For those interested in such things, Macy’s online is offering a portrait of a ‘man in a decorative hat.’ Ideal for any room…especially your bathroom/washroom/toilet! (Just not the bedroom, please; those little mean eyes would doubtless follow you.)
The picture in question happens to be by Holbein…and wait, the ‘man’ depicted, hat or no hat, is none other than Henry VIII!
Clearly someone at Macy’s is not a history buff, or perhaps they just wanted to ignore the roly-poly tyrant and concentrate on his much more appealing titfer.
Whatever the case, if Henry were alive, I am sure he would see to it that this omission of his royal name would end with a great removal of hats…and heads with them.
We all know the amazing reconstruction of the head of Richard III, and the confirmation it gave of how he really had looked. Forget Shakespeare’s Richard III, the real man had been young, good-looking and altogether normal, except for scoliosis that affected his spine. But when he was dressed, it wouldn’t have shown, especially in the sumptuous clothes of the 15th century. So, no murderous, hump-backed monster he. Ricardians always knew it, but the reconstruction from his skull was final, undeniable proof.
I have always been fascinated by the actual appearance of great figures from the past, and want to know if my imagination is creating something even remotely close to the truth. Take Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. I can imagine so much about him, but all I really know of his physical appearance is from his stone likeness of the tomb of his Beauchamp father-in-law in Warwick. There he is, one of many hooded weepers around the tomb, but does that rather grim face really bear any resemblance? Frustratingly, we will probably never know.
Now, while Richard III was the first king I could ever have called my favourite, he now has a companion, his predecessor with the same name, Richard II. And for Richard II, we have what is reckoned to be the first true painted likeness of a King of England – the full-length portrait that now hangs in Westminster Abbey.
Richard II’s looks would seem to have been almost oriental, with heavy-lidded, almond-shaped eyes, but his complexion is pale and his curling hair a tumble of auburn curls that is decidedly not oriental. There is another likeness of him, as an older man, taken from his tomb, which bears a marked resemblance to the Westminster Abbey portrait.
Richard III’s portraits were eventually proved to be very like the real man. But would the same be said of Richard II’s portraits, if we were to be fortunate enough to see a reconstruction of his head?
To me, Richard II is visually unlike any other king, but then, we don’t actually know what his predecessors (and some of his successors) really looked like. I think we can be sure from Richard III, Henry VII and onward, but before then, the likenesses we have are rather standard, as if selected from a pattern book.
For instance, we have no true portrait of Richard’s father, the “Black Prince”, unless we count his tomb effigy in Canterbury Cathedral. But as this depicts him in full armour, with close-fitting headwear that rather confines and squashes his features, it’s hard to say what he was really like.
However, we surely have a credible image of Richard’s grandfather, the great Edward III, because his tomb effigy is based upon this death mask. And so we see a handsome old man with long hair and matching beard, and a slight droop of the mouth that is reckoned to be proof of a stroke. But we still do not have an actual portrait of him. His grandson’s likeness in Westminster Abbey holds the honour of being the first.
So, did Richard II look like his Westminster Abbey portrait and effigy?
In the case of Richard III, we had his skull and sufficient advance in scientific and artistic knowledge to recreate his head. We may not have the skull of Richard II, but we do have the next best thing, because his tomb was opened in 1871, and very detailed drawings were made of his skull, complete with measurements.
Thought to have been lost, those drawings have been rediscovered in the basement in the National Portrait Gallery, together with a cigarette box containing what are believed to be relics from Richard’s tomb—fragments of wood, probably from the coffin, and a piece of leather thought to have been part of the king’s glove.
The find was made by archivists who were cataloguing the papers of the Gallery’s first director, Sir George Scharf, who had been invited to witness the opening of royal tombs (Richard II, Edward VI, Henry VII, James I and Elizabeth of York) and the date on the cigarette box containing the relics matches that of Sir George’s visit—31st August 1871.
One thing the drawings prove is that Richard was not bludgeoned to death, for there is no sign of damage to the skull. So Shakespeare was wrong about that! He’s wrong about a lot of things when it comes to kings by the name of Richard.
Here is a portrait of Anne Neville that isn’t seen very often. It’s not contemporary, of course, but shows her looking fresh and healthy, with no sign at all of the wilting Anne who is so often referred to. It also shows her with a fringe, which I’m certain she would not have. She lived in an age when women shaved their foreheads high, so a little fringe would be an abomination to her!
I found the illustration at this website which is an excellent place for endless information. I certainly recommend you to visit it.
Occasionally, an image glimpsed quickly on TV appears to be something it is not. This happened to me when I first saw the TV trailer for the series Catching History’s Criminals: the Forensics Story on the Yesterday channel.
Being inured to the old, old propaganda that Richard III was the first criminal in all Creation, predating Satan himself, the black-and-white image I glimpsed—very briefly, and then only in close-up—appeared to be the one that went the rounds when Richard’s skull was used to re-create his true appearance. The one where the skull had his NPG portrait superimposed. So, I watched the programme, fully expecting another biased item that condemned him for the boys in the Tower, etc. etc.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be nothing of the sort. It wasn’t even about Richard! It was about a woman, Isabella Ruxton, who was murdered in the 1930s. The picture shown was, like the one of Richard, her skull superimposed on her photograph. The pose was the same as Richard’s, but the thing that spooked me initially, was the left eye. It seemed so like Richard’s left eye in the NPG portrait that I really was convinced Isabella was Richard.
Maybe it does not seem so evident to you but, to me, that fleeting out-of-the-blue glimpse on a TV screen was very convincing.
Drifting in and out of various history groups on the net, a very strange thing has become apparent. There are some out there who truly believe Richard III’s death was ‘the end of the Middle Ages’ and that he stood in the way of the wonderful, burgeoning Renaissance like some great big dinosaur with both feet firmly planted in the past.
Of course, by pretty much anyone’s standard, Henry Tudor was a ‘medieval king’ as much as Richard, and the Renaissance wasn’t halting for anyone–it was firmly on its way to England and had been for some years prior to Bosworth. Richard certainly was not stopping it.
But putting that aside, there has also been on occasion rather extraordinary comments to the effect of ‘Francis Lovell was a remainder of the ‘old guard’ too set in his ways to embark on the bright new course laid out by Henry Tudor’. This gives a wrong impression that somehow Henry Tudor was a uniquely inspired youth, while Lovell and Richard were a pair of ancient stick-in-the-muds, both figuratively and literally! I even read one blog where Henry at Bosworth is described as the ‘young Henry Tudor’, implying that Richard was much older than him, not a mere four years.
Hello, people! These guys were all young men, Tudor, Francis Lovell and Richard, with only a few years between them. No one was stuck in a rut, none of them were old enough to be. I am pretty darn sure Lovell wasn’t, to paraphrase the familiar saying, an ‘old dog who can’t learn new tricks.’
I blame Shakespeare whose messing with dates ended up giving us a much older Richard than reality–and hence a bevy of middle-aged and sometimes older actors to play him, with the other figures in his life also being portrayed as much older than their true ages. (Edward and Buckingham are frequently portrayed as rather ancient.)
Added to this, The White Queen and The White Princess gave us, pretty much for the first time, a hunky young Henry with designer stubble (although, in fairness, The White Queen did, for once, also give us a hunky Richard who was around the correct age.)
As far as age confusion, it happens a lot with Richard, but there was a bit of a turnaround at the Bosworth re-enactment this year, and I don’t mean the alternative battle where Richard won the day. The commentator slipped up, and told the crowd that Henry was ‘an older man’ at the time of Bosworth. Oops!
‘Hunky’ young Henry VII ala the White Queen
Richard, played by old dude, with all the Shakespearean trimmings
I have never been to Waterford in Ireland, but having just browsed at leisure through their museum’s wonderful website, I feel as if I know the city intimately. There are virtual tours that really do make the viewer feel present. Thoroughly recommended!
This figure is from one of the virtual tours, and depicts an incredibly lifelike, believable Edward III, copied from the medieval illustration to (our) right.
Lurking? Well, apart from me, of course, and my camera (which I managed to mess up rather, so apologies for the quality of the two portrait-photos, which were taken on 9th June 2018.
Richard and Elizabeth of York were among the many portraits. Of course, there having been so many Fitzalans and Howards at Arundel over the centuries, there weren’t many from the medieval period. If Henry VII sneaked in, I didn’t spot him. I couldn’t get in front of the portraits, or even all that close, so these were the best I could manage. Again, sorry they’re such poor quality.
The picture I took of John Howard’s (1st Duke of Norfolk) portrait was blurred, and so I have found it online. His portrait was large, and had pride of place, so I imagine they are proud of him. And rightly so, of course.
Since first writing this article, I have learned (courtesy of Susan Troxell) more about the portrait of Richard III. She made enquiries at Arundel Castle, and received the following from Dr John Martin Robinson, Librarian to the Duke of Norfolk:-
“Thankyou for your email. It is likely that the portrait of Richard III belonged to Lord Lumley in the 16th century, and was acquired from him with other family portraits by his nephew Thomas, the ‘Collector’ Earl of Arundel in the early 17th century. And then by descent in the Howard family.”
Thank you for your help, Susan.
All in all, Arundel Castle was an excellent experience, except for all the nineteenth-century Gothic. If you want to get up into the keep, beware. There are 131 steps, and dire warnings of the fact. My ill-tempered knees had the habdabs at the mere prospect, so I didn’t call their bluff!!!
I must have read about this before, but it feels new somehow. Supposedly, the man in blue (see below) is Richard of Gloucester/Richard III. The illustration is part of the Coventry Tapestry, which is housed in St Mary’s Guild Hall, and which is still in the place for which it was created. I wasn’t sure if the kneeling king on the bottom left was EIV or HVII (the latter didn’t seem likely, as the figure is alive, and Richard certainly wasn’t when Henry became king).
“A figure depicted in the magnificent 500 year old tapestry at St. Mary’s Guildhall could well be one of the earliest depictions of King Richard III, whose remains, discovered in 2012 beneath a Leicester car park, were recently confirmed as those of the controversial English monarch.
“The tapestry’s highly detailed design includes seventy five individual characters, including angels, saints, apostles, and noble members of a royal court, arranged around a central image of the Virgin Mary. Whilst no contemporary records exist as to the exact identity of many of the characters, certain clues have been observed that strongly suggest that Richard is amongst them.
[See illustrations below for the footnotes in the text.]
“Firstly, the figure is shown carrying a coin ¹ in his right hand, used elsewhere in art of the time to represent a ‘Judas’ character with a history of treachery for personal gain, whilst in his left hand the figure was originally depicted holding a snake ² – another emblem of evil and deviousness – which at a later date was removed leaving a distinctive outline.
“By way of further evidence, the figure bears a striking resemblance to two of the earliest, and most trusted, portraits of King Richard III in the collection of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, from eye colour and hair curls, right down to slightly deformed hands and misshapen shoulders ³. Intriguingly, it has been proposed that one of these portraits was painted by Sir Thomas More, who may have been familiar with the tapestry as he came to Coventry on several occasions to visit his sister who lived in the city.
“Whilst Richard III had died a few years before the dating of the tapestry, it is thought that the tapestry depicts an earlier period, that of King Henry VI – who is also shown on the tapestry – when Richard was Richard of Gloucester. Henry VI was revered for many years after his death, with miracles even recorded in his name, and he was fondly remembered in Coventry where he chose to base himself and his royal court for a period during the Wars of the Roses. Under the new Tudor monarchy of Henry VII it was politically wise to maintain, and even encourage, adoration of the much-loved Henry VI. Moreover, showing such respect for the old Lancastrian King Henry, gave the Tudor monarch a chance to boost his image, tarnished by his weak claim to the throne and the manner in which he seized it from the Yorkist Richard III in battle.
“There were suspicions that Richard was linked to the death of King Henry VI in 1471, and placing Richard in the tapestry with symbols of dastardly deeds may have been a subtle piece of propaganda, with those behind the tapestry not only remembering their favourite king, but also pleasing the new Tudor monarchy by presenting Richard as the baddie in this wonderful woven story.”
Steve Beer, who owns fine art gallery The Medieval Gallery in Dunster, Somerset, is set to host a major event on December 1, called ‘Picturing Richard’s World’. The event will be staged in two parts – first, the talks and displays at Dunster Tithe Barn, followed by the unveiling of the new portrait, which is by Danish artist Anne Gyrite Schütte.
There is more here, where I found the above image.
Leonardo di ser Piero “da Vinci” (below left) was nearly six months older than Richard III, having been born in the Republic of Florence on 15 April 1452. Over his lifetime, which ended in 1519, he is best known for his paintings, such as The Last Supper or la Gioconda. However, he also left us a number of remarkable engineering and other sketches, depicting human and animal biology, geology and devices, including flying machines. The anatomical diagrams would have contributed towards the quality of his portraits in the same way that Stubbs studied the physiology of horses.
On the right is his 1488 design for a flying machine. In this, the centenary of the Armistice and of the RAF, it is interesting to compare it with aircraft from the First World War and to note that Leonardo also theoretically described a parachute, a concept with which later pilots would be very familiar.
An example (left) is the (French) Nieuport Fighter.