Supplied by Royal Collection Trust/© HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012

Over the last couple of years much of my time has been spent tracking down and researching objects associated with Prince Henry, the son of James VI of Scotland and I of England, the boy who, had he lived, would have become King Henry IX. Henry is now a largely forgotten figure, but in his lifetime, and for some time afterwards, he was seen as the ideal Renaissance prince. Brave, handsome, athletic, clever, noble and virtuous, he seems to have possessed every quality desirable in a prince. He became the focus of almost unlimited hope for the future for his family, his would-be subjects, and Protestant states abroad. Many wonderful paintings and objects connected with him survive to this day.

These include extraordinary portraits, one showing him hunting with a friend, another, riding a huge grey horse, accompanied by an apparently naked figure of Father Time.

© Michael Donne

There are also exquisite portrait miniatures, beautifully bound books from his collection, Old Master paintings branded with his ‘HP’ monogram, elegant Renaissance bronzes, and much more. Some of the most touching artefacts are letters to and from his parents, and Henry’s own exercise book. The latter has lines of Latin written out as handwriting practice, but also a page of doodles and smudges, practice signatures and scribbles.

Visiting these objects has been one of the most exciting parts of my research for the exhibition – and sometimes surprisingly moving as well. My next post will tell the story of one such visit.

© The British Library Board, Royal.12.A.LXVI.

As part of the exhibition The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart

Image Credits (from top to bottom)

Henry, Prince of Wales, Isaac Oliver, c.1610-12. The Royal Collection. Supplied by Royal Collection Trust/© HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012.

Prince Henry on Horseback, Robert Peake the Elder, c.1666-8? From the collection at Parham House, Pulborough, West Sussex. © Michael Donne.

Prince Henry’s Copy-book, Prince Henry, 1606-6, bound probably in 1610. The Master and fellows of Trinity College Cambridge. © The British Library Board, Royal.12.A.LXVI.


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Struan Bates

21 November 2012, 12:10

An excellent exhibition and a model for how this kind of thing should be done. I particularly enjoyed reading Henry's copy book and discovering portraits I'd not seen before, including those of his brother and sister. 'The Embarkation at Margate of the Elector Palatine and Princess Elizabeth' was also an inspired choice. Struan Bates

Struan Bates

21 November 2012, 11:41

An excellent exhibition and a model for how this kind of thing should be done. Particularly enjoyed reading Henry's copy book and discovering portraits I'd not seen before, including those of his brother and sister. 'The Embarkation at Margate of the Elector Palatine and Princess Elizabeth' was also an inspired choice.


12 November 2012, 14:15

Thank you for your thoughtful and obviously well-informed response. You are of course right in saying that my rather off-hand remark about the growth of Puritanism reflects an outdated view of the history of the period. I just wanted to indicate that there were many factors other than the character of the prince that should be considered in thinking about this – ultimately unanswerable – question (about whether civil war would have broken out under Henry). In fact given that, as you say, Henry’s bellicosity was in part a factor of the structure of the courts, you could argue that, had he succeeded to the throne, the realities of being the regnant monarch might have led to his taking a very different stance. But it’s all speculation…


08 November 2012, 19:28

The remark about the `the growth of Puritanism' and its implications for the outbreak of civil war reflects an outdated aspect of the interpretation of the period. After c.1604, puritanism enters the third of the four phases that it passes through between the 1560s and the 1680s. This third phase might be characterised as one of quietist spirituality. It contrasts with earlier phases of direct `political' engagement over such matters as the vestiarian controversy and the form of church government. From at least the mid-1620s the imposition of the `beauties of holiness' and a new ceremonialism by a clique within the Church of England challenged fundamental tenets of puritanism as expressed through the liturgy. In doing so it also challenged what over the generations had become established `prayer book anglicanism'. This was in additional to the doctrinal challenge to predestinarian Calvinism that had emerged in Cambridge in the 1580s and that gained ground thereafter. As a consequence by 1640, puritanism was not a burgeoning challenge to royal authority but a beleaguered interest group. Of course, its belligerence on the part of the cause may have been all the greater because of this. How might this trajectory of religious differences have intersected with a monarchy that not only reigned but also ruled? Here, perhaps, we enter the territory of the speculative and the ultimately unprovable. Nonetheless, there are some interesting parallels. In the first place the Stuart predilection for ceremony and festivity suggests a natural affinity with the renascent ceremonial of the Church. This is closely related to a movement throughout Europe in this period involving the sacralisation of monarchy. There is a second parallel. From the viewpoint of the exhibition and what it illustrates this is more intriguing. The projection of princely power implies that princes--to use the generic term--could `make the world'. Surely this challenged the established doctrine of the Church of England: predestination? Indeed, there were those like Thomas Beard who saw any attempt to `make the world'--as on the stage--as in itself a blasphemy. So the inference to be drawn from these larger considerations is that there was an inherent tension between fundamental features of puritanism on the one hand and the preening self-projections of monarchs and monarchs-in-expectation such as Henry. Against this we have to set the happenstance of politics. Henry's belligerent stance was not simply the result of the flow adolescent testosterone. It also arose out of structural features of royal courts and monarchical rule. Very often heirs apparent defined themselves against the policies of their fathers: what has become known as `the reversionary interest'. In this respect Henry's bellicosity had its attraction for puritans who were not happy with James' attempt to play the role of Rex Pacificus. This was because `forward protestantism' was a self-consciously internationalist movement. There were those who saw Henry as a potential protagonist for English engagement on behalf of beleaguered protestantism on the Continent. Given the unresolved problems with the finances of the English state at this time I think that we are justified in concluding that any contingent alliance between Henry and the puritan internationalists would have led to a major crisis long before 1640. The highly effective evocation of Prince Henry in the exhibition provides some of the evidence for this interpretation. It shows what a useful focus an exhibition like this can be. (My apologies for stating all this so baldly and for ending up expatiating upon the topic at such length!)


02 November 2012, 09:44

No there would still have been the war. He was charismatic, but in my research for my book on The English Civil War, I found him to be a spiteful, self centred individual who cruelly bullied Charles as a child. He would have inherited as Charles did, a bankrupt and corrupt court and would probably have tried to impose worse taxes to fund his profligate lifestyle. If George Villiers had any influence over him as an advisor they would have been fighting futile battles at home and abroad.


01 November 2012, 21:33

Thank you for a wonderful entertaining discussion with Lady Antonia Fraser, initially referring to the Lost Prince, but then going deeply into her experiences and excitement in exploring and telling the story of the Gunpowder Plot, very appropriate at this time of the year, as is the opening of this exhibition. I have absorbed the introduction and opening chapter of the wonderful catalogue/book before venturing in to discover the entire exhibition, hopefully on November 6th, the anniversary of the tragic death of this wonderful young man. As a Blue Badge Guide I always comment on this sad event when passing Prince Henry's Rooms at the junction of the Strand and Fleet Stree, which is on my Bucket List so this will certainly inspire me finally to visit - assuming they are open at the time! Returning to the question, I am convinced that he would have made a wonderful king, and Charles could have continued his good work of collecting art for this great country. I regard Charles I as our worst king, or certainly one of the worst - though this can still cause internal warfare after 350 years!

Mike Paterson

01 November 2012, 10:36

Congratulations on this show, the best since (and possibly eclipsing) the Thomas Lawrence from a little while back. A real historic insight into royalty, grooming, kingship. The clothes, and in particular collars and hats, were amazing.

James Raleigh

29 October 2012, 17:24

Wonderful exhibit! Glad that someone in James I 's household liked Sir Walter Raleigh. Can't wait to get my copy of the catalogue. Sorry not able to visit.

Catharine McLeod

15 October 2012, 14:51

This does seem to be his usual form of dress in imagery of the time – usually with a loin cloth of some kind when he isn’t behind a horse!

foreign visitor

13 October 2012, 12:33

Why is "Father Time" this his usual mode of dress?

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