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Unknown woman, formerly known as Ursula (née St Barbe), Lady Walsingham

1 portrait of Ursula (née St Barbe), Lady Walsingham

Unknown woman, formerly known as Ursula (née St Barbe), Lady Walsingham, by Unknown artist, 1583 - NPG 1705 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Unknown woman, formerly known as Ursula (née St Barbe), Lady Walsingham

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1583
15 1/2 in. x 13 3/8 in. (394 mm x 340 mm)
Purchased, 1913
Primary Collection
NPG 1705

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

The sitter in this portrait has not been identified. It was for some time displayed as a pendant portrait to that of Sir Francis Walsingham, statesman and Principal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth I. However, no portraits of Lady Walsingham appear to exist to provide a comparison.
The portrait has been cut down on two sides from a larger image. It presents a woman engaging directly with the spectator. Her richly modelled face, turned slightly towards the viewer, and expressive grey eyes display a pensive humanity. This naturalistic portrayal extends to the inclusion of a prominent blue vein on her forehead. Although this style of hood would have been slightly outdated in 1583, it continued to be worn as mourning dress and may indicate recent bereavement.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1583back to top

Current affairs

Francis Throckmorton plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and place Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. The conspiracy is uncovered and Throckmorton is executed.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert establishes an English colony in Newfoundland. He is drowned on the return voyage.
The revolt in Munster, Ireland, against English rule ends with the execution of the rebel leader the Earl of Desmond. The region is devastated by famine and plague.

Art and science

The first recorded life insurance policy is issued in London.
The Italian botanist Andrea Cesalpino publishes De plantis (Of Plants) the first modern classification of plants.


The French Fury - François, Duke of Anjou attacks Antwerp in an attempt to assert French authority in the Spanish Netherlands. He fails to capture the city and retires to France.
The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II moves the Imperial Court from Vienna to Prague.

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