Sir Henry Lee

Sir Henry Lee, by Anthonis Mor (Antonio Moro), 1568 - NPG 2095 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Henry Lee

by Anthonis Mor (Antonio Moro)
oil on panel, 1568
25 1/4 in. x 21 in. (641 mm x 533 mm)
Given by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon, 1925
Primary Collection
NPG 2095

Sitterback to top

  • Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611), Master of the Ordnance. Sitter in 5 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

This portrait of Lee was probably painted on a visit to Antwerp in June 1568. Lee was accompanied on this trip by Edward, 3rd Baron Windsor, whose portrait by another artist also shows the sitter with his thumb through a ring, a gesture that may relate to bonds of love or friendship. The true-lovers' knots and armillary spheres on Lee's sleeves were personal emblems of the Queen and probably refer to his role as Elizabeth's champion. These patterns were marked out using a transfer technique called pouncing, whereby charcoal dust is shaken through pricked holes to mark out a design. A detailed look at the signature in the lower-right corner reveals the caption 'Antonius mor pingebat ao 1568'.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1568back to top

Current affairs

Mary, Queen of Scots escapes from prison in Loch Leven. Defeated by the rebel lords under the regent James Stuart, Earl of Moray at the Battle of Langside, she escapes to England but is imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I.
Commercial relations between England and Spain are severed after the Secretary of State Sir William Cecil (later Baron Burghley) seizes three Spanish ships carrying gold bullion, which had been driven into Plymouth by storms.

Art and science

Queen Elizabeth I's favourite Sir Henry Lee is painted by Antonis Mor while visiting Antwerp.
Robert Smythson is employed by Sir John Thynne as master mason of Longleat House, Wiltshire, completed in 1580. It is one of the masterpieces of Elizabethan architecture.


Eighty Years' War between Spain and Netherlands begins. Dutch Protestant rebels under Count Louis of Nassau defeat Spanish forces at the Battle of Heiligerlee but are beaten at the Battle of Jemmingen. The Dutch leader William of Orange leads an army into Brabant but withdraws after Fernando, Duke of Alva declines battle.
The Catholic priest William Allen establishes the English College at Douai, France, to train Jesuit missionaries to send to England.

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