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Queen Mary I

3 of 50 portraits of Queen Mary I

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Queen Mary I

by Hans Eworth
oil on panel, 1554
8 1/2 in. x 6 5/8 in. (216 mm x 169 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, H.M. Government, Miss Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, 1972
Primary Collection
NPG 4861

On display in Room 2 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Queen Mary I (1516-1558), Reigned 1553-58; daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Sitter associated with 50 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Hans Eworth (active 1540-died 1574), Artist. Artist or producer associated with 26 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait was based on a sitting from the life in 1554. When he first met Mary, Philip II of Spain is said to have cursed those who had painted her for having exaggerated her attractions. Recent technical analysis has revealed a small inscription, HE, painted onto the top left corner of the portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 22
  • 100 Portraits, p. 22
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 21 Read entry

    Mary I (1516-58) was England’s first queen regnant. She ruled as Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in November 1558. The only child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon to survive into adulthood, she (and her mother) gradually fell out of favour with the King. The Succession Act of March 1534 formally declared Mary illegitimate, elevating Anne Boleyn’s children as heirs to the throne. Mary was restored to the line of succession, behind her half-brother Edward, in 1544, following an improvement in familial relations over the course of Henry VIII’s sixth marriage, but was subsequently excluded from the line of succession in Edward VI’s will, primarily due to her religious convictions. Nevertheless, Mary had widespread popular support and deposed Lady Jane Gray as queen in 1553 after just nine days. Once queen, she sought to re-impose Catholicism and her persecution of Protestants earned her the posthumous sobriquet ‘Bloody Mary’.

  • Bolland, Charlotte, The Tudors Passion, Power and Politics, 2022, p. 68
  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 31 Read entry

    Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and faced years of struggle following the annulment of her parents’ marriage. After the death of her half-brother, Edward VI, she rallied supporters to claim the throne and became England’s first crowned queen at the age of thirty-seven. She suffered ill health and was described by the Venetian ambassador in 1557 as being short and ‘of spare and delicate frame ... [with eyes that] are so piercing that they inspire, not only respect, but fear, in those on whom she fixes them’. She restored Roman Catholicism in England but faced strong resistance to her decision to marry Philip II of Spain. She died childless, aged forty-two, unable to prevent her Protestant half-sister from taking the throne. The Antwerp-born artist Hans Eworth worked in London for almost thirty years. Like Hans Holbein the Younger, he was able to work on a variety of scales, and this small painting uses the same likeness as that in his near life-size image of Mary (Society of Antiquaries of London). It bears the artist’s monogram and the date 1554, and demonstrates how numerous versions of a portrait could be produced at the same time for different patrons: this small painting may have been sent abroad during the negotiations for Mary’s marriage to Philip. The diamond jewel suspended from her pearl necklace is a tau cross that may have belonged to her mother; it was the emblem of St Anthony Abbot and was believed to protect against plague.

  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 116
  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), pp. 122-125
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 90 Read entry

    Mary was described by an ambassador in 1557 as having eyes 'so piercing that they inspire, not only respect, but fear, in those on whom she fixes them'. This small portrait was made by the Netherlandish artist Hans Eworth and it was possibly made during marriage negotiations with Philip II.

  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 21
  • Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 32 Read entry

    Many of the best portraits of the Tudor royal family were painted by German or Netherlandish artists working in England. Hans Eworth was originally from Antwerp in the Netherlands and worked in London for almost thirty years. Mary I was his most important patron. This portrait shows Mary in her late thirties after her unpopular marriage to Philip II of Spain. Like her grandfather Henry VII and her brother Edward VI she holds a rose, symbolic of the Tudor dynasty.

    Mary must have been pleased with this likeness as Eworth produced a number of variants of this portrait, perhaps based on a single sitting from life. Larger than a miniature, but not a life-sized portrait, the picture was designed as a portable object that could be easily held in the hand and stored in a cabinet of precious treasures or sent to foreign courts.

  • Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 16
  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 21
  • MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 22
  • Rab MacGibbon, National Portrait Gallery: The Collection, p. 21
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 37
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 49
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 416
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 43 Read entry

    Mary I, England’s last Roman Catholic monarch, succeeded her devoutly Protestant half-brother Edward VI in 1553, following a brief nine days’ reign by Lady Jane Grey. This portrait was painted in 1554, the year of a rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt, which sought to prevent the Queen’s marriage to King Philip II of Spain, an alliance that was linked in the public’s mind with the reinstatement of Catholicism. The Queen died childless aged forty-two and was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I.

    This portrait is signed in monogram by the artist Hans Eworth (d.1574), an exceptionally skilful Netherlandish artist working in England, and is one of a number of surviving versions by him of this composition. The painting shows a bejewelled Mary shortly before her marriage to Philip in July 1554, holding a Tudor rose and wearing a diamond cross and large diamond pendant. The large pearl suspended from her pendant is possibly the famous pearl of great size known as ‘La Peregrina’ (The Incomparable), given to Mary by Philip earlier that year.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Mediaback to top


Events of 1554back to top

Current affairs

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger leads a rebellion against the Catholic Queen Mary. 4,000 men march from Kent to London, where the rebellion is crushed and Wyatt executed. Princess Elizabeth is imprisoned in the Tower of London, but found innocent of treason.
Lady Jane Grey is executed.
Queen Mary I marries Philip of Spain at Winchester. Parliament passes the Second Act of Repeal reuniting the English and Roman Catholic Churches.

Art and science

Gerlach Flicke paints the earliest surviving self-portrait in oils produced in England.
The Italian architect Andrea Palladio published L'Antichita di Roma (The Antiquities of Rome), which remains the standard text on the subject for 300 years.


Battle of Marciano - Sienese-French forces defeated by a Florentine-Imperial army. The defeat leads to the end of Siena's independence from Florence.
The Portuguese Jesuit Manoel de Nobrega founds São Paulo, the first European settlement in inland Brazil.

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