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Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex

12 of 45 portraits matching these criteria:

- subject matching 'Montacute House'

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Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, circa 1575, based on a work of 1572
42 7/8 in. x 31 1/8 in. (1089 mm x 790 mm)
Purchased, 1974
Primary Collection
NPG 4984

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Recent analysis of this panel has shown that the portrait is painted on English oak from the West Midlands area, and that the tree was felled some time after 1560. A number of versions of this portrait exist, all of which, including this one, are dated 1572. This version, in which he holds an Earl Marshal's baton, probably should be dated to 1575, the year in which he was made Earl Marshal. Essex wears a splendid suit of armour which was almost certainly never intended to be worn in the field. The Latin inscription translates as 'envy is the companion of excellence'.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 159 Read entry

    A ruthless adventurer, Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, undertook to conquer and colonise Ulster on behalf of England in 1573. All previous attempts had failed, and after two years of treacherous dealings against the Irish and the Scots living in Ulster, he was recalled to England. Before leaving, Essex carried out his most notorious act, a massacre on the island of Rathlin. He died of dysentery shortly after his return to England. His wife, Lettice, subsequently married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, while his son, Robert|mp1492), went on to become Elizabeth I's last favourite. A number of versions of this portrait survive, all of which are dated 1572. Essex wears a suit of costly gilt-etched armour and the portrait type was probably commissioned to commemorate his admission to the Order of the Garter and his creation as Earl of Essex in 1572. However, a number of the surviving versions show Essex holding the Earl Marshal's baton and are therefore likely to date from his appointment to that office in 1576. The Latin inscription VIRTUTIS COMES INVIDIA translates as 'Envy is the companion of virtue'.

  • MacLeod, Catherine, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection at Montacute House, 1999, p. 19
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 208

Events of 1572back to top

Current affairs

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk is executed for his part in the papacy-backed Ridolfi Plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I.
The French prince Francis, Duke of Anjou becomes a potential candidate as Elizabeth I's husband as Parliament makes repeated calls for an heir.
Sir Francis Drake plunders Spanish treasure in the West Indies and returns to Plymouth with his spoils the following year.

Art and science

Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I painted by Nicholas Hilliard.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker publishes De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae (Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Britain), which charts the history of Christianity in Britain from the apocryphal arrival of Joseph of Arimathea.
Birth of the poet and playwright Ben Jonson.
Birth of the metaphysical poet and churchman John Donne.


St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of French Protestants (known as Huguenots) takes place in Paris. Under the orders of the queen mother Catherine de Medici and Henry, Duke of Guise, the Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and thousands of his supporters are killed.
Dutch Protestant privateers (known as Sea Beggars) capture the port of Brill, which becomes the first stronghold of the Dutch revolt against Spainish rule.

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