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Henry, Prince of Wales

2 of 7 portraits by Robert Peake the Elder

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Henry, Prince of Wales

by Robert Peake the Elder
oil on canvas, circa 1610
68 in. x 44 3/4 in. (1727 mm x 1137 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1966
Primary Collection
NPG 4515

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Robert Peake the Elder (circa 1551-1619), Portrait and decorative painter. Artist or producer associated with 7 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 15
  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 50 Read entry

    The eldest son of James I and Anne of Denmark, Prince Henry Frederick was an ardent Protestant, enthusiastic sportsman and patron of the arts. He, and those around him, cultivated an image that presented him as the ideal Renaissance prince, and, as a result, his death from typhoid fever aged only eighteen was seen as a shattering blow to the nation’s hopes. This portrait’s provenance suggests that it was owned by Henry’s sister Elizabeth. It may have been intended to commemorate Henry’s creation as Prince of Wales in 1610; the composition bears striking similarities to images of the young Edward VI that were created to mark the same moment in the young prince’s life. Henry’s cultured magnificence is evident in the Italian brocaded silk of his doublet and hose, the diamond ‘HP’ cipher (Henricus Princeps) in his hat jewel and the view into the gardens at Richmond Palace in the background, which he had begun to develop at lavish expense along the lines of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Robert Peake the Elder was appointed to share the role of Serjeant-Painter with John de Critz the Elder in 1607, and the number of surviving portraits of the royal children by Peake indicates that he had become their favoured portraitist soon after their arrival in England from Scotland.

  • 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. 124 Read entry

    When James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England as James I in 1603, one of the major factors in the optimism felt by the English public was the fact that James, unlike his predecessor Elizabeth I, had a family: an heir, a 'spare' and a marriageable daughter. Henry Prince of Wales was seen as a particularly promising prince. Brave, handsome, clever, athletic, noble, cultured and ardently Protestant, he became the focus for courtiers who advocated a more militant foreign policy, and for those who sought to make London a great cultural centre in Europe. His unexpected death from typhoid fever at the age of eighteen led to widespread grief, both within his family and among the wider population.

    Elizabeth, James's daughter, was also a focus for hope and expectation, and an important pawn in the game of international royal marriage negotiations. She was married at the age of sixteen to Frederick, Elector Palatine, a German Protestant prince from Heidelberg. In 1659, Frederick took the disastrous decision to accept the throne of Bohemia, and he and Elizabeth moved to Prague, where they reigned for less than a year before being ousted by the armies of the Roman Catholic Habsburg emperor, Ferdinand II. The rest of Elizabeth's life, much of it as a widow, was lived in exile in The Hague, where she worked hard to keep her plight and that of her children in the minds of her allies, and came to symbolise militant Protestantism as the tragic 'Winter Queen'.

    Robert Peake, the artist, jointly held the post of Serjeant Painter. He was responsible for much of the decorative painting at court, but also painted numerous portraits of the royal children. He shows Henry in a pose and setting that echo those in a portrait of Edward VI, his predecessor as Prince of Wales. The view through the window is thought to represent the grounds of Richmond Palace, which Henry had redesigned. Peake's portrait of Elizabeth (NPG 6113), like that of her brother, draws attention to her rich clothing and jewellery, including a ruby and diamond brooch pinned to her hair, and a diamond chain across her chest, advertising her eligibility as a wealthy and beautiful potential bride.

  • 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), pp. 188 (detail) & 121
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 58
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 77
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 297
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 162
  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham, The dictionary of 16th & 17th century British painters, 1988, p. 210
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 106

Placesback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1610back to top

Current affairs

Lady Arabella Stuart, cousin of James I, secretly marries William Seymour, Marquess of Hertford.
James I's chaotic finances prompts Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury to submit to Parliament the great contract which proposed increases to the king's income for James's relinquishment of his feudal rights; however, it was not implemented.

Art and science

The Alchemist, by playwright Benjamin Jonson, is first performed by the acting troupe, the King's Men. Jonson also writes Prince Henry's Barriers, in honour of Henry, Prince of Wales.
Stationers' Company agrees to give Thomas Bodley a copy of every book registered with them for his growing Bodleian Library.


Henry IV, King of France, is assassinated in Paris by Catholic fanatic, François Ravaillac. Henry, born a Calvinist, converted to Catholicism before ascending the throne to appease his future subjects. Although a popular king, much loved by his people, two earlier attempts had been made on his life.

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