King Edward VI

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King Edward VI

after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on panel, circa 1542
17 1/4 in. x 12 1/4 in. (438 mm x 311 mm)
Purchased, 1898
Primary Collection
NPG 1132

Sitterback to top

  • King Edward VI (1537-1553), Reigned 1547-53. Sitter associated with 48 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 or 1498-1543), Painter, printmaker and designer; son of Hans Holbein the Elder. Artist or producer associated with 310 portraits, Sitter associated with 25 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Edward's importance as the heir to the throne meant that numerous portraits of him were commissioned. There is therefore a far more complete record of his physical appearance as a child than of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. The painting shown here is based on a likeness captured in a drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger. This appears to have been copied and the pattern would have circulated among artists' workshops in order to produce numerous other portraits. Conservation treatment has revealed a small bug trapped in a varnish layer, possibly from the eighteenth century. Conservation of this painting was supported by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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. 71
  • 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. 89 Read entry

    This image derives from a drawing by Holbein, made when the young prince was about five years old, and shows Edward with a steady frontal gaze that is notably direct. A number of versions of the painting survive, suggesting that Holbein's drawing was intended for wider circulation as a pattern that could be shared between artists' workshops.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 195
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 88

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Mediaback to top


Events of 1542back to top

Current affairs

Catherine Howard is beheaded for committing adultery.
Relations between King Henry VIII and his nephew King James V of Scotland worsen. An English raid is defeated at Hadden Rig in August. The Scottish counter-attack is routed at Solway Moss in November.
Princess Mary Stuart is born to King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. She becomes queen of Scotland six days later upon the death of her father.

Art and science

At about this date, the Welsh physician and mathematician Robert Recorde publishes The Grounde of Artes, the first mathematics book to be printed in English.


Pope Paul III establishes the Inquisition in Rome to investigate and prosecute those accused of heresy against Catholic orthodoxy. It is primarily concerned with halting the spread of Protestantism.
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier sails arrives in Goa in South India. He will introduce Christianity to India, Southeast Asia and Japan and is considered the most successful Catholic missionary.

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