Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester
3 of 34 portraits by Nicholas Hilliard
Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester
by Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour on vellum, 1576
1 3/4 in. (44 mm) diameter
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, H.M. Government and an anonymous donor, 1961
Sitterback to top
- Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (1532 or 1533-1588), Courtier and magnate; favourite of Elizabeth I. Sitter associated with 66 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 34 portraits.
This portraitback to top
This miniature was painted the year after Leicester hosted an elaborate entertainment for the queen on his estate at Kenilworth.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Bonhams (Firm), The Merchiston Collection of fine portrait miniatures, the property of Mrs Eleanor Hamilton. Wednesday, 25 November 2009, 2009, p. 4
- Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 83
- Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 23
- MacLeod, Catharine; Rab, MacGibbon; Button, Victoria; Coombs, Katherine; Derbyshire, Alan, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures from Hilliard and Oliver, 2019 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 21 February - 19 May 2019), p. 46
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 374
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 194
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 52 Read entry
The fifth of thirteen children of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, the courtier Robert Dudley was Elizabeth I’s only serious English suitor. Their relationship was a defining one in both their lives. Made Master of the Horse at her accession, Dudley joined the Privy Council in 1562 and was created Earl of Leicester and Baron Denbigh in 1564. He was later Governor-General of Elizabeth I’s army against the Spanish in the Netherlands.
This miniature, which gives Leicester’s age as forty-four, was painted the year after the magnificent festivities he staged for the Queen at his estate in Kenilworth. The care with which Hilliard (c.1547–1619) has delineated the sitter’s features and ruff is suggestive of the Earl’s noted interest in his appearance. It must have been painted before Hilliard left for France in September 1576 and is one of four miniatures of Leicester attributed to this artist. Leicester’s patronage, or perhaps Hilliard’s continued desire for it, is reflected in the artist’s naming many of his children after members of the Earl's family.
- Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 20 Read entry
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
Events of 1576back to top
Current affairsParliament presents Queen Elizabeth I with a petition complaining of ecclesiastical abuses.
The member of Parliament Peter Wentworth is imprisoned for attacking royal interference with Parliamentary freedom of speech.
The explorer and privateer Martin Frobisher sets out to find a Northwest passage to the Far East. He becomes the first European to visit Baffin Island, Canada.
Art and scienceThe actor and theatre manager James Burbage builds the Theatre, the first permanent playhouse in England, at Shoreditch, London.
The composer Thomas Whithorne writes the earliest known autobiography in English.
InternationalPacification of Ghent - an alliance between the Protestant northern and Catholic southern provinces of the Netherlands to collectively fight for the expulsion of Spanish troops from their territories.
The Spanish army serving in the Low Countries mutinies and sacks the city of Antwerp.
Death of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II and succession of his son Rudolf II.
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