«Identified by the later-sixteenth century inscription on the drawing as ‘Lady Audley’, the sitter is now generally accepted as Elizabeth Grey (d. 1564), daughter of the second Marquess of Dorset. The miniature may have been commissioned in celebration of her marriage, in 1538, to Thomas, Lord Audley of Walden (d. 1544), Lord Chancellor.»
The Consort Necklace
The consort necklace is a piece of jewellery that consists of a necklace and choker of clusters of pearls alternating with precious stones set in a quatrefoils. It can be seen in many of the portraits of Henry VIII's many wives. It is distinctive and recognisable. The fact that it can be seen on so many of Henry's wives suggests that this piece of jewellery was property of the crown and did not belong of any individual queen. Recently, it has played an important part in identifying portraits of both Katherine Parr and Katherine Howard.
The necklace Elizabeth Grey, Lady Audley, is wearing in the miniature by Holbein above, is the consort necklace.
Upon realising this, most people have a similar reaction. And, tempting as it is to try to relabel this picture, perhaps this is Katherine Howard?, perhaps Henry VIII had a seventh wife?, there exists of Elizabeth Grey, Lady Audley, a portrait of her in her old age.
Across space and time, widowhood, childbearing and different artists, the likeness of the features is such that it is difficult to argue for the miniature to be of anybody else.
Margaret Wotton, Marchioness of Dorset (1487–1541) was the second wife of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, and the mother of his children, including Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, with whom she engaged in many quarrels during his minority over money and his allowance. Her lack of generosity to Henry shocked her peers as unmotherly, and inappropriate behaviour toward a high-ranking nobleman, relative of King Henry VIII of England. In 1534, she was compelled to answer to the charges that she was an "unnatural mother". On 10 September 1533, she stood as one of the godmothers of Princess Elizabeth, who would later rule as Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was the subject of two portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger. One of her many grandchildren was Lady Jane Grey.
What if the paintings were painted for the occasion of another wedding?
The year 1533 marked a great triumph for the family. Henry Grey, her son (with whom she had many quarrels), married that year with the permission of King Henry VIII, Lady Frances Brandon (1517–1559), the daughter of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk by his wife Mary Tudor, the sister of King Henry VIII.
Relations between the Suffolks and Henry VIII had long been frosty.
«In the late 1520s, relations between King Henry VIII and his sister Mary were strained when she opposed the King's attempt to obtain an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, whom Mary had known for many years. Mary developed a strong dislike for Anne Boleyn (King Henry's intended wife), whom she had first encountered in France. Anne and her sister Mary Boleyn had been among the maids of honor in the entourage that had accompanied Mary to France for her wedding to King Louis XII. In March 1532, Venetian Ambassador Carlo Capello wrote of an incidence where "one of the chief gentlemen in the service of the said Duke of Norfolk, with 20 followers, assaulted and killed in the sanctuary of Westminster Sir William Peninthum, chief gentleman and kinsman of the Duke of Suffolk. In consequence of this, the whole Court was in an uproar." Though it was said to be caused by a private quarrel, he was "assured it was owing to opprobrious language uttered against Madam Anne by his Majesty's sister, the Duchess of Suffolk, Queen Dowager of France."»
In her guest article at The Anne Boleyn Files, The Rivalry of Charles Brandon and Anne Boleyn, Sarah Bryson delves deeper into the matter: «Brandon may have shared similar feelings as his wife. Clearly he was not impressed with Anne Boleyn and her new position at court and sought to discredit her. Eustace Chapuys, ambassador to Charles V, wrote to his master that Anne “had been accused by the Duke of Suffolk of undue familiarity with a gentleman who on a former occasion had been banished on suspicion.” This gentleman was Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet, courtier and long-time friend of the Boleyn family. His poetry suggests that he had a crush on Anne, but there is no evidence to suggest that Anne returned his feelings. While there turned out to be no truth in this rumour, Henry was furious at his best friend and banished him from court for a time. In retaliation for this accusation, Anne Boleyn made one of her own declaring that Brandon was sleeping with his daughter. Despite being banished from court, Brandon spoke with the treasurer of the King’s household, William Fitzwilliam, in the hope of working with him to persuade the King against marrying Anne Boleyn.»
Anne, however, was in ascent. Now married to Henry, soon to be crowned, and with Henry's son and long-awaited heir in her belly (or so everyone thought), the summer of 1533 Anne was in Zenith. With the death of his wife it is possible that Charles Brandon considered this the opportune moment to make nice with Anne Boleyn. His daughters, who spent most of their lives at court, may have agreed him.
Princess Mary Tudor died on the 25th of June 1533, and in September of the same year, Charles married his ward, the 14-year-old Katherine Willoughby (1519–1580), suo jure Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. Katherine had been betrothed to his eldest surviving son, Henry, Earl of Lincoln.
A person's influence seldom outlasts their death.
Roland Hui, in his article New Impressions On The Brandon Wedding Portrait in which he argues that the well-known and much beloved Brandon wedding portrait was in fact painted in 1533 and not at the time of the or shortly after the wedding in 1515, writes that: «It would be natural to assume that the double portrait was commissioned shortly after the couple’s marriage in 1515. However, it appears to have been painted much later – about twenty years afterwards, probably after Mary’s death in 1533, by the looks of her clothing. Historians have paid little attention to her costume. Past observations have been limited to the fashionable French attire she wears, and that she was loaded with jewels probably given to her by her late husband King Louis. While Mary’s clothes are French in style, they are not of circa 1515, but of the late 1520’s to the 1530’s.»
«So if the portrait was not painted at the time of their marriage, could it have been done in sitting given in the early 1530’s? It seems unlikely that the Duke and Duchess would have waited that long – almost two decades – to finally commission such a work. What may have prompted its creation was Mary’s untimely death in September 1533. The picture was thus a celebration of the marriage, and a memorial to it. If it was indeed painted after Mary’s passing, it was almost certainly a pastiche of two separate portraits of Mary and Charles, now lost. Why the portraits then - after his wife was gone? Certainly a commemoration of their love, and perhaps Brandon’s reminder to all, that despite Mary’s death, he was still brother-in-law to the King of England; hence a power to be reckoned with still. Anne Boleyn’s rise to power had left Brandon in the cold, and the portrait may have been his way of reasserting his diminished standing. Later, Suffolk did regain the King’s favor after Anne fell, and he had the pleasure of attending her trial and execution in 1536.»
We see here that Roland Hui has much of the same thoughts, of a Charles Brandon eager to demonstrate his importance and regain his place in the heart of the circle of the king.
Notice the similarity of the French hoods, the neckline, the sleeves, the bodice.
The opulence of their jewellery.
All of this speaks of the same fashion.
Furthermore, Hans Holbein the Younger painted Margaret Wotton, Elizabeth Grey's mother and Frances Brandon's mother-in-law, in this same time interval (1532–5). Is it not possible that she had her daughter's picture painted at the same time? And until Margaret Wotton had a definite falling out with her son several years after the wedding, she and her daughter Elizabeth (who did not marry until 1538) had their home together with her son and his new bride Frances at the Grey family seat at Bradgate House. It is not unthinkable that Frances wanted to impress and get on the good side of her new relations through the loan of a valuable and valued family heirloom.
So used are we to think of Frances Brandon as the stern grown-up mother, that we give barely a thought to the fact that she was barely fifteen when she married, had just lost her mother, and was sent to live amongst new people.
Her new mother-in-law never stopped resenting her son for refusing to marry Katherine FitzAlan, therefore putting a great financial burden on her as a result of the broken betrothal. It is not outside the realm of reason to entertain the idea that Frances would have been eager to please or create bonds with her new family members who lived under the same roof.
In fact, there is much to suggest that the entire female contingent of the Grey-Brandon connection was painted that year.
If we compare the sketches of Eleanor Brandon and Katherine Willoughby, we notice that they are both dressed in a similar style. They are both wearing high-necked shirts with collars with blackwork in the case of Katherine Willoughby and a high-collared dress. Both of them are wearing an unflattering, almost slightly outdated for the 1530s version of the English gable hood. I cannot be the only one whose overall impression of the manner of dress seen above is frumpy and dowdy. When compared to the considerably more fashionable Mary Monteagle above, this seems even more apparent. Even the old Dowager Marchioness seem more up-do-date in the fashion department in comparison.
Mary Monteagle is dressed in the latest fashion of French hood, a gown with a wide neckline, and is adorned with the most opulent of jewellery. She is dressed, in fact, exactly as Lady Elizabeth Grey and Lady Mary Howard above, leading me to believe that these three paintings were executed at the same time.
As we can see from a later painting of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, in a painting by the hand of the same artist, she could be very stylish indeed. This is the picture of a very elegant woman.
While it is a beautiful painting, looking at this, and the existing portraits of Katherine of Aragon, one can understand why Anne Boleyn made such a splash.
Mary hated Anne. This antipathy seemingly went way back to when Anne had been a maid of honour to Mary in her short, unhappy time in the state marriage to Louis XII.
So when Anne introduced or at least popularised the French fashions at the English court, it would have made sense for Mary to dress her daughters in the alternative, English fashion, making them come off frumpy compared to the other ladies at court, such as their elder sister and step-daughter, Mary Monteagle, who had already resided at court for many years.
Later, Jane Seymour would employ this same tactic, simply banning the French fashions Anne had made so very fashionable. Both, probably, to distance herself from Anne and also because she reviled her in general.
If these sketches were indeed drawn late summer 1533 alongside the one of Lady Elizabeth Grey, the mother of Eleanor Brandon and the woman who had raised Katherine Willoughby since she was nine years old, Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France, was barely cold in her grave. It would make sense for her manner of dressing her daughters to have survived that long. Eleanor Brandon and Katherine Willoughby would both have been about 14 years old at the time.
But, you might ask, if you suggest that the entire female contingent of the Grey-Brandon connection was painted that year, what about Lady Elizabeth Grey's sisters? What about them? There are no existing portraits of them. For my theory regarding this, see my page The Greys.
Of the four daughters of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquis of Dorset and Margaret Wotton, the eldest, Mary, was probably dead at that point.
It is my belief that this portrait of an unknown English woman in the Oskar Reinhart Collection 'Am Römerholz' is in fact a portrait of their second daughter, Katherine Grey, Lady Maltravers, lady-in-waiting in the household of Princess Mary Tudor daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and the wife of Henry FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, and the mother of Mary FitzAlan, Duchess of Norfolk and Jane Lumley.
The Appearances of the Consort Necklace in History
Commemorative Wedding Portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon
1515 (or 1533)
The Most Happi Medal
Background originally blue
National Portrait Gallery | NPG 4449
In the Armada Portrait, painted to celebrate the arguable largest victory in Elizabeth's reign, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the pearls Elizabeth is wearing were the last gift from the love of her life, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.