Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-1536)
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-36), was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII by Elizabeth Blount, a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. The child was officially acknowledged by the King after the early deaths of the three sons born to the Queen. Following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's attachment to Henry Fitzroy assumed a greater significance, particularly when his second wife also failed to produce a male heir. Appointed Knight of the Garter in 1525 and made Duke of Richmond and Somerset in the same year, Henry Fitzroy was given several important positions, including that of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His education was entrusted to the distinguished classical scholar Richard Croke, who had taught Greek to Henry VIII, and was extended by attendance at the court of Francis I in France for eleven months in 1532. It appears that Henry VIII contemplated making Henry Fitzroy his heir, but whatever the King's intentions may have been, the plan was spoilt by Henry Fitzroy's premature death of tuberculosis at the age of 17. It is possible that this miniature was painted at the time of Fitzroy's marriage in 1534 to Mary Howard, daughter of the third Duke of Norfolk, Treasurer of the Household and Earl Marshal.
The miniature is a typical work by Horenbout, whose style is detectable in the modelling of the features, the prominent shadows under the eyes and mouth, and the form of the inscription seen against a blue background. The sitter is vividly characterised in what is in essence an informal portrait, one of the first in British art, and a significant prototype for what was to prove the keynote of intimacy in the art form of the portrait miniature over successive centuries. The casual clothes, probably a nightcap and chemise, may be associated with his physical frailty.
Inscribed HENRY DVCK.OFF RICHEMÕD and ÆTATIS SVÆ.XV°
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002