Sunday 30 May 2021

June 2021 issue of 'Tudor Life'




The latest issue of Tudor Life is out, and is about 70 pages long.

Check out a sample copy here:

To learn more about The Tudor Society:



Monday 17 May 2021

Podcast: 'Anne Boleyn Special 1: Life and Afterlives'

Do join host Suzannah Lipscomb, authors Claire Ridgway and Natalie Grueninger, historian Dr. Stephanie Russo, and myself for a podcast 'Anne Boleyn Special 1: Life and Afterlives' at 'Not Just the Tudors'.



Monday 3 May 2021

Anne of Cleves or Catherine Howard?


Catherine Howard(?) by Hans Holbein, The Royal Collection


An upcoming biography on artist Hans Holbein the Younger by television producer and author Franny Moyle has received much attention in the past few days (1).

In The King's Painter: The Life of Hans Holbein, Moyle has made the claim that a portrait miniature - one version in the Royal Collection and the other in the Buccleuch Collection - of an unknown lady, commonly called Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, is actually that of her predecessor, Anne of Cleves.


Catherine Howard(?) by Hans Holbein, The Buccleuch Collection


Moyle believes there is a strong similarity of appearance between the two sitters. Such observations are entirely subjective, and Moyle has offered more substantial evidence in the Catherine Howard(?) miniature itself. On the back of the Royal Collection version, a playing card was stuck onto the vellum surface to give it support; it is a 4 of Diamonds. As Anne was Henry VIII's fourth wife, Moyle opines that the card was intentionally used by Holbein to identify her as such.

Furthermore, as the sitter is wearing a French hood (as opposed to the more cumbersome headdresses associated with pictures of Anne of Cleves), Moyle suggests that this was Anne's attempt to be more pleasing to her new husband, who disliked her Germanic clothes.



Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein, The Victoria and Albert Museum


While it is known that Anne of Cleves adopted fashions au courant in England while she was Queen, her actual appearance does not conform to the so-called Catherine Howard(?) miniatures. On her wedding day, the chronicler Edward Hall, who gave a very detailed description of the ceremony and of what Anne was wearing, described the bride as having her 'hair hanging down, which was fair, yellow, and long' (2). Thus Anne was blond, not a brunette as depicted in the Catherine Howard(?) miniatures. 




Jane Small by Hans Holbein, The Victoria and Albert Museum (front)

Jane Small by Hans Holbein, The Victoria and Albert Museum (back)

Besides being ambiguous, the 4 of Diamonds (why not an unequivocal queen card instead?) used by Holbein is actually insignificant in light of other pictures (3). In his portrait of Jane Small, a 5 of Diamonds was placed on the back with no perceived meaning. And on a miniature of young Henry Brandon, the son of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, 'part of a king' served as the backing (4). Such a card would have had no connotation to the boy (5).


Henry Brandon by Hans Holbein, The Royal Collection


I'm sure Moyle has other evidence to back up her theory, and I'm eager to read the book to find out more. But for the present, I have my reservations that the Catherine Howard(?) miniature is actually of Anne of Cleves.




(1) 'How Holbein left clever clue in portrait to identify Henry VIII’s queen', The Guardian, (by Dalya Alberge), May 1, 2021: (accessed May 3, 2021)

(2) Edward Hall, The Triumphant Reigne of Kyng Henry the VIII, London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1904, II, p. 302.

(3) Art historian Karin Leonhard has argued that there is a correlation between the backing cards and  sitters: (accessed May 3, 2021). Even if true, this was inconsistent. While Nicholas Hilliard did put 'part of a queen' on the back of a limning of Elizabeth I, he also used a 'playing card with a queen' for his picture of an unknown lady (perhaps Frances Clifford). See Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court, London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983, p. 177 and p. 77.

(4) Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court, pp. 50-51.

(5) According to Karin Leonhard, a king card for Henry Brandon was suitable 'as the boy’s father, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, enjoyed quasi royal status'. This is overreaching. Brandon's prominence was due only to his former marriage to Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor. But she died in 1533, and Suffolk then married Katherine Willoughby, who later gave birth to their sons Henry and Charles. The two boys had no claim to royalty, and therefore, the king card was insignificant to Henry Brandon.