Portraits in disguise - NPG 1492(c)
George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
by George Perfect Harding, after Nicholas Hilliard
The original version of this miniature is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The Earl of Cumberland (1558-1605), became Queen's Champion at the Accession Day Tilt of 1590. Hilliard depicts him in this rôle, in tournament armour. He wears Queen Elizabeth's jewelled glove in his hand, a starry helmet and gauntlets lie on the ground, his pasteboard shield adorned with impresa of a sun and moon flanking the earth in eclipse, hangs on the tree. Courtiers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century enjoyed dressing up, whether for quasi-medieval tournaments or for masques. Extravagant and costly dress was a vital part of these performances.
Francis Bacon in his essay Of Masques and Triumphs summarized the essential ingredients for a successful appearance in a tournament:
"For justs, and tourneys, and barriers; the glories of them are chiefly in the chariots, wherein the challengers make their entry; especially if they be drawn with strange beasts, as lions bears camels and the like; or in the devices of their entrance; or in the bravery of their livery; or in the furniture of their horse and armour.
The Venetian ambassador, Giacomo Soranzo, wrote in 1554 that Queen Mary wore a "gown such as men wear, but fitting very close, with an under-petticoat which has a very long train; this is her ordinary costume, being also that of the gentlewomen of England."
A German visitor to London in 1592 observed that acquiring fine clothes appeared to be more important to some women than having food in the house:
"The women.........go dressed out in exceedingly fine clothes, and give all their attention to their ruffs and stuffs, to such a degree indeed, that, as I am informed, many a one does not hesitate to wear velvet in the streets, which is common with them, whilst at home perhaps they have not a piece of dry bread."
Sir Francis Drake
by unknown artist , c .1580
NPG 4032 (Detail)
This courtier wears a slashed peascod belly doublet with short braided tabs over smooth fitting Venetians that fit tightly to just below the knee, and supporting stockings. A splendid lace ruff frames the head.