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Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

2 of 17 portraits of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

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Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, 1565
1032 mm x 802 mm (40 5/8 in. x 31 5/8 in.)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2004
Primary Collection
NPG 6676

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

This portrait appears to result from a sitting from the life and shows Norfolk at the age of 27. The positioning of the figure and meticulously painted facial characteristics, with the mouth very slightly open to reveal two front teeth, provide a strong sense of personal presence. Fragments of an old inscription can be seen at the top right, which date the picture to 1565.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 59 Read entry

    Thomas Howard was the son of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was executed for treason in the last days of Henry VIII’s reign. The powerful Howard family regained its titles during the reign of Mary I, and, as Duke of Norfolk, Thomas was the highest-ranking nobleman in England; he was also Elizabeth I’s cousin, through her mother, Anne Boleyn. He became the focus of plots and religious dissent during Elizabeth’s reign, and his secret plan to marry Mary, Queen of Scots and ensure her succession to the throne led to his dramatic fall from grace in 1571. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London before his execution, writing in warning to his children: ‘Beware of the court, except it be to do your prince service … for place hath no certainty.’ The fragmentary inscription in the upper right dates this portrait to 1565, when the sitter was in his late twenties. It seems to have been painted from the life as, very unusually, the artist has depicted Norfolk with a slightly open mouth. Although his clothes seem restrained, his authority is proclaimed in the Howard coat of arms on the ring that he wears on his right thumb and in the insignia of the Order of the Garter that hangs around his neck.

  • 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. 128
  • Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 209
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 46

Events of 1565back to top

Current affairs

Mary, Queen of Scots marries her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
Sir Henry Sidney is appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Art and science

The Royal College of Physicians receives official permission to carry out human dissections.
The first recorded manufacture of lead pencils.


The Knights Hospitaller repel the forces of Suleiman I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at the siege of Malta. Ottoman advances into Western Europe are halted and the celebrated admiral Turgut Reis is killed.
A Spanish expedition establishes the city of St Augustine in present-day Florida, the first permanent European settlement in North America.
The first Spanish settlement in Philippines is established at Cebu.

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