world around him during this time. In January 1454, a London merchant called John Stodeley wrote of how Henry barely responded when first introduced to his own new-born son, Edward. “He looked on the Prince and cast down his eyes again,” Stodeley reported. A few months later, visitors to the king described how “they could obtain no word or sign” from Henry after travelling to inform him of the death of Archbishop John Kempe.

When Henry finally recovered from his 18-month illness, he was reportedly “astonished to find his wife had given birth to a son”. Edward was born in October 1453 – just a few months after Henry became unwell.

Learn more about the history of medicine

He was the youngest person to become king of England – and the first (and only) English monarch to be crowned king of France

Henry became king of England on 1 September 1422, at nine months of age, following the death of his father, Henry V. A regency council governed the country until 1437, when Henry was considered old enough to rule. He was the youngest person to inherit the English throne.

Less than two months after he succeeded the English throne, Henry added another crown to his belt. His grandfather, King Charles VI, died on 21 October – and Henry was proclaimed king of France in line with the terms of the 1420 Treaty of Troyes. The military successes of Henry’s father, Henry V, meant that England held vast territories in France. These were, however, gradually lost over the course of Henry VI’s reign – and by 1453 (and the end of the Hundred Years’ War) England was left with only Calais.

He tried to stop the Wars of the Roses by implementing a ‘Love Day’

So devoted was Henry to the idea of peace, he once attempted to instigate a ‘Love Day’ to help reconcile the warring factions of the Wars of the Roses. The premise was as follows: a parade (or something similar) would take place on 24 March 1458 in which the leading Lancastrians would hold hands with the leading Yorkists as they walked through the streets of London. Needless to say, the plan did nothing to quell the hostility between the two sides.

Why did Henry have such a problem with conflict? In the latest issue of BBC History Magazine, Lauren Johnson speculates that the roots of Henry’s troubles lay in his childhood. “His uncles were ambitious men who blighted Henry’s youth with their sometimes violent disputes,” she explains. “Time and again Henry was called upon, despite his youth and inexperience, to resolve their quarrels, expected to serve as final arbiter of complex, adult dynamics that had taken form before he was born. As he was a sensitive, serious child, it is little wonder that he shrank from conflict in later life.”

Rachel Dinning is Digital Editorial Assistant at HistoryExtra

This article was first published on History Extra in February 2019

Edward VI as a Child, probably 1538

After the Reformation had brought social and political upheaval to Germany, creating an unfavorable climate for artists, Holbein moved to England in 1526. He first painted for Sir Thomas More's circle of high servants of the crown and then became painter to the King himself, Henry VIII. As court painter Holbein produced portraits, festival sets and other decorations intended to exalt the King and the Tudor dynasty, and also designs for jewelry and metalwork.

In his portraits Holbein endowed his sitters with a powerful physical presence which was increasingly held in check by the psychological reserve and elegance of surface appropriate to a court setting. This portrait of Henry VIII's only legitimate son and much desired male heir exemplifies these qualities. Edward was born on 12 October 1537 to Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, and this portrait appears to be the one given to the King on the New Year of 1539. The form of the portrait and the long Latin verse provided by the poet Richard Morison flatter the royal father and emphasize the succession.

Holbein depicted the baby prince as erect and self-possessed, one hand holding a scepter and the other open in a gesture of blessing. His frontal pose before a parapet is a type reserved for royalty or for images of holy figures.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/german-painting-fifteenth-through-seventeenth-centuries.pdf


across bottom: PARVVLE PATRISSA, PATRIÆ VIRTVTIS ET HÆRES / ESTO, NIHIL MAIVS MAXIMVS ORBIS HABET. / GNATVM VIX POSSVNT COELVM ET NATVRA DEDISSE, / HVIVS QVEM PATRIS, VICTVS HONORET HONOS. / ÆQVATO TANTVM, TANTI TV FACTA PARENTIS, / VOTA HOMINVM, VIX QVO PROGREDIANTVR, HABENT / VINCITO, VICISTI. QVOT REGES PRISCVS ADORAT / ORBIS, NEC TE QVI VINCERE POSSIT, ERIT. Ricard: Morysini. Car: (Little one, emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue the world contains nothing greater. Heaven and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass that of such a father. Do thou but equal the deeds of thy parent and men can ask no more. Shouldst thou surpass him, thou hast outstript all kings the world has revered in ages past.)


Gift of the artist on 1 January 1539 to Henry VIII, King of England [1509-1547].[1] Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey [1585-1646], Arundel Castle, Sussex, and Arundel House, London, by 1639, and Amsterdam, from 1643[2] by inheritance to his wife, Alathea Howard [d. 1654], Antwerp and Amsterdam.[3] Probably William III, King of England and Stadholder-King of the Netherlands [1650-1702], Het Loo, Apeldoorn, possibly by c. 1700.[4] Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover [1771-1851], Royal Castle, Georgengarten, Hanover, by 1844[5] by descent to his son, George V, King of Hanover [1819-1878] by descent to his son, Ernest Augustus II, Duke of Cumberland and Crown Prince of Hanover [1845-1923] (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London), by 1925 (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York), 1925[6] purchased July 1925 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh gift 1937 to NGA.

[1] New Year's Gift Roll in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, Ms. Z. d. 11, dated "First daie of January anno xxx" of the reign of Henry VIII, "By hanse holbyne a table of the pictour of the prince grace." A photocopy is in NGA curatorial files. Regnal year 30 of the reign of Henry VIII ran from 22 April 1538 to 21 April 1539, hence the manuscript dates to 1539 see Christopher R. Cheney, Handbook of Dates for Students of English History, London, 1978: 24.

[2] The Earl of Arundel's portrait of Edward VI was copied in miniature by Peter Oliver the miniature was catalogued by Abraham van der Doort in 1639 as part of the collection of Charles I, King of England, and added to the description are the words, "Coppied by Peter Olliver after Hanc Holbin whereof my Lord of Arrundel-hath ye Principall", see Oliver Millar, "Abraham van der Doort's Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I," Walpole Society 37 (1958-1960): 108, no. 22. The Earl of Arundel left England in 1641 and his collection was in Amsterdam in 1643 see Mary L. Cox, "Notes on the Collections formed by Thomas Howard," The Burlington Magazine 19 (1911): 282. Two other images identify what is evidently the Gallery's painting with the Arundel collection, the preparatory drawing and etching by Wenceslaus Hollar the latter is inscribed: H Holbein pinxit. Wenceslaus Hollar fecit. ex Collectione Arundeliana. An. 1650. Horace Walpole added the handwritten emendation, "There is a print from this by Hollar." to the printed version of van der Doort's catalogue George Vertue, A Catalogue and Description of King Charles the First's Capital Collection, London, 1757: 39-40, no. 22.

[3] Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, died in Padua in 1646, and his will of 3 September 1640, left his possessions to his wife see Charles Howard, Historical Anecdotes of Some of the Howard Family, London, 1817: 93-96. Alathea Howard died in Amsterdam in 1654 an inventory in the Rijksarchief, Utrecht, of the Arundel collection made in Amersfoort in 1655 lists two portraits of Edward VI by Holbein see F. H. C. Weijtens, De Arundel-Collectie. Commencement de la fin Amersfoort 1655, Utrecht, 1971: 30, no. 19, "Eduwart de seste, Holben", and 31, no. 49, "Eduwardus den sesten, Holben." These correspond to an inventory in Italian in the Public Record Office, London (Cox, 1911, as per note 2 above, 323). It is assumed that the painting copied by Oliver and Hollar corresponds to one of the works listed. It is not clear what happened next to the collection. At the time of Alathea Howard's death, her only surviving son, William Viscount Stafford [d. 1680], claimed that a nuncupative will entitled him to her personal possessions including the art collection, but this was disputed by his nephew, Henry, who succeeded his father, Henry Frederick [d. 1652], as Earl of Arundel and Surrey see Mary F. S. Hervey, The Life, Correspondence, & Collections of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Cambridge, 1921: 473, and Weijtens, De Arundel-Collectie, 1971: 18-24. Weijtens 1971, pl. 14, published a document of 11 October 1662 signed by the painter Herman Saftleven indicating that Lord Stafford's collection was probably sold in Utrecht in that year.

[4] S.W.A. Drossaers and Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Inventarissen van de inboedels in de verblijven an de Oranjes en daarmede gelijk te stellen stukken 1567-1795, 3 vols., The Hague, 1974-1976 Inventaris van de inboedel van het Huis Het Loo, het Oude Loo en Het Huis Merwell, 1713, 1:679, no. 886: "Een koning Eduard van denselven [i.e. Holbein] met een descriptie van Richard Morosini" and Schilderijen die volgens het zeggen van den kunstbewaerder Du Val door Hare Majt.de coninginne van Groot-Brittanniën zijn gereclameert geworden als tot de croon behorende, 1713: 700, no. 10: "Koning Eduart van dito [i.e. Holbein]," in margin, "Staet niet aengeteekent." As observed by Broos in Beatrijs Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij, et al., Paintings from England. William III and the Royal Collections, exh. cat. Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen "Mauritshuis," The Hague, 1988: 117, Du Val's marginal notation of "Not listed" (Staet niet aengeteekent) may be taken as an indication that the portrait was not on the list of works requested for return to the English Royal collection because it was acquired from a private collection, that of Arundel. Broos, 118, suggested, without verification, that the portrait was in Het Loo by about 1700 and that it hung next to a portrait of Henry VIII by Holbein as indicated in the 1713 inventory, Drossaers and Lunsingh Scheurleer 1974, no. 885: "Een Hendrick de Achtste van Holbeen". The portrait was in Het Loo in 1711, for in that year it was described by Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach see Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen Holland und Engelland, 3 vols., Ulm, 1753-1754: 2:376-377, who transcribed the inscription at the bottom of the painting, but believed that it represented Henry VIII as a child.

[5] It is not known exactly when and by what means the painting entered the Royal Collection. Broos, in Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij et al., 1988, 117-118, suggested that the portrait came to Germany from Het Loo as a result of the marriage in 1734 of William IV, King of the Netherlands, to Anna of Hanover, Duchess of Braunschweig-Lüneberg this is unverified but intriguing. No portrait of Edward VI by Holbein appears in the inventories of 1709, 1754, 1781, and 1803 letter of 16 December 1977 to John Hand from Hans Georg Gmelin, in NGA curatorial files. The earliest published mention of the picture is Justus Molthan, Verzeichniss der Bildhauerwerke und Gemälde welche sich in den königlich hannoverschen Schlössern und Gebäuden befinden, Hanover, 1844: 65, no. 12, and conceivably it thus could have entered the collection sometime after 1803 and before 1844.

[6] Nancy C. Little, M. Knoedler & Co., letter of 2 March 1988 to NGA curator John Hand, in NGA curatorial files, stating that the painting came to Knoedler's from Colnaghi in 1925, and was Knoedler stock number 16123. See also M. Knoedler & Co. Records, accession number 2012.M.54, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Painting Stock Book 7, 1921 January - 1927 December, p. 89 Sales Book 12, 1921 January - 1926 December, p. 272 copies in NGA curatorial files.

A rather sensational, but unverified, account of how the painting passed from the Duke of Cumberland's collection to Colnaghi's to a representative of Knoedler's was given by A. Martin de Wilde in Betty Beale, "Will of Billionaire Deprives U.S. of Art," Buffalo Evening News, 6 June 1960, clipping in NGA curatorial files. See also Das Niedersächsische Landmuseum Hannover: 150 Jahre Museum in Hannover, 100 Jahre Gebäude am Maschpark, Hannover, 2002: 34-35.

Associated Names
Exhibition History
Technical Summary

The painting comprises two boards with vertical grain. From the x-radiograph it appears that the panel may once have been split along the join line and reglued. The dendrochronological examination conducted by Peter Klein did not produce data that matched the existing master chronologies for Europe and thus yielded neither a date nor confirmation of an earlier examination made by John Fletcher.[1] The panel has been thinned and cradled, and strips of wood approximately 0.95 cm wide have been added to the sides and the top. There is no barbe, and the panel was not painted in an engaged frame. There is nothing to suggest the panel has been cut down. Rather, the fact that the ground is either very thin or nonexistent for a width of approximately 1 cm along the top and bottom edges and that there is a raised lip of ground along the right end of the bottom edge suggest that the panel was held in a clamp or on some sort of easel when the ground was applied. Over the smooth, thick, white ground there is a salmon-pink imprimatura of medium thickness. Examination with infrared reflectography discloses a fine, delicate underdrawing Iying over the imprimatura, probably done with a brush and also visible to the naked eye. There are slight changes in the eyelids, which in the underdrawing were somewhat higher, and in the hand holding the rattle, where the middle finger once was parallel to the index finger and both extended farther to the lower left.

Various techniques were used in this picture. The paint has been very precisely and smoothly applied glazes and layering have been used in several areas. The paint layers extend to the edges of the panel on all sides. A thick, white layer underlies much of the green drapery, possibly to counter any effect of the pink imprimatura below. The fine, gold lines found in the brocade and decorative details appear to be shell gold brushed over a warm brown or yellow base. In the hat thick, light ocher-toned areas under the gold act as a bole or mordant to provide a warm color base for the gold. The gray-brown portions of the cap are silver leaf, which originally may have been covered by a red glaze.

Except for the hat, many or nearly all of the uppermost layers of the red paint are missing. The remaining reds have a cracked and crizzled appearance. Optical microscopy indicates that the pigment used for the background is smalt, which has discolored to gray and, as indicated by the edges under the frame rabbet, would originally have been closer to a brighter slate blue. Apart from the aforementioned damage, the painting is secure and in reasonably good condition. There is damage and a large abraded loss in the background at the left above the child's arm. There are tiny scattered losses in the left cheek and a thin series of old losses along the join line.

[1] See Peter Klein's examination report, 24 September 1987, in NGA curatorial files. John Fletcher examined the painting on 3-4 October 1979 and put forward a date of 1533/1545 for the earliest likely use of the panel (report, 7-8 November 1979, in NGA curatorial files).

The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England

Mine is the Hardbackwith Charlie Two in Parliamentary robes on the cover:

This is my primary reference source and is never far from my desk.

07.12.2013: How hilarious. This book is open all the time given the sort of reading habits that are followed here and honest-to-goodness, I have just noticed the bit on Richard III where it states he died at Bosworth *tick*, buried Grey Friars Abbey *tick-ish* and later disinterred and bones thrown in River Soar.

Mine is the Hardbackwith Charlie Two in Parliamentary robes on the cover:

This is my primary reference source and is never far from my desk.

07.12.2013: How hilarious. This book is open all the time given the sort of reading habits that are followed here and honest-to-goodness, I have just noticed the bit on Richard III where it states he died at Bosworth *tick*, buried Grey Friars Abbey *tick-ish* and later disinterred and bones thrown in River Soar.

Henry VI (1421 - 1471)

Henry VI © King from 1422 to 1461 and from 1470 to 1471 and the last Lancastrian ruler of England, Henry's reign was dominated by the Wars of the Roses.

Henry was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle. He was only nine months old when he succeeded his father, Henry V. He was crowned king of England in 1429 and, as result of his father's successes against the French, king of France in 1431. A regency council ran England until Henry was considered old enough to rule in 1437. In 1445, he married Margaret of Anjou.

Henry was a pious man whose interest in government was sporadic, who picked the wrong advisors and who was unable to prevent the power struggles that began to develop at court. Meanwhile, the dual monarchy proved too difficult to maintain the successes of the Dauphin and Joan of Arc began to weaken England's grip on its French possessions and Normandy was lost in 1450. This only contributed to the erosion of Henry's prestige and authority.

In 1453, the king had a mental breakdown and Richard, Duke of York, was made protector. The king recovered in 1455, but civil war broke out between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions. The ensuing struggle came to be known as the Wars of the Roses. While the Duke of York was the main figure on the Yorkist side, Margaret, Henry's queen, took charge of the Lancastrian cause. In 1460, York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield but his son took up the fight, defeating the Lancastrians at Towton in 1461 and crowning himself Edward IV. Henry fled into exile, but returned and was captured by Edward in 1465. The Earl of Warwick - previously an ally of Edward - now switched sides and restored Henry to the throne in 1470. Edward returned from exile and destroyed the Lancastrian forces at Tewkesbury in May 1471. Henry and Margaret's only son was among the Lancastrian dead. Henry VI, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, was murdered shortly afterwards.

Henry VI of England, National Portrait Gallery - History

Jean de Dinteville, the man on the left, is shown on his second diplomatic mission to England on behalf of Francis I, King of France. To the right is his close friend, Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. This portrait was painted at a time of religious upheaval in Europe. Although the pope had refused to annull Henry VIII, King of England&rsquos marriage to Catherine of Aragon which resulted in a break with the Roman Catholic Church, in 1533 he married Anne Boleyn. The array of objects on the table seem to allude to discord the arithmetic book, for example, is open at the page concerning mathematical division.

The portrait is a supreme display of Holbein&rsquos skill in composing images and in manipulating oil paint to recreate a variety of textures. If viewed from a particular angle the elongated shape between the men&rsquos feet becomes a skull. Equally hidden at the top left of the picture is a crucifix that hints at the hope of redemption in the resurrected Christ.

This grand double portrait by Hans Holbein, the most accomplished portraitist of the sixteenth century, does more than show off the wealth and status of its sitters. It was painted at a time of religious upheaval in Europe &ndash Henry VIII, King of England, would soon break with the Roman Catholic Church as the pope would not annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The objects on the table seem to allude to the complexities of the political climate. It&rsquos also a supreme display of Holbein&rsquos skill in composing images and in manipulating oil paint to recreate a variety of textures.

Holbein made this painting on his second trip to England in the early 1530s. We know that he was working on it in 1533 as he has dated it beneath his signature on the marble floor behind the figure on the left. The artist did not usually sign his paintings and the signature here is more elaborate than other known examples, suggesting that he was particularly proud of this work.

In the same year as the portrait was painted, Henry married his second wife, Anne Boleyn. He bypassed papal authority by doing so, establishing the Church of England as independent from Rome and placing himself at its head. The break of religious and political ties with Catholic Europe was worrying for Francis I, King of France. The man on the left is his ambassador Jean de Dinteville, whom he had tasked to report back to him on the situation. Dinteville, one of Francis&rsquos most trusted courtiers, attended the wedding on the King&rsquos behalf. This was his second diplomatic mission to England and he would visit the country a further three times, conveying messages between the two monarchs. The man to the right is his close friend Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. Selve was also on a diplomatic mission, although we do not know its exact nature. Four years earlier he had attended the Diet of Speyer, a conference at which the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V attempted to reconcile Catholics and Protestants. Both men were in their twenties when this was painted: Latin inscriptions on the scabbard of Dinteville&rsquos sword and the edge of the book on which Georges is leaning reveal that they are 28 and 24 years old respectively (&lsquo aetatis suae 25&rsquo, meaning &lsquohe is in his 25th year&rsquo).

Dinteville was required to stay in London for Anne&rsquos coronation in June and for the birth of Henry and Anne&rsquos daughter Elizabeth in September (Francis was her godfather). Surviving correspondence reveals that Dinteville was very unhappy on his extended visit. He described himself as &lsquothe most melancholy, weary and wearisome ambassador that was ever seen&rsquo, but the arrival of his friend, who was in London briefly from April to June, cheered him up. This portrait commemorates their friendship, as well as this brief stint together in England. By placing the table between them, Holbein separates the two men but also provides them with a prop to lean on, so they appear to be posing naturally.

The table also offers space to display a wide range of objects. Renaissance portraits often included objects such a musical instruments, coins, books or flowers, enriching the portrayal of the sitter by alluding to their hobbies, intellect, culture, marital status or religious fervour. As a group, these objects have been interpreted as a visual essay on the religious and political turmoil of mid-sixteenth-century Europe. The top shelf shows instruments used to measure time, altitude and the position of the stars and other celestial bodies. On the far left is a celestial globe, mapping the position of stars and planets the multi-faceted box-like object with dials on each face is called a polyhedral dial, a type of sundial. Such objects were made by Henry VIII&rsquos royal astronomer, Nicholas Kratzer: Holbein&rsquos portrait showing Kratzer making a polyhedral dial is in the Louvre, Paris. Technical instruments like this were extremely precious, and their inclusion also shows off the men&rsquos understanding of mathematics and science.

The lower shelf is devoted mainly to music. It is dominated by a lute, its case abandoned face down on the floor one of the strings is broken. The book to the left is an arithmetic book, wedged open with a set square on the page relating to mathematical division. Under the neck of the lute, resting on a set of flutes &ndash one is missing, which suggests a lack of harmony &ndash is a Lutheran hymn book. The script and score are clear enough to read, revealing that Holbein deliberately chose to show two pages which do not follow each other in the standard form of the Lutheran hymn book. The hymns are &lsquoCome Holy Ghost&rsquo and &lsquoThe Ten Commandments&rsquo, which Georges may have wanted to include because they express Christian unity. The globe on this shelf is terrestrial and includes the hamlet of Polisy, about 200 kilometres south-east of Paris, where Dinteville had his chateau and where this painting would hang: an inventory dated 1589 records it decorating the Great Hall.

Visitors to Polisy would have been able to admire the grandeur and intellect of the sitter, whom we assume developed the picture&rsquos rhetoric in conversation with the artist, as well as Holbein&rsquos incredible technical skill. The sheen of Dinteville&rsquos pink satin tunic is dazzling, its smoothness contrasting with the rich, dense lynx fur lining his black cape. Holbein has painted the individual hairs around its edges, giving a sense of its luxuriously soft texture. The gold tassels hanging from the scabbard of Dinteville&rsquos dagger were created using Holbein&rsquos usual gilding technique: he painted the individual strands in a brownish colour, covered them with a layer of oil mordant (a sticky substance which acted like a glue) and then secured gold leaf to create these delicate, swaying threads. Despite its detail, areas of the picture betray the speed with which Holbein was working. We can see the individual knots of the Turkish carpet on the table the grey areas are underpainting which Holbein has simply left bare, only altering the tone slightly here and there to show how the textile ripples slightly at the edges.

Renaissance portraiture was often commissioned as a reminder of the frailty of life, or memento mori. The most unusual element of the picture &ndash a distorted, elongated object that appears to hover between the men&rsquos feet &ndash can only be seen properly if you look up at the painting from the bottom right corner. Viewed from here, the shape reveals itself to be a large skull, an effect called anamorphosis which can also be seen in an unusual portrait of Henry&rsquos son Edward VI in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Equally hidden at the top left of the picture, pinned to the green damask curtain, is a crucifix. It might hint at Christian unity because it expresses the universal hope of salvation through Christ&rsquos sacrifice.

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Significance and legacy of Agincourt

After the victory, Henry continued his march to Calais and arrived back in England in November to an outpouring of nationalistic sentiment. Contemporary accounts describe the triumphal pageantry with which the king was received in London on November 23, with elaborate displays and choirs attending his passage to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Agincourt Carol, dating from around this time and possibly written for Henry’s reception in London, is a rousing celebration of the might of the English. The effect of the victory on national morale was powerful. Agincourt came on the back of half a century of military failure and gave the English a success that repeated victories such as Crécy and Poitiers. Moreover, with this outcome Henry V strengthened his position in his own kingdom it legitimized his claim to the crown, which had been under threat after his accession.

Most importantly, the battle was a significant military blow to France and paved the way for further English conquests and successes. The French nobility, weakened by the defeat and divided among themselves, were unable to meet new attacks with effective resistance. Henry managed to subjugate Normandy in 1419, a victory that was followed by the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, which betrothed Henry to King Charles VI’s daughter Catherine and named him heir to the French crown.

The Battle of Agincourt was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his play Henry V.

Watch the video: A Guided Tour of the National Portrait Gallery Exhibition. Vogue 100. British Vogue (June 2022).


  1. Zackariah

    There is no point.

  2. Narr

    What luck!

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