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Henry, Prince of Wales

5 of 29 portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

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Henry, Prince of Wales

by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
oil on canvas, circa 1603
63 3/4 in. x 46 in. (1619 mm x 1168 mm)
Bequeathed by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon, 1933
Primary Collection
NPG 2562

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Henry is shown wearing the robes and collar of a Knight of the Order of the Garter, an honour he acquired in 1603. The rush matting on which he stands is of the same type as that used in the Long Gallery at Montacute House today.

This painting was bequeathed to the Gallery in 1933 as a portrait of Charles I (1600-1649) when prince, and was thought to date from around 1612. X-rays taken during the 1950s revealed the presence of drapery beneath the landscape and an osprey plume in the hat as well as the fact that the sitter originally had a shorter nose. Notes from a conservation assessment carried out in 1974 suggested that most of the visible paint dated from the nineteenth century. This prompted the Gallery to carry out technical analysis on the blue pigment that appeared in the garter robes, landscape, tablecloth, hat jewels, tassels, sword belt and garter chain. The results indicated that this was Prussian blue, a pigment invented in 1704.
After consultation and tests it was decided to attempt to remove this over-paint. This process revealed much finer, original paintwork, exposed the landscape in the background as a later addition and demonstrated that the sitter’s face and decoration of the hat had been subject to alteration. Former director of the National Portrait Gallery Roy Strong viewed the painting shortly after the later paintwork had been removed. He identified it as representing Charles’ brother Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612), who was six years older than Charles.
This identification was based on the painting’s provenance, style and costume. The portrait was passed down in the family of Sir Henry Lee, with whom Prince Henry had strong connections. Lee was a major patron of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, whom Strong identified as the artist. The portrait’s style indicates that it is earlier than previously thought, dating from around 1603, and the ship jewel in the sitter’s hat is known to have belonged to Henry. In a 1976 letter to Strong, John Hayes, then Director of the National Portrait Gallery noted that it was ‘much more important for us to have a Prince Henry’ than a Charles I. This was because whilst Charles was well represented in the Collection, there were no full-length portraits of Henry, only one miniature from the studio of Isaac Oliver, a half-length oil after Oliver and several prints. The re-identification of this portrait significantly improved the Gallery’s holdings of Henry, Prince of Wales.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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. 10
  • MacLeod, Catharine (preface, appreciation) Wilks, Timothy (introduction) Smuts, Malcolm (appreciation) MacGibbon, Rab (appendix), The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, 2012 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 18 October 2012 to 13 January 2013), p. 56
  • MacLeod, Catherine, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection at Montacute House, 1999, p. 30
  • Piper, David, Catalogue of Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, 1625-1714, 1963, p. 59
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 297

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1603back to top

Current affairs

Death of Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond. She names King James VI of Scotland as her successor in her final moments. The Stuart dynasty begins with his accession as King James I of England.
Sir Walter Ralegh is implicated in a plot to prevent King James I's succession. He is found guilty of High Treason and imprisoned.

Art and science

William Shakespeare writes Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure and Othello at about his time.
The poet and lexicographer John Florio publishes his English translation of the French writer Michel de Montaigne's Essais.
Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk begins construction of Audley End, Essex. Completed in 1616, it is the largest private residence in England.


Tokugawa Ieyasu confirms his rule of Japan by receiving the title of shogun from the emperor. The Tokugawa shogunate will rule Japan until 1867.
In Ireland, Charles Blount, Lord Deputy of Ireland, defeats the Irish ending the Nine Years' War with Ireland. Blount signs the Treaty of Mellifont with Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, leader of the Irish resistance, obtaining Tyrone's acceptance of the English monarchy's authority.

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