Frances, Countess of Somerset

1 portrait on display in Room 4 at the National Portrait Gallery

Frances, Countess of Somerset, studio of William Larkin, circa 1615 - NPG 1955 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Frances, Countess of Somerset

studio of William Larkin
oil on panel, feigned oval, circa 1615
22 5/8 in. x 17 1/4 in. (575 mm x 438 mm)
Purchased, 1922
Primary Collection
NPG 1955


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  • William Larkin (circa 1580-1619), Painter. Artist associated with 3 portraits.

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Frances Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, and a famous beauty. She was divorced from Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex in 1613 and married Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, a favourite of James I. In 1615 she and her second husband, along with several accomplices, were convicted of poisoning Sir Thomas Overbury who had opposed their marriage. Although the couple were imprisoned until 1621, they were later pardoned of their crime. It was said of Somerset, 'If he had not met with such a woman he might have been a good man.'

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Current affairs

George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, is knighted and appointed gentleman of the Bechamber and replaces Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, as the king's favourite. Buckingham would prosper under the king's patronage, advancing rapidly through the peerage. The Somersets stand trial for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.

Art and science

James I produces Remonstrance for the Right of Kings and the Independence of their Crownes, in which he defends European kingship and directly confronts the papacy. Architect Inigo Jones is appointed Surveyor of the King's Works and would hold the post for 27 years.

International

The Spanish court send official articles to serve as a basis for negotiations concerning a marriage alliance between Charles, Prince of Wales and the Spanish king Philip III's second daughter, Maria Anna. Marriage of French king Louis XIII and the Spanish Infanta, Anne, Philip III's eldest daughter.

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