Sunday, February 3, 2013

Another Tudor Portrait Discovery

Thanks to Elena Maria Vidal at Tea at Trianon:

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon are once more side by side and at Lambeth Palace, of all places. Apparently many people thought for years and years that the above painting was supposed to be Katherine Parr, although the clothes are obviously from decades before Henry married her. I knew it was Katherine of Aragon. 

The Mail online summarizes the discovery:

For years it was assumed by staff at Lambeth Palace that the oil painting hanging in a private sitting room was of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife.

But when experts from the National Portrait Gallery went to the Palace - the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury - to research a portrait of an earlier archbishop, they were able to shed new light on the matter.

First, the portrait was in a frame that pre-dated the rotund monarch's sixth wife, second; her clothes were from an earlier period, and third, well, the woman also bore a startling resemblance to Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Tests soon showed that they were right, and now the gallery has hung the portrait of the devoutly Catholic queen rather mischievously, side by side with a portrait of Henry, whose desperation to divorce her was the catalyst for England's schism with the Catholic church.

The 'exciting discovery' about the picture was made when researchers from the National Portrait Gallery went to Lambeth Palace to find out more about William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury who married Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in 1509.

The researchers, who were working on a project called Making Art In Tudor Britain, noticed the painting on the wall of a private sitting room, where it has hung since at least the 19th century but probably longer, under the assumption it depicted Catherine Parr.

The paper even includes this biographical sketch of Queen Katherine of Aragon:


Henry VIII's first wife was the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, who had been previously been married to his older brother Arthur.

When Arthur died, six months after their marriage, his younger brother Henry married her in 1509 and Catherine was crowned Queen of England in a joint coronation ceremony with her husband.

Shortly after their marriage Catherine became pregnant but gave birth to a stillborn daughter in January 1510. A subsequent pregnancy resulted in the birth of Prince Henry in 1511 and there were great celebrations, but he died aged 52 days.

Catherine then had a miscarriage, followed by another short-lived son, but in February 1516, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Mary, and the child lived.

Henry still loved his wife but became frustrated by the lack of a male heir and took several mistresses, among them Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne.

Anne refused to become Henry's mistress but he pursued her until she succumbed, as his desperation for a son grew.

His worry was all the greater because he had read in Leviticus that if a man married his brother's wife, they would remain childless. Despite having a daughter, Henry still felt himself 'childless' for not having a son.

The King petitioned the Pope for his marriage to be annulled and when Catherine - a devout Catholic - heard of this, she was so upset that she, too, directly appealed to the Pope on her side.

Catherine's argument was that as she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage, they were not truly husband and wife.

The argument and machinations continued for six years and things came to a head in 1533 when Anne Boleyn became pregnant and Henry decided that the only way to marry her would be to reject the power of the Pope in England and have Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, annul the marriage.

Catherine had to renounce her title as Queen and be known as the Princess Dowager of Wales, which she rejected for the rest of her life.

Catherine and her daughter Mary were separated and she was forced to leave the royal court, living in dank manor houses and castles with just a handful of servants. She was said to suffer ill-health but never complained, and spent much of her time praying.

Catherine and Henry's daughter became Queen Mary I of England in 1553 and was known for her brutal persecution of Protestants - earning her the nickname 'Bloody Mary'.

"Henry and Catherine Reunited"--with Anne Boleyn nearby-- is on display in Room 1 of the National Portrait Gallery.

1 comment:

  1. I find that interesting since Henry viii divorced her and kept her a prisoner.