Wednesday, 28 July 2010

New Year’s Gift List of 1534 & the possible portrait of Mary

Yesterday, whilst working on my dissertation in the National Archives, I consulted one document which relates somewhat to my previous post on the possible portrait of Mary. The portrait allegedly dates to c.1535 a time which, I argued, would not make sense given Mary was in disgrace. To emphasise this further here is the New Year’s Gift list of 1534 which details gifts granted to and from the King. You will notice a blatant omission. Mary was clearly out of favour owing to her stance against Henry’s new marriage, behaviour which Henry regarded as dangerous and unruly. She was given nothing and no gift from her was accepted by him (not that she was in a sufficient financial position to get her father a gift in the first place).

(Notice Henry VIII’s signature on the top of the list. His signature can also be found at the end of the document).

The question of who would commission the portrait remains. Certainly Henry would not have ordered it. As for Mary’s supporters, would they have risked the King’s wrath by having a portrait of Mary commissioned? There is certainly no evidence of Mary sitting for a portrait from late 1533 to the summer of 1536. Could supporters have produced portraits without requiring a sitting? This idea is undermined not only by the lack of evidence of any supporter actually having such a portrait produced, but also by the French ambassador’s claims in 1541 that no image of Mary could be made without the King’s consent. Explaining why he had failed to obtain a portrait of Mary he explained, ‘no painter dare attempt it without the King’s command’. Mary would only commission her own portrait in 1544, immediately after she had been reinstated in the succession. The painting in question is one of the most familiar images of Mary.


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