A Life Framed in Portraits: An Early Portrait of Mary Nevill Fiennes, Lady Dacre

An article on the Wrest Park Portrait put forward in 2007 by Philip Mould and Bendor Grosvenor as a posthumous depiction of Jane Grey Dudley, re-identified here and published in ‘The British Art Journal’ Vol. XIV, No. 2 (January 2014), 14-20.
Mary Neville, Lady Dacre, circa 1545–1549
by Unknown Artist
Oil on wood panel
29 in. x 21.25 in.
Private Collection

The National Portrait Gallery, London, holds a magnificent double portrait now known to depict Mary Neville Fiennes, Lady Dacre together with her only surviving son Gregory (below, top). For at least 250 years prior to its arrival at the NPG in 1986, however, the painting was thought to depict Frances Brandon Grey, Duchess of Suffolk and her second husband, Adrian Stokes. The modern re-identification was based in large part on comparison of the appearance of the female figure to that of Lady Dacre as seen in an authenticated portrait of her now in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (below, bottom).[1] Together the NPG and Ottawa portraits depict the second and third acts of a life-drama involving the execution of Lady Dacre’s first husband and her severely reduced circumstances as a young widow, her long and determined struggle to regain lost wealth, lands, titles and status, and the ultimate success of her quest. Missing from the visual record, however, is the first act of Mary Fiennes’s story: her relative impoverishment as a new widow with three children to support. But a portrait formerly in the collection at Wrest Park House and usually believed to represent Lady Jane Grey, eldest daughter of Frances Brandon Grey, can now be re-identified as an early portrait of a young, newly-widowed Mary Neville Fiennes (above).


Mary Neville, Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes, 10th Baron Dacre
by Hans Eworth
oil on panel, 1559
19 3/4 in. x 28 1/8 in.
National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary Neville was the daughter of George Neville, 5th Baron Bergavenny by his third wife Mary Stafford, herself the daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. Through each of her parents, Mary Neville was descended from King Edward III and could thus claim Plantagenet royal blood. Mary was wedded in 1536 to Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre and member of a family that was well established at the Tudor royal court. Thomas sat on the jury that convicted Anne Boleyn in 1536, for example, though he was barely 21 years of age at the time.[2] In 1541, however, Thomas was involved in an incident while hunting illegally on a neighbor’s estate, during which one of the neighbor’s servants was killed. Thomas and his companions were all charged with murder. Thomas was attainted and convicted, stripped of his titles, and executed in London on 29 June 1541. The Dacre estates passed into a wardship administered by the Crown. Not yet provided by her young husband with a jointure, Mary Nevile Fiennes was left essentially penniless.[3] Henry VIII took pity on the young widow and her three children and so initiated a private act of Parliament investing Mary with the manors of Burham and Codham in Kent, Fromquinton and Belchwell in Dorset, and Nashall in Essex. The yearly revenue value of the five properties was placed at just 140l 17s 5d, about one-tenth of her deceased husband’s normal revenues.[4] The Sheriff of Sussex was also ordered on 2 July 1541 to pay her 50l immediately and to return to her ‘All her apparel of velvet, satin, pearls, stones or goldsmiths work pertaining to her head as to the rest of her body.’[5] Mary spent the next seventeen years seeking the restoration to her children of the Dacre barony. During the same period, she remarried twice and bore four more children. Finally, upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, the Dacre title and honors were restored to her second son Gregory.[6] Mary died some years later and was interred next to her first husband, Lord Dacre, at the Church of St Sepulchre without Newgate, London.[7]

The identification of the Wrest Park portrait as Jane Grey rather than as Mary Fiennes is longstanding. The painting bears an inscription, added sometime after the sixteenth century, identifying the sitter as Lady Jane Grey. In 1681, Robert White produced a line engraving of the painting for use as an illustration of Jane in Gilbert Burnet’s popular History of the Reformation of the Church of England.[8] White embellished the image, however, adding ermine and pearls to the costume and rendering the lady with a thinner physique and narrower facial structure (below, top). Additionally, painted copies of the Wrest Park original were produced late in the seventeenth century and again in the eighteenth century, both for successive Earls of Stamford and both under identification as Jane Grey (below, center).[9] The Stamford painted copies were, like the Wrest Park original, subsequently reproduced as engravings for use as book illustrations of Jane Grey. But unlike the earlier engraving by White based on the Wrest Park original, these later engravings replicated their Stamford reference images more authentically, without creative enrichment of the sitter’s costume (below, bottom).[10] Lastly, the original Wrest Park painting was owned from 1701 until the twentieth century by a collateral branch of Jane Grey’s family, seemingly giving its identification the imprimatur of legitimacy through status as a Grey family heirloom.[11]

The labeling remained essentially unchallenged until 1965, at which time the sitter’s appearance was noted to bear no resemblance to that of a lady in what was then thought to be an authentic portrait of Jane Grey.[12] But the ‘authentic’ portrait was discovered two decades later to be in fact a portrait of Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII.[13] Thus by 2007, the London galleries of Philip Mould Ltd thought it ‘worth revisiting the identity’ of the Wrest Park portrait and included it in their Lost Faces exhibition in the spring of that year. The exhibition catalogue entry for the painting presents circumstantial evidence in favor of identifying the sitter as Jane Grey, but also equivocates by noting that the portrait ‘seems to be a consciously historical portrait, which would perhaps suggest that it is posthumous’. Rather than concluding that the lady is Jane, the authors chose to leave the issue as an unanswered question: ‘Can we now look with confidence on the face of England’s “nine day queen”?’.[14] Professor Eric Ives, in his recent biography of Jane Grey, took his lead from the Lost Faces catalogue by noting only the ‘possibility’ that the portrait represents Jane after her marriage in late May 1553.[15]

No fully authenticated ad vivum portrait of Jane Grey is currently known to be extant, making it impossible to compare the physical appearance in this image to a reference portrait of Jane, despite an abundance of candidate portraits. Those candidates notably include a miniature that accompanied the Wrest Park portrait in the Lost Faces exhibition. Though the sitter in the miniature bears no resemblance to the lady in the Wrest Park portrait, and though there is no documentary evidence to link the miniature in any way to Jane Grey, it was nonetheless presented in the exhibition as a second possible authentic likeness. The evidence to support identifying the sitter as Jane relies almost exclusively on the inscribed age of the unnamed lady and interpretation of the symbolism of the flowers pinned to the sitter’s bodice.[16] Other candidate portraits include an engraving by Magdalena and Willem van de Passe published in 1620 that, though purportedly based on an authentic painting by Hans Holbein, can instead be identified as Katherine Parr.[17] The Streatham portrait said to depict Jane and acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 2007 dates to no earlier than 1594, fully forty years after Jane’s death, and is therefore not an authentic life portrait.[18] Even the sole written physical description of Jane Grey, first published in 1909 and attributed to Baptista Spinola, supposedly a Genovese merchant living in London in 1553, is quite possibly a fabrication.[19] Thus the Wrest Park portrait must be evaluated in the context of portraiture of Jane Grey based solely on its own merits, without direct comparison to other images of Jane.

The provenance of the Wrest Park painting prior to its acquisition in 1701 by Henry Grey, 12th Earl of Kent (1st Duke of Kent after 1710) offers a significant clue as to the true identity of the sitter, however. The Lost Faces catalogue indicates that Kent purchased the painting from ‘the collection of Lady Dacre.’[20] That ‘Lady Dacre’ was Dorothy North Lennard, second wife and widow of Richard Lennard, 13th Baron Dacre, whom she survived by sixty-eight years. At the time of her own death in 1698 at age 93, Lady Dacre claimed as her principal residences the ancient Dacre seat at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex, plus the Lennard seat at Chevening House in Kent and the Barrett estate of Belhus (or Belhouse) in Essex.

An inventory taken at Belhus in 1696, two years before Dorothy’s death, lists her personal property separately. Dorothy’s collection of paintings held at just that one house numbered 49, though that was essentially only a secondary residence.[21] No complete inventory for Herstmonceux or Chevening taken during Dorothy’s lifetime survives, so that it is not possible today to itemize the portraits in her larger collection.[22] It is known, however, that the combined collections at Herstmonceux, Chevening, and Belhus included a large number of Dacre ancestral portraits, some dating to the sixteenth century.[23]

The Dacre family portraits became pawns in a series of struggles during the second half of the seventeenth century that included intermarriages, intra-family feuds, and numerous lawsuits pitting mother against son or brother against sister. As a result, portions of the Dacre collection were moved about often.[24] Dorothy remarried in 1650, for example, taking as her second husband Sir Chaloner Chute. She removed to her husband’s Hampshire seat, The Vyne, many of the Dacre family portraits, particularly those dating to the sixteenth century.[25] Chute died within months of the marriage, but the portraits initially remained at The Vyne. Sixteen years later, however, Dorothy became guardian of her Chute grandchildren (her own daughter Catherine had married Chute’s son) and trustee over The Vyne.[26] She thereupon returned her collection to her own houses, though copies of some of the paintings were made to leave behind at The Vyne, where they remain today.[27] Other portraits were carried away from the Dacre estates when daughters married, only to be returned years later by means of re-purchase.[28] Finally, Dorothy herself ordered the removal of ‘certain pictures’ from Belhus to her London residence in Bedford Walk near Gray’s Inn in May 1696, just days after her son’s death.[29] This last move seems to have been in anticipation of the acrimonious lawsuit that pitted herself, her grandson Dacre Barrett, and several of her granddaughters each against the other for control over the estate of her deceased son. Dorothy no doubt wished to protect what she regarded as her personal Dacre property from being embroiled in the looming litigation and from potentially being seized from her. It is likely that the identifications for the sitters in some of the Dacre portraits were lost or changed as a result of any of these removals from their original context.

One example of an early misidentification of a Dacre family portrait, the NPG double portrait already noted above, has particular relevance to this study. Around the time of Dorothy Dacre’s death in 1698, it became identified as Frances Brandon Grey, Duchess of Suffolk together with her second husband.[30] Frances Grey was, of course, the mother of Jane Grey, so that Dorothy’s collection thus included at least two portraits thought to depict members of the Grey family. The question arises as to how or why the Dacres would misidentify the sitters in two portraits as very distant cousins when they actually depicted direct lineal ancestors.[31] Most obviously, the misidentifications may have occurred largely inadvertently on one of the occasions when the portraits were removed from the Dacre estates, such as the sixteen years when one portion was at The Vyne.

The answer may also perhaps lie in the circumstances surrounding the marriage between Mary Lucas, 1st Baroness Lucas of Crudwell and Anthony Grey, 11th Earl of Kent in March 1663, less than 20 years before this painting was first engraved as a depiction of Jane Grey. Mary was the daughter of Anne Nevill Lucas and was thus directly descended from a brother of Mary Neville Fiennes, Lady Dacre, savior of the Dacre patrimony.[32] Further, Mary Lucas’s maternal great-grandmother was Rachel Lennard, sister of Sampson Lennard, Mary Nevill Fiennes’s son-in-law. The Lennard Barons Dacre of the mid-seventeenth century were thus related, albeit distantly, to the Earl of Kent’s new bride. It is possible that the Wrest Park portrait, still part of the Dacre collection at the time of the Neville-Grey marriage, was re-labeled in an effort to demonstrate (or invent) a greater symbolic affinity on the part of the Dacres for Lady Jane Grey and her immediate family as ancestors of Anthony Grey, the new bridegroom of their Lennard-Dacre cousin. In essence, the Dacres may simply have been attempting to ‘social climb’ by symbolically attaching themselves to the ancestors of their social superior and cousin-by-marriage, the Earl of Kent.

Soon after the death of Dorothy Dacre in 1698, the 15th Baron Dacre, Thomas Lennard, was forced by an overly extravagant lifestyle and mounting gambling debts to sell off successive portions of the Dacre patrimony, beginning with Dorothy’s picture collection.[33] Thus the portrait said to depict Jane was, as has been noted, purchased in 1701 by Henry Grey, 12th Earl of Kent and eldest son of the Neville-Grey marriage. Henry Grey’s purchase both preserved what was thought to be a Grey family heirloom and visually reinforced the ambitious new Earl of Kent’s tenuous claim to distant royal ancestry.[34] It may also have served to attest symbolically to his firm Protestant allegiance to the Act of Settlement of 1701, which named the Protestant descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover as heirs to the reigning Queen Anne in place of Anne’s Roman Catholic nephew, James Francis Stuart.[35] The Wrest Park portrait remained in the possession of the descendants of Kent’s granddaughter, Lady Jemima Campbell, who became successive Barons Lucas of Crudwell. Its origins, however, lay not with the Greys, but rather with the Fiennes and Lennard Barons Dacre.

Additional evidence, beyond the Dacre provenance, supports identifying the sitter in the Wrest Park portrait as Mary Nevill, Lady Dacre. Dendrochronological dating of the wood panel on which the painting is executed suggests that the tree from which the wood was taken was still growing in 1532, based on the pattern of heartwood rings present.[36] The report indicates that no sapwood rings were evident, yet for the species of wood involved – Baltic oak – sapwood rings may number as few as nine or as many as 19 to 24.[37] It is therefore possible that the tree was felled as early as 1541 or as late as 1556. Allowing two years for transport and seasoning of the processed wood, the earliest possible usage date for the wood is 1543, though the report indicates a most likely usage date of circa 1549.[38] Jane Grey was at most thirteen years old in 1549, having been born in the winter of 1536/37.[39] Yet the lady seen in the portrait is certainly an adult, though still reasonably young.

The Lost Faces catalogue noted the simplicity of the sitter’s costume and the absence of significant jewelry, despite the propensity in portraiture of the period for overt displays of wealth, arguing instead that the austere nature of this depiction ‘conforms well to the pious image of Jane as a virtuous protestant martyr, not least in the simple costume that we know she preferred.’[40] It further noted that the costume was seen even by seventeenth-century viewers as so plain that copyist-engravers like Robert White felt obliged to add jewels and fur trimmings in order to depict Jane Grey with sufficiently queenly array.[41] That Jane dressed in such a somber, proto-Puritan style is, however, the product of mythmaking that began only in the eighteenth century, long after the painting was created. The myth is based solely on an apocryphal tale presented in John Strype’s Historical Collections of the Life and Acts of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Aylmer. First published in 1701, Strype’s account includes the story of ‘a great lady’ who rejected a gift of fine fabrics presented by Princess Mary, declaring instead her intent to follow the example set by Princess Elizabeth, who herself ‘followeth God’s word.’[42] It has usually been assumed that the ‘great lady’ was Jane Grey, whom Aylmer served as tutor, and that Elizabeth always dressed somberly prior to becoming queen.

No evidence exists to corroborate Strype’s account, though Aylmer himself actually contradicts it elsewhere. In a letter to the continental Protestant reformer Heinrich Bullinger dated 23 December 1551, Aylmer asked Bullinger to write to Jane instructing her ‘as to what embellishment and adornment of person is most becoming in young women professing godliness’. In contrast to the account as it appeared in Strype, Aylmer actually suggested to Bullinger that he (Bullinger)

bring forward [to Jane] the example of our king’s sister, the princess Elizabeth, who goes
clad in every respect as becomes a young maiden; and yet no one [i.e., not even Jane] is
induced by the example of so illustrious a lady, and in so much gospel light, to lay aside,
much less look down upon, gold, jewels, and braidings of the hair.[43]

Aylmer pleaded with Bullinger to ‘handle these points at some length, [so that] there will probably, through your influence, be some accession to the ranks of virtue’ made by Jane in future. Aylmer would hardly have needed to enlist Bullinger’s influence had Lady Jane already been in conformity with his own proto-Puritan expectations. Additionally, overt displays of wealth were the norm for persons of Jane’s social and economic status. Failure on Jane’s part to adhere to that norm would undoubtedly have elicited written comment by at least one of the many contemporaries who took careful note of her other actions, yet no such comment is found in the available historical record. Judged on the available evidence, Jane Grey seems to have been rather conventional in her attire. The costume worn by the lady in the Wrest Park portrait is, however, decidedly unconventional for a woman of Jane’s status, regardless of her religious outlook. Lastly, it must be noted that virtually every other image produced or identified before the mid-seventeenth-century as a portrait of Jane Grey depicted her in conventional luxurious attire, so that the Wrest Park portrait is a striking anomaly in that context.[44]

The flowers inserted into the lady’s bodice are likewise relevant to determining the lady’s true identity. The Lost Faces catalogue argues that ‘such floral prominence is rare in sixteenth century portraiture’.[45] Yet flowers do nonetheless appear with some regularity in portraits of both men and women of the Tudor period, deployed as important symbols to be interpreted and understood by the viewer.[46] As such, they must be considered a vital element in the commissioning sitter’s self-fashioning through portraiture. A key example of this practice is found in the Ottawa portrait of Mary Nevill, in which she has a bundle of three or four different species of flowers, predominantly yellow in color, inserted into the neckline of her bodice. Elizabeth Honig indicates that the flowers are pansies and rosemary, the former symbolizing thoughts and the latter remembrance.[47] Forget-me-nots are also present, their symbolism indicated by their name. Honig argues that the flowers are explicitly intended to be ‘read’ by the viewer as symbolic of Mary Nevill’s faithful remembrance of her deceased first husband.[48]

The flowers in the Wrest Park portrait serve a similar purpose in that the sitter used them to self-fashion an identity to be understood by the viewer. The three violets suspended from the necklace symbolize mourning, the same use to which Shakespeare frequently put them. In Pericles, Prince of Tyre, for example, Marina mourns the death of her nurse, Lychorida, saying

I will rob Tellus of her weed,
To strew thy green with flowers: the yellows, blues,
The purple violets, and marigolds,
Shall as a carpet hang upon thy grave,
While summer-days do last.[49]

Similarly, Perdita refers in The Winter’s Tale to the mythological tale of Proserpina abducted by Pluto (or Dis), ruler of the underworld. Perdita describes the frightened Proserpina letting fall from Pluto’s chariot ‘violets dim’ as she is transported to Hades.[50] Further, Christian religious art utilizes the purple color of violets to denote sorrow, mourning, and penitence, and that use continues in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions as the liturgical color for Lent.[51] The large central flower in the Wrest Park portrait is a dianthus, or ‘pink’, a blossom seen often in Tudor portraiture and denoting true love. The three long, slender clusters grouped with the flowers have sometimes been identified as ears of wheat, symbolizing fertility.[52] Yet the ‘ears’ lack the characteristic spikelets extending upward from the wheat grain kernel, as well as the symmetric arrangement of the kernels on the stalk. Instead, these clusters are probably some type of herb-like flower such as hyssop, veronica (speedwell), or lavender (spikenard). Hyssop can denote ritual purification, veronica and lavender devotion and fidelity.[53] Thus the flowers in the Wrest Park portrait collectively convey that the sitter remembers with sadness a lost love to whose memory she remains devoted and faithful.

The book held in the left hand of the sitter in the Wrest Park portrait, forefinger inserted as if to mark a place, is, like the flowers, strongly reminiscent of the Ottawa portrait of Mary Nevill. The nature of the book in the Wrest Park portrait cannot be readily identified, but Honig characterizes that in the Ottawa portrait as a ‘devotional work’ based on a visible illumination.[54] Honig argues that the presence of the book in the Ottawa portrait aids in constructing Mary, albeit somewhat artificially so in light of her two remarriages, as a ‘Good Widow’ of the type Juan Luis Vives described in his Instruction of a christen woman.[55] Vive’s ‘Good Widow’ was, as Honig notes, devoted to her role as custodian of her husband’s goods. Vives was expanding on the instructions given by St. Paul in I Timothy 5 regarding widows, including the admonition to ‘trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day’. Paul further commands his followers, ‘If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed’. In the context of the Wrest Park portrait, the sitter is presenting herself as a true widow with children who, with no means to support them, makes an appeal for relief from the monarch as both guardian of all his people, especially widows, and head of the church, a central earthly function of which was relieving those in need. For Mary Nevill, the relief hoped for was the restoration of her deceased husband’s lands and titles to their son. This kind of self-representation as a ‘Good Widow’ symbolized in the Wrest Park portrait is again entirely consistent with and appropriate for Mary Nevill and her status in the mid-1540s.

There is also a distinct physical resemblance between the face of the lady in the Wrest Park portrait and Mary Nevill as she appears in the two previously-known portraits of her. A viewer can readily discern that the former depicts the same person as the latter two, especially upon considering the advance of more than a decade in age and the addition of two or three stone in weight. Both faces have a generally rounded bone structure, with fullness in the cheeks and jowls. The high foreheads and wide eyes are virtually identical. Only the tip of the nose is different, but the Lost Faces catalogue indicates that the nose in the Wrest Park portrait has been ‘retouched to make the end smaller’.[56]


Upon careful consideration of the entire body of available evidence, the conclusion must be drawn that the sitter in the Wrest Park portrait is Mary Nevill, Lady Dacre. The painting dates to the period between 1541 and about 1550, a point when her social and economic standing were at their nadir, and she was newly engaged in the pursuit of a restoration of both fortune and title. The portrait therefore served as an expression of personal humility, fidelity, and innocence, culturally appropriate attitudes for any sixteenth-century woman seeking favor from those who might aid her. By choosing to be depicted in the semblance of a humble widow, despite having remarried, she elicits pity from any viewer aware of her former status as a wealthy baroness. When the Wrest Park portrait of Mary Nevill is juxtaposed against the two previously-known portraits of her, the trio creates a rare and valuable visual adjunct to the engaging narrative of an assertive woman beset by hardship who struggled successfully to regain that which had been lost.

Indeed, it is in this context of widowhood and struggle for restoration of social and economic status that scholars most often discuss the Ottawa portrait, datable to 1555–58 and the second in the series of three. Susan Foister, for example, notes that Mary’s ‘widow’s black is almost wholly unrelieved and she wears scarcely any jewellery’, implying that Mary remains in deep mourning more than a decade after her first husband’s death in 1541.[57] Elizabeth Honig and Barbara Harris expand on Foister by arguing separately that Mary consciously elected actually to conceal her two remarriages between 1541 and 1555 by presenting herself in full mourning costume as the widow of the long-dead Lord Dacre.[58] Yet when contrasted with the brown and black simple wool or linen fabrics of the Wrest Park portrait, the jet black satins and velvets of the Ottawa portrait may be indicative not of devoutly mournful widowhood but rather of regained wealth.[59] This interpretation is supported by the conspicuous presence of the luxurious furs on her shoulders, the fine ornamented and partially gilt chair in which she sits, the books and writing implements before her, and the costly tapestry behind her, all of which Harris has characterized as signifying ‘her status as a respectable, wealthy widow’[emphasis added].[60] Harris further interprets the quill pen as a symbolic ‘weapon’ wielded by Mary in her battle to gain restoration of the Dacre titles and wealth.[61] The Ottawa portrait may therefore be less indicative of Mary’s ‘widowhood’, in the sense of prolonged mourning, than it is a carefully constructed representation of Mary as an embodiment of Vives’s ‘Good Widow’ who successfully preserves and enlarges the fortunes of the deceased husband, symbolically resurrected within the Ottawa image through inclusion of his own portrait in the background, in service to his (and her) children.

The third painting in the proposed series, the NPG’s double portrait of Mary and her son, is inscribed ‘1559’ and is thought to have been commissioned in celebration of Mary’s ultimate success in gaining restoration to her son Gregory of the Dacre honors and titles upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558.[62] Here Mary has abandoned the previous constructed persona of ‘Good Widow’ in favor of that of a high-born and wealthy ‘lady.’ The gown, notably still constructed of costly black silks and velvets, is now heavily studded with dozens of gold ornaments, including gold buttons set with precious stones and numerous pairs of enameled gold aiglettes. An under-partlet ostentatiously trimmed in a profusion of layered ruffles edged with gold thread replaces the over-partlet of the Ottawa portrait and its simple blackworked linen lining. Her black hood is now heavily encrusted with gold, precious stones and pearls where previously it was entirely without ornament. She wears around her neck a rope of more pearls and precious stones and holds in her right hand a costly bejeweled glove. Her twenty-year-old son, newly restored as 10th Baron Dacre, is equally richly dressed (partially in black, it must be noted) and strikes a gallant pose with one fist on his hip and the other clutched to his breast. The visual statement made by this portrait is one of unabashed triumph and high status.

In striking contrast to both the Ottawa and NPG portraits, the Wrest Park portrait conveys an impression of personal humility and low status. The lady wears a very simple costume of brown and black constructed of what is probably simple wool or linen, ornamented with only a few pairs of aiglettes. A white linen kerchief is draped over her shoulders, and her headgear appears to be made of plain white linen as well. The lining of her partlet does display extensive blackwork but has no gold embroidery or jeweling. Other than the aiglettes, the only jewels visible are limited to a simple necklace woven of tiny seed pearls.[63] As in the Ottawa portrait, she holds a small book, perhaps a devotional text, with her forefinger marking her place, as though interrupted. Again like the Ottawa portrait, she has a small cluster of flowers inserted into the bodice of her gown, comprised of violets and pinks, symbolizing sadness/mourning and true love. But in contrast to both the Ottawa and NPG portraits, she stands before a plain dark background with no furniture, drapery, or other markers of wealth visible. If Elizabeth Honig is correct in arguing that the symbolism of the Ottawa portrait conveys an image of the ‘Good Widow’ and that of the NPG double portrait celebrates the same widow’s successes, then the Wrest Park painting portrays the impoverished beginning of that widow’s quest for restoration.


Following the publication of this article in January 2014, I was contacted by Karen Margrethe Høskuldsson of Albertslund, Denmark, regarding the costume worn by the sitter. Ms Høskuldsson conducts research on costume history, and she wrote to inquire whether the white linen of the lady’s chemise, seen protruding through gaps in the oversleeves, had been added as part of some modern restoration attempt, since the margin to the viewer’s far right appears unnaturally blunt. And indeed, when comparison is made to the two seventeenth- and eighteenth-century painted copies made for the 2nd and 4th Earls Stamford, no white linen is visible on the foresleeves. Neither are any aiglettes present there. Since every other element of the copies is essentially identical to the sixteenth-century original, it seems altogether likely that the linen and aiglettes were added to the foresleeves of the Wrest Park version after the Stamford copies were made, probably in the nineteenth century. Why the addition was made cannot now be known, and the change certainly does not affect the re-identification of the sitter, but the question is an intriguing one. I am grateful to Ms Høskuldsson for the observation.


J. Stephan Edwards, PhD
January 2014



    1. Susan Foister, ‘Nobility Reclaimed,’ The Antique Collector (UK) 57, no.4 (April 1986), 58–60. The double portrait was engraved as Frances Grey and Adrian Stokes as early as 1748 by George Vertue. See Mary Nevill, Lady Dacre; Gregory Fiennes, 10th Baron Dacre, George Vertue (1683–1756), 1748, line engraving printed on paper, 47.3 x 56 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
    2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), s.v. ‘Fiennes, Thomas, 9th Baron Dacre.’ Lord Dacre served on several other high-profile trial juries over the next few years, including that which convicted several noble-born participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, as well as the jury that convicted Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter for treason in 1538.
    3. Lord Dacre had not yet attained his legal majority when he married Mary Nevill and was thus unable to create a jointure for her. Unusually, Lord Dacre’s estates were not subject to the customary forfeiture following his conviction and attainder for murder because they had previously been entailed by his grandfather. They were instead placed in a wardship for his eldest son, also named Thomas, so that the revenues came under Crown control. Mary was initially left without a jointure or a dower. See National Archives, SC/EDWVI/460–462, 733, and 757–758; Thomas Barrett-Lennard, An Account of the families of Barrett and Lennard (London: Spottiswoode and Co., 1908), 205–209.
    4. Barrett-Lennard, Account, 206–207; Journal of the House of Lords, Volume 1: 1509–1577 (London, 1767–1830), 191–92.
    5. Barrett-Lennard, Account, 206–207; James Gairdner and RH Brodie, ed, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII, Volume 16: 1540–1541 (London, 1898), 465.
    6. Mary’s eldest son had died in August 1553.
    7. The date of Mary’s death is uncertain, with citations ranging from 18 December 1565 to as late as 1576. See Barrett-Lennard, Account, 207. Mary’s tomb failed to survive the Great Fire of 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of the church. No monument to mark her or her husband’s graves is present in the Church of St Sepulchre today.
    8. Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, 3 vols (London, 1681), II:172.
    9. National Trust Catalogue for Dunham Massey Hall, 1999, DUN.P.31, A lady called Lady Jane Grey, English School, 17th Century, oil on canvas, 75 x 58.5 cm; DUN.P.12, ?Lady Jane Grey, English School, 18th Century, oil on canvas, 74 x 61 cm. DUN.P.31 was probably commissioned by or for Thomas Grey, 2nd Earl of Stamford for use at Enville Hall. It was moved from there in the 1770s by the 5th Earl during extensive modernization construction and placed at Dunham Massey for safekeeping, where it has remained. DUN.P.12 was probably commissioned by Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford specifically for Dunham Massey after he inherited that property through his wife in 1736.
    10. See, for example, Edmund Lodge, Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain, 8 vols (London: Harding and Lepard, 1824), II: f.20v. The set was reprinted multiple times between 1824 and 1907, and eventually expanded to twelve volumes. Throughout the several editions, a variety of engravers received credit for the engravings, including Robert Cooper, TA Dean, and J Thomson.
    11. Successive members of the Greys of Wrest Park were variously Earls, Marquesses, and Dukes of Kent in the eighteenth century, Earls de Grey in the nineteenth century, and after 1859 Barons Lucas. The Greys of Wrest Park descended from Reginald (or Reynold) Grey, 3rd Baron Grey de Ruthyn (d.1444) by his first wife, Margaret de Ros. The Greys of Bradgate Park, including Lady Jane Grey, descended from Reginald via his second wife, Joan Astley.
    12. ‘An Authentic Portrait of Lady Jane Grey?’, The Times of London, 5 July 1965, page 14.
    13. Susan E James, ‘Lady Jane Grey or Queen Katherine Parr?’, Burlington Magazine, vol CXXXVIII, no. 1114 (January 1996), 20–24. The portrait examined by James’s article is Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, oil on panel, ca1544, 180 x 94 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG4451).
    14. Bendor Grosvenor and David Starkey, Lost Faces: Identity and Discovery in Tudor Royal Portraiture, exh cat, Philip Mould Ltd, 85–86. The portrait is labeled in the catalogue as ‘Portrait of Lady Jane Grey (d1554)(?).’
    15. Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 17.
    16. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 79–83. Portrait of a Lady, possibly Lady Jane Grey, attributed to Lavina Teerlinc (d1576), ca1546 [sic], gouache on thin card, 4.8 cm diameter, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. The age of the sitter is contemporaneously inscribed on the miniature as ‘An[n]o XVIII,’ or ‘in the eighteenth year.’ In the context of Jane Grey, this would necessarily date the miniature portrait to the final three or four months before her execution on 12 February 1554. It is unlikely that the governing authorities would have allowed access to the prisoner by a portrait artist for purposes of preserving the memory of a young woman convicted of treasonably seizing the throne. And though Dr. Starkey interprets the flowers as ‘an exact companion piece to the Dudley [floral] carvings’ created in the Beachamp Tower during John, Robert, and Guildford Dudley’s imprisonment in the Tower of London, the inclusion of oak leaves as symbolic of Robert Dudley seems wholly inappropriate for the wife of Robert’s younger brother Guildford.
    17. Called Jane Grey, Magdalena and Willem van de Passe after Hans Holbein the Younger, 1620 or earlier, engraving printed on paper, 16.4 x 11.6 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPGD19952). Published in Henry Holland, Heroωlogia Anglica (Arnhem, 1620), 33. Re-identification as Katherine Parr is based in large part on the same methodology used by James with regard to NPG4451: the presence of the coronet-shaped jewel brooch worn at the breast. At least two other painted portraits long thought to depict Jane Grey can also be re-identified as Katherine Parr, again based on the repeated presence of the coronet brooch. These include a painting in the collection at Seaton Delaval, Norfolk, and another at Radier Manor, Jersey. Unpublished research by this author. See also James, op cit, n.13 above.
    18. Called Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey), unknown artist, 1590s?, oil on oak panel, 85.6 x 60.3 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG6804).
    19. Richard Davey, The Nine Days Queen: Lady Jane Grey and Her Times (London:Metheun, 1909), 253. Davey does not offer a full citation to the original letter, stating only that it was in an archive in Genoa. No writer prior to Davey ever cited the Spinola letter, and all writers since 1909 have merely re-quoted from and cited Davey. The existence of the Spinola letter has never been independently confirmed, despite extensive searching for the original document and corresponding at length with numerous Genovese archives. Further, no Baptista Spinola is recorded in London at any time in the 1550s, though several other Spinolas were present, including two Benedettos and one Antonio. Because other portions of Davey’s work are demonstrably heavily fictionalized, there is considerable likelihood that the Spinola letter may simply have been invented by Davey in order to fill a descriptive void. The letter may well have been based on a very similar genuine letter by an anonymous Italian writing to an unnamed recipient on 24 July 1554, in which the writer describes Jane very concisely as ‘una giovenetta bella, & ornato, di bella ingegno, lettere, & laudabili costumi’, a beautiful and well-formed young woman, of good intelligence and learning, and of praiseworthy habits. Lettere di principi, libro terzo (Venice, 1577), 221v–225v.
    20. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 85.
    21. Essex Record Office, Chelmsford, D/DL/E8/1, ff1r–3v; D/DL/E8/2, f1r–v; D/DL/F156, ff1–10. The paintings at Belhus notably included the Ottawa portrait of Mary Neville, Lady Dacre. That picture remained at Belhus and in the possession of the Dacre descendants until it was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada in 1925.
    22. Society of Antiquaries (London) Manuscript 706A includes probate inventories taken at Herstmonceux Castle and Chevening House in 1616. ‘Certeyne pictures’ are found in the parlor at Herstmonceux, but are not described in any detail. Essex Record Office, AMS6326/34 is a partial inventory of Herstmonceux taken in 1673 but itemizes only the possessions of the Hon. Thomas Lennard, Dorothy’s stepson by a later marriage.
    23. The Dacre collection of early family portraits included those of Thomas Dacre (d.1541) by Hans Holbein, Mary Dacre (the Ottawa portrait), Mary and her son Gregory (the NPG portrait), Mary’s son-in-law Sampson Lennard (d.1615), Mary’s daughter Margaret Fiennes Lennard, suo jure 11th Baroness Dacre (d.1611), Margaret’s son Sir Henry Lennard (d.1616), and Henry’s wife Chrysogona (d.1616). Thomas Barrett-Lennard, ‘Family Pictures at Belhus,’ The Ancestor, edited by Oswald Baron, no. 5, London, April 1903, 1–18; Barrett-Lennard, Account, 591–92.
    24. See, for example, National Archives (Kew), Chancery 10/69/85, Francis, Margaret and Henry Lennard v. Lord Thomas Dacre, Thomas Lennard, et al, 1662; C 10/500/16, Francis and Henry Lennard v Thomas Lennard et al, 1687; Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/10/1/389/20, Dorothy Lennard Chute (then aged 74 years) v Chute (her second husband’s minor grandson).
    25. Chaloner William Chute, A History of the Vyne in Hampshire (Winchester: Jacob and Johnson, 1888), 73–74 and 78.
    26. Barrett-Lennard, Account, 264.
    27. In addition to a copy of the Ottawa portrait of Mary Neville, Lady Dacre by Hans Eworth, other Dacre family portraits copied for or left at The Vyne include: Dorothy Dacre’s father Dudley, 3rd Baron North; Chrysogona, wife of Henry Lennard, 12th Baron Dacre; Dorothy, Lady Dacre by Van Dyck (copy); and others. See Christopher Wright, British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections (Bury St Edmunds: Yale University Press, 2006), 330; Chute, History of the Vyne, 147 and 163.
    28. The Ottawa portrait, for example, passed to the Moores of Drogheda through the third marriage in 1725 of Anne Barrett-Lennard, suo jure 16th Baroness Dacre, to the Hon. Roger Moore (younger son of the 3rd Earl of Drogheda), but was re-purchased by the 18th Baron Dacre in 1784. See Barrett-Lennard, An Account, 592.
    29. See Barrett-Lennard, An Account, 521.
    30. The portrait then identified as Frances Brandon Grey and Adrian Stokes was acquired sometime before 1725 by the picture restorer Isaac Collivoe (or Collevous) Sr of Covent Garden, London, perhaps from Dorothy’s London residence in Bedford Walk. It was at that time attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger. Following Collivoe’s death in 1726, the painting was purchased at auction in February 1727 by Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford. The Harley-Oxford collection was itself auctioned in 1741, and the portrait was sold to the art collector-historian Horace Walpole for his collection at Strawberry Hill. See Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4th edition, 4 vols (London, 1786), I:8. The picture was subsequently attributed to Lucas de Heere and was engraved in 1748 by George Vertue, becoming well known as a portrait of Frances and her second husband. The portrait was eventually re-identified as Mary Dacre and son in 1986. See n.1 above.
    31. The Dacres of Herstmonceux were distant cousins of the Greys of Bradgate Park by virtue of a marriage late in the sixteenth century between a niece of the 11th Baroness Dacre and a fourth generation descendant of Jane Grey’s uncle, Sir John Grey of Pirgo.
    32. Mary, Lady Dacre was the great grandmother of Richard Lennard, 13th Baron Dacre, the husband from whom Dorothy, Lady Dacre inherited the portrait collection. Dorothy, Lady Dacre and Mary Lucas were thus distantly related.
    33. See Barrett-Lennard, An Account, 101. Thomas Lennard, 15th Baron Dacre, was the son of Francis Lennard, 14th Baron Dacre, who was in turn the eldest son of Dorothy’s husband Richard Lennard by his first wife, Elizabeth Throckmorton.
    34. Anthony Grey’s and Mary Lucas Grey’s son Henry, 12th Earl of Kent was appointed Lord Chamberlain to Queen Anne in 1704, was elevated to the Marquessate of Kent in 1706, and was made Duke of Kent in 1710. He was awarded the Garter in 1712.
    35. Kent’s immediate predecessor as Lord Chamberlain had been Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey, who had been removed from the post on account of his marriage to a Roman Catholic and suspicion that he was a Jacobite sympathizer.
    36. My thanks to Bendor Grosvenor of Philip Mould Ltd for generously providing me with a data extract from the dendrochronology report. Electronic communication, 22 December 2010, Bendor Grosvenor, Philip Mould Ltd.
    37. Peter Ian Kuniholm, ‘Dendrochronology (Tree-Ring Dating) of Panel Paintings,’ Appendix X to W Stanley Taft and James W Mayer, The Science of Paintings (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2000), 206–215.
    38. Alternatively, the wood may have not have been used until 1558, or later if it was stored for longer than the minimum two years or ‘re-purposed’ from some earlier use.
    39. J. Stephan Edwards, ‘On the Date of Birth of Lady Jane Grey Dudley,’ Notes and Queries, vol LIV, no. 3 (Sept 2007), 240–42; ‘A Further Note on the Date of Birth of Lady Jane Grey Dudley,’ Notes and Queries, vol LV, no. 2 (June 2008), 146–48.
    40. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 85.
    41. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 85, caption to Fig. 55.
    42. John Strype, Historical Collections of the Life and Acts of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Aylmer (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1821), 195–96 .
    43. John Aylmer to Heinrich Bullinger, 23 December 1551, Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation, written during the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary: chiefly from the archives at Zurich, translated by Hastings Robinson, 2 vol. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846), I:278–79.
    44. These include the Streatham painted portrait, the van de Passe engraving, and the portraits at Seaton Delaval and Radier Manor, among others.
    45. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 86.
    46. George Wells Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art: with illustrations from paintings of the Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1972). For examples of the use of flowers in Tudor-era portraiture, see Queen Katherine Parr (holding a pink in one hand) by Master John (NPG 4451), circa 1545, National Portrait Gallery, London; Mary Wooten, Lady Guildford (with flower at the neckline) by Hans Holbein, circa 1527, Saint Louis Art Museum; Portrait of Simon George (holding a red carnation and with yellow dianthus or wallflowers affixed beneath his hat badge) by Hans Holbein, circa 1533, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt; Portrait of Jane Small (red flower at bodice, lavender in hand) by Hans Holbein, circa 1540, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Called Margaret Tudor with the Duke of Albany (with multiple flowers at Margaret’s bodice) by unknown artist, before 1541, private Scottish collection; Elizabeth Fitzgerald (holding an unidentified flower) by Steven van der Muelen, 1560, formerly collection of JB Gold; Unknown Man (with yellow flowers, probably dianthus, pinned to hat), attributed to Lucas Horenbout or Hans Holbein, undated, Yale Center for British Art (B 1974.2.58).
    47. Elizabeth Honig, ‘In Memory: Lady Dacre and Pairing by Hans Eworth’ in Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English Culture, c.1540–1660, edited by Lucy Gent and Nigel Llewellyn (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), 60.
    48. Honig, ‘In Memory,’ 66.
    49. William Shakespeare, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, IV.i.14–18.
    50. William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, IV.iv.137–142.
    51. Ferguson, Signs and Symbols, 152.
    52. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 86.
    53. For the symbolism of hyssop, see Old Testament Psalm 51:7; for veronica or speedwell, see John Ingram, The Language of Flowers, or Flora Symbolica (London, 1887), 249–250; for lavender (also known as spikenard), New Testament John 12:3.
    54. Honig, ‘In Memory,’ 61.
    55. Honig, ‘In Memory,’ 63–66; Juan Luis Vives, Instruction of a christen woman, 1523.
    56. Grosvenor, Lost Faces, 86.
    57. Foister, ‘Nobility Reclaimed,’ 60. Both marriages were to men of significantly lower status. Mary Fiennes wed John Wooton/Wotton sometime before 1546. After his death, date unknown, she married Francis Thursby of Congham. Neither man was of sufficient status to merit mention in the surviving governmental documents and archives from the period. Indeed, nothing is known about either man, though Mary reportedly had as many as six additional children by Thursby. See Barrett-Lennard, Account, 206–207.
    58. Honig, ‘In Memory,’ 63 and 66; Barbara J Harris, ‘Defining Themselves: English Aristocratic Women, 1450–1550,’ Journal of British Studies, vol XLIX, no. 4 (October 2010), 734–36.
    59. The seemingly reflexive assumption that women attired largely in black were necessarily in mourning costume is perhaps overly simplistic. No such assumption applies to men, for example, even though they could and did dress as colorfully in the sixteenth century as did women. Black may as easily be a marker of wealth. An inexpensive process for achieving a stable jet-black color in dyed silk and satin was not perfected until the middle of the eighteenth century. In the sixteenth century, the process was both complex and expensive, resulting in an end product that was more costly than similar fabrics of other colors. Further, in heraldry, a subject about which the Tudor elite were almost obsessive, black (‘sable’) is considered a ‘noble’ color. Numerous portraits exist of women of the sixteenth century who are attired largely in black, yet many of those women cannot be shown to be in mourning. See, for example, the full length portrait of Mary, Lady Sidney at Petworth House, the portrait called Anne Penruddocke in the collection of Baroness Howard de Walden, or the several portraits identified as Elizabeth I when Princess.
    60. Harris, ‘Defining Themselves,’ 734–736.
    61. Harris, ‘Defining Themselves,’ 734–736.
    62. Foister, ‘Nobility Reclaimed,’ 60; Tarnya Cooper, A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2008), 38; David Saywell and Jacob Simon, National Portrait Gallery, London: Complete Illustrated Catalogue (London: Third Millenium Publishing, 2004), 161.
    63. An identical ‘necklace’ appears in the Ottawa portrait, though curators at the National Gallery of Canada identify that item as a pattern of embroidery on a(n improbable) collar-less chemise underlying both the closed-collared chemise or partlet and the overlying open- and standing-collared partlet with linen lining. Personal communication, 21 April 2011, Dr Christopher Etheridge, Curator of European and American Art, National Gallery of Canada.



Lady Jane Grey’s Prayer Book

The prayer book that Lady Jane Grey carried with her to the scaffold on the day of her execution on 12 February 1554, now part of the British Library’s collection as Harley Manuscript 2342.