Queen Mary I

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Queen Mary I

attributed to Lucas Horenbout (or Hornebolte)
watercolour on vellum, circa 1525
1 3/8 in. (35 mm) sight diameter
Purchased, 1999
Primary Collection
NPG 6453


Shadows around the features were created with…
Shadows around the features were created with…
The red and black borders of the headdress ha…
The red and black borders of the headdress ha…
The artist has decorated the inscription (mea…

Sitterback to top

  • Queen Mary I (1516-1558), Reigned 1553-58; daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Sitter associated with 50 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Showing Mary as princess, this may be the earliest surviving English portrait miniature. The inscription painted on her bodice, meaning 'The Emperor', probably refers to Mary's engagement to the Emperor Charles V between 1521 and 1525.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 142 Read entry

    As a princess, Mary was a pawn in the dynastic alliances that bound European dynasties together. At the age of five, she was betrothed to her much older cousin Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Prospective brides were often presented with jewels by their future husbands, and in this portrait Mary wears a brooch bordered with pearls, with the inscription The Empour ('The Emperor'). Charles broke off the engagement in 1525 in order to marry Isabella of Portugal, and in 1527 Mary was betrothed to the son of the king of France. The annulment of her parent's marriage made Mary illegitimate, blocking her marriage prospects until she became queen in her own right. This may be the earliest-surviving English portrait miniature. It is attributed to Lucas Horenbout, who is first recorded in the royal accounts in 1525. Horenbout was the son of the Ghent manuscript illuminator Gerard Horenbout and became the highest-paid artist at the court of Henry VIII. He was granted the office of King's Painter in 1534, became a denizen and was licensed to employ up to four foreign journeymen. Independent portrait miniatures derived from the techniques used in illumination and appear to have arisen almost simultaneously in England and France, as gifts were exchanged between the courts.

  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 106
  • 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. 9
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 416
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 72

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1525back to top

Current affairs

The Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey gives Hampton Court Palace, completed in 1516, as a gift to Henry VIII.

Art and science

The New Testament is translated into English by William Tyndale.


The Battle of Pavia - Francis I of France is defeated and captured by the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He is imprisoned and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Madrid.
The Peasants' War in German ends with the lords defeat of the rebel peasants at the Battle of Frankenhausen and the execution of the revolutionary preacher Thomas Müntzer.

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