Now, I will admit that there has always been something 'un-English' about this outfit to me. It is not that Katherine of Aragon is dressed in a way she that is not dressed in in any other portrait of her – she is allowed different modes of dress if she so wished – it is that she is dressed in a way I have not seen any other English woman in any other portrait from this time dressed in.
The Wikipedia article about 1500–1550 in Western European fashion confirms and puts into words this inkling:
«In the first half of the 16th century, German dress varied widely from the costume worn in other parts of Europe.»
«The high-waisted gown of the late medieval period evolved in several directions in different parts of Europe. In the German states and Bohemia, gowns remained short-waisted, tight-laced but without corsets. The open-fronted gown laced over the kirtle or a stomacher or plackard. Sleeves were puffed and slashed, or elaborately cuffed.»
These sleeves are clearly puffed and slashed. They are clearly not the type of sleeve seen on any other English lady in this period at all.
Katherine of Aragon is wearing German fashion.
The cross Katherine of Aragon is wearing in her miniature is the same cross that Katherine Parr is wearing in the Sudeley miniature of her, which we are by now very familiar with.
The shape is the same, the dark colouring of the stones in it is the same, the hanging pearl is the same, the fact that it seems to almost lack the upper part of the vertical perpendicular bar, almost but not quite creating a T-shaped cross.
(Edited to add 01.03.2023: Katherine Parr certainly inherited this cross from her predecessor, Katherine Howard. Nicola Tallis has identfied it in the inventories of both queens:
Katherine Howard, f. 59r: Item one Crosse of golde conteignyng v diamondes whereof two be poynted/and threst squared/hauyng also a verey feir greate peerle hanging at the same.
The cross Katherine Parr is wearing in her miniature is to distinctive that it is possible to recognise the same cross in a minature of Jane Seymour, where she wears it as a brooch pinned to her gown.
In fact, it appears to be a Tau Cross or crux commissa. The tau cross is a T-shaped cross all three ends of which are sometimes expanded. It is so called because shaped like the Greek letter tau, which in its upper-case form has the same appearance as Latin and English T.
Another name for the same object is Saint Anthony's cross or Saint Anthony cross, a name given to it because of its association with Saint Anthony of Egypt.
The Whitehall Mural (detail showing Jane Seymour). Remigius van Leemput after Hans Holbein the Younger. 1667. Royal Collection
The same cross can be seen in the The Whitehall Mural by Remigius van Leemput after Hans Holbein the Younger, also worn by Jane Seymour, where she like Katherine Parr wears it as a pendant attached to a pearl necklace.
The Whitehall Mural was commissioned to adorn the privy chamber of Henry VIII's newly acquired Palace of Whitehall. It featured life-size images of Henry VIII, his parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and his third wife and the mother of his heir, Jane Seymour. It would have been a truly impressive sight for any visitor to behold.
The mural itself was Whitehall Palace was consumed by fire in 1698, but fortunately we have some surviving copies, one by Remigius van Leemput made in 1667, one by George Vertue after Remigius van Leemput after Hans Holbein the Younger made in 1737, and a further one by Remigius van Leemput that has incorporated King Edward VI made in 1669 and which is now at Petworth.
The Whitehall Mural 1737 (detail showing Jane Seymour). George Vertue after Hans Holbein the Younger. 1737 after original from 1537+ Royal Collection
A visitor in the days of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I or Elizabeth I would, however, have seen a life-size version of this, designed to impress and intimidate.
«Henry VIII ‘inherited’ Whitehall Palace after Cardinal Wolsey’s death in 1529. He spent a considerable amount of money on it and it was regarded as the largest palace in Europe. It covered 23 acres and included extensive private lodgings. It was here that Holbein created his largest and most important royal commission, the Whitehall mural, in which Henry was portrayed with his Queen Jane Seymour and his parents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.»
«There have been disagreements about why the painting was produced and who was meant to see it. Some believe that it was made for publicity purposes and to be seen by visitors. Others believe it was a private image, meant meant only to be seen by the king and his senior courtiers, whilst intimidating selected diplomatic visitors. But it was probably painted on a wall in Henry's Privy Chamber in Whitehall Palace.» – The Whitehall Mural, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Museums
Jane Seymour, Queen of England, by Hans Holbein the Younger
The IHS brooch is the one worn by Jane Seymour in her most recognized portrait by Hans Holbein the younger. I have never heard of this brooch originating with anyone else than Jane Seymour.
It is not listed among the jewellery of the late Queen Anne Boleyn (listed in full below). Nor is it worn by any subsequent Queens of England, indicating perhaps that this was Queen Jane's own personal jewellery and not a part of the royal treasury.
In the little miniature of Katherine of Aragon that I believe to be posthumous, she is also wearing the so-called consort necklace. This is the same one that can be seen in this portrait of Jane Seymour, the Royal Collection and Buccleuch miniature of Katherine Howard, in many of the portraits of Katherine Parr, and in the Most Happi medal of Anne Boleyn. This piece of jewellery consists of a necklace and choker of precious stones set in a quatrefoils alternating with pearl clusters.
IHS brooch - Jane Seymour, Queen of England, by Hans Holbein the Younger (detail) and miniature portrait of Katherine of Aragon (detail of NPG 4682)
Comparing the two brooches side by side it is clear that the IHS brooch Katherine of Aragon is wearing in this particular miniature of her is the same one worn by Jane Seymour in her most recognized portrait by Hans Holbein the younger above.
Jane Seymour by Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger (Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis)
The “IHS” brooch that Jane Seymour is depicted as wearing in her most recognized portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger above, and the many subsequent copies thereof, a fine example of which can be seen here, has become somewhat of an iconic look.
IHS are the first three letters of the Holy Name of Jesus in Greek.
The Whitehall mural and the Holbein portrait of Jane or one of its many copies would have been readily available to anyone at the Tudor court in the 1550‘s who wished to know how a Queen of England would have looked like in an earlier time.
Henry VIII banned portraits of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Anne of Cleves was queen for such a short time and her portraiture shows her in her Flanders Fashions from before the wedding. Katherine Parr was queen very close to the 1550’s themselves.
Katherine of Aragon (detail of NPG 4682) with Jane Seymour's cross
And it is peculiar that the only portrait that shows Katherine of Aragon with any of this jewellery is the 'Lucas Horenbout' miniature of her, in which she is dressed in altogether the wrong fashion for her time and her country.
It is almost so one is tempted to entertain the idea that the jewellery has passed not in the ordinary way from Katherine of Aragon to Jane Seymour via Anne Boleyn, but was given from Jane Seymour to Katherine of Aragon posthumously by someone trying to recreate the image of a Queen of England.
Furthermore, the National Portrait Gallery makes note of a small blue flower, tucked into the bodice of her dress, and which is visible beneath the jewelled cross.
Now I am not a botanist, but those look an awful lot like forget-me-nots to me.
A legend tells of the Christ child sitting in his mother’s lap, and wishing that future generations could see them like this. So he touched her eyes and waved his hand over the ground and forget me nots sprang forth. Wherever they are found or represented it reminds the viewer of the strength of maternal love, especially the Virgin’s for our Lord.
Now, it is entire possible that the prostitutes in Holbein’s day was as fashion-conscious as they come, it is however curious that her costume should so resemble that of the Queen of England.
There exists at least versions of this portrait, two of Lais of Corinth itself, and one called Venus and Amor (also known as Venus and Cupid) a c.1524 painting by the German painter and printmaker Hans Holbein the Younger.
Lais of Corinth is believed to have been painted a year or two after.
Venus and Amor by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1524
'The model is believed to be his friend Magdalena Offenburg, who may have been Holbein's mistress. Venus and Amor was painted after Holbein's return to Basel following a short stay in France. While in France, he had access to the collection of Francois I, and it's believed likely that this work was one of his early responses to his exposure to the Italian painters of the era. Such influences can be seen in the gesture of Venus, whose pose closely echoes that of Jesus in Leonardo's 1498 Last Supper.
In addition, her long, oval, idealised face seems closely modeled on Leonardo's depictions of the Virgin Mary.'
Could it be possible that somebody saw this painting or a copy or a print of it and thought that it instead was a picture of the Virgin and Mary and the Christ child?
And thought the outfit of the Queen of Heaven quite appropriate for the Queen of England?
We must also not forget that Hans Holbein the Younger painted these paintings in 1524–1526, making the outfit of the woman in the picture appropriate for the time, if not the place, that Mary I Tudor would still have been a beloved child and both in possession of her parents and of their love.
For an artist born in the low countries in the 1510’s, such as court painter Levina Teerlinc, this is the fashion for women she would have remembered from her childhood and early youth as women wearing in the mid-1520's.
Side By Side – Miniature of Katherine of Aragon and Lais of Corinth by Hans Holbein the Younger
The miniature shows more evidence of attempting to recreate someone, rather than drawing someone from life.
All in all I cannot help but ask myself the question: Was this a miniature created after Katherine of Aragon's death? A miniature which set out to recreate the queen, rather than paint her from life?
A portrait commissioned by her grieving daughter, Mary I Tudor? Mary, who we know loved her mother?
One of a set of two portraits, the first of her father at an age when he was still the devoted father to Mary, the husband of her beloved mother?
King Henry the Eight and Queen Katherine his wife.
King Henry the Eight and Queen Katherine his wife
Mary I (1516–1558), Queen of England and Ireland by Hans Eworth
One of the first things Mary I Tudor did when she ascended the throne in 1554 was to order a bunch of portraits of herself.
Is it so without the realm of reason that she would also have commissioned a couple of pictures of her parents, her parents, whom we know she loved?
Was it for this reason that Levina Teerlinc was paid more than Holbein? For the ability to recreate what had been?
In her tenure as court painter to the Tudor house from 1546 to 1576 she served Henry VIII Tudor, Edward VI Tudor, Mary I Tudor and Elizabeth I Tudor.
Levina Teerlinc received an annual salary of £40 from 1546 to her death in 1576, as granted by Henry VIII, which was more than had been granted to Holbein, a man most would agree readily easily that surpassed her in genius and brilliance.
All of Henry VIII children were motherless, having lost their mothers early in dramatic and tragic circumstances. Edward VI would also have lost the woman whom he loved as a mother and who was as a mother to him, Katherine Parr, during his reign.
Henry VIII too lost his parents early, and his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, who had a hand in raising him.
How much would you have been willing to pay for beautiful pictures of aquaintances, and how much would you have been willing to pay for the image of a lost loved one?
It is not as if posthumous paintings were outside of the norm.
This portrait of The Family of Henry VII with St. George and the Dragon was painted c.1503-9. It was painted when five of the nine family members in it were dead.
The Family of Henry VII with St. George and the Dragon
An article about the exhibition at Hampton Court Palace in which this portrait was displayed touches upon this:
«The Family of Henry VII with St George, a fantasy portrait of Henry VII with his then dead wife, and his dead and living children. It was painted to emphasise the fruitfulness of the new Tudor dynasty, making more secure Henry VII's questionable claim to the English throne.»
It is thought to have been commissioned directly by Henry VII from a Flemish artist working at his court.
The Whitehall Mural 1737. George Vertue after Hans Holbein the Younger. 1737 after original from 1537+
The Whitehall Mural was commissioned by Henry VIII and certainly painted after the deaths of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Roughly three decades after the passing of them both, as a matter of fact.
Some also believe that it was painted after the passing of Queen Jane Seymour. We have to remember that this was in a time before photography. If you did not have an existing picture of lost loved one or a picture that displayed them in such a manner as you wished, you had to ... make one.
This shows that people far from being adverse to posthumous paintings in Tudor times, Henry VIII had a giant mural of his dead family erected which he would have had to look at every time he was at Whitehall.
To draw a modern paralell, to the Tudors it appears that posthumous paintings filled the same function as us making a copy of a photograph. To draw this paralell further, perhaps miniatures to them was the same as keeping a photo booth photo in your wallet is to us, or, to be even more modern, having a photograph as a screensaver on our phones.
We have to remember that one of the early, popular uses of photography was the to us quite incomprehensible memento mori tradition. (Don't google this if you don't know what it is. At least don't look at the pictures, whatever you do.) But to many poor people this was the only way to have an image of someone they had loved in their lives going forward.
Often they paid much more than they could afford to get it.
It is then not surprising that someone with far more resources (resourses that would have been almost unimaginable and completely out of reach to the poor farmer or worker of the 19th century) in earlier ages would do the exact same thing, but with a far more aesthetically pleasing result.
Titian, Portrait of Isabella of Portugal, 1548. Isabella died in 1539.
It is not as if this was particularly an English custom, either.
I still remember my surprise upon discovering that the famous portrait of Isabella of Portugal was, in fact, posthumous.
Isabella of Portugal (24 October 1503 – 1 May 1539) was Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Spain, Germany, Italy, Naples and Sicily and Duchess of Burgundy by her marriage to Emperor Charles V, and regent of Spain during many of the long absences of her husband.
She died in 1539 at the age of 35. The Emperor was left so devastated by his wife’s death that he could not bring himself to accompany her body to her original burial place in Granada. Instead, he instructed their son Philip to accompany his mother’s body, while Charles locked himself up in a monastery for two months, where he prayed and mourned for his wife alone.
«In the aftermath, Charles never recovered from Isabella's death; he never remarried and he dressed in black for the rest of his life. In memory of her, he commissioned several tributes through art and music, beginning in 1540 when he commissioned the Flemish composer Thomas Crecquillon to compose new music in honour of the Empress. Crecquillon composed his Missa Mort m'a privé as a memorial to Isabella, which expresses the Emperor's grief and great wish for a heavenly reunion with his beloved wife. Another musical tribute to Isabella is Carole cur defles Isabellam that was composed in 1545 by the Franco-Flemish composer Nicolas Payen.
In 1543, Charles commissioned his favourite painter Titian to paint posthumous portraits of Isabella by using earlier ones of her as his model. Titian painted several portraits of the Empress, which included his Portrait of The Empress Isabel of Portugal and La Gloria. He also painted a double portrait of Charles and Isabella together, of which there is a copy by Rubens. Charles kept these portraits with him whenever he travelled and after he abdicated in 1555, he retired to the Monastery of Yuste. The portraits by Titian were among those he brought with him and he would spend hours everyday contemplating them, especially the portrait of Isabella.»
This might even have inspired Henry VIII, who was always eager to follow the latest trends.
Moost Happi Anno 1534 medal, restored version by Lucy Churchill
However, on close examination I saw that it was only Anne’s left eye and her nose that had been displaced and that all other details could be viewed in great and precise detail. The quality of craftsmanship was so high that even the weave of the fabric on her headdress, the jeweled billiment and the necklace could be identified as that worn by Jane Seymour in a portrait by Holbein.»
In the most Moost Happi Anno 1534 medal, restored version by Lucy Churchill, we can see that Anne Boleyn also wears a cross.
It is unclear if this is the same cross that Katherine Parr is wearing in the minature above, however.
The cross Katherine Parr is wearing in her miniature is so distinct that it is possible to recognise the same cross in a minature of Jane Seymour and in the Whitehall Mural.
Lucy Churchill, who restored the medal, which is the only completely indisputable existing likeness of Anne during her lifetime, has this to say of it:
«I had just completed, with the permission of The British Museum, my study of what is the only surviving and undisputed contemporary portrait of Anne Boleyn – the Moost Happi Anno 1534 medal, and had concluded that it contained much more data than had previously supposed. The medal is made from lead and though there is no sign of willful damage careless storage in the past had resulted in some compression of the features. This lead historians to dismiss the value of this image as a tool for comparison.
This could be the same cross, therefore putting a dent in our theory, that this in this particular case of this miniature was jewellery not inherited from wife to wife, but rather posthumously assigned from Jane Seymour to Katherine of Aragon in an effort to recreate an image of the latter after her death.
Crosses were hardly unusual or controversial jewellery for the time period, however, and were worn by a wide slew of women.
Portrait of Johanna, Lady Abergavenny, in which she is wearing a cross
However, even at the risk of discrediting my own theory, I must admit that the cross Anne Boleyn is wearing in the Most Happi medal looks as if this could very well be the same cross as the one Jane Seymour is wearing in her miniature and the Whitehall Mural.
However, does it by that naturally follow that Anne Boleyn inherited the cross from Katherine of Aragon?
«But though on this matter of the journey and interview the courtiers appear cold and indifferent, certain it is that the Lady [Anne] thinks otherwise, for knowing very well how to make hay while the sun shines, she has not been slack to provide herself with rich and most expensive dresses and ornaments, which the King has ordered to be bought for the occasion. After sending her his own jewels (baghes), the King has, I hear, lately given the duke of Norfolk commission, and he has come down here on purpose, to procure through a third person those belonging to the Queen; who, I am told, said to the bearer of the Royal message: "., cannot present the King with my jewels as he desires, inasmuch as when, on a late occasion, I, according to the custom of this kingdom, presented him with a New Year's gift he warned me to refrain from such presents in future. Besides which (she said) it is very annoying and offensive to me, and I would consider it a sin and a load upon my conscience if I were persuaded to give up my jewels (baghes) for such a wicked purpose as that of ornamenting a person who is the scandal of Christendom, and is bringing vituperation and infamy upon the King, through his taking her with him to such a meeting across the Channel. Yet," continued the Queen, "if the King sends expressly for my jewels I am ready to obey his commands in that as well as in all other matters." Though highly displeased and sore at the Queen's answer the King nevertheless did send a gentleman of his chamber, who brought express orders to the Queen's Chancellor, and to her Chamberlain, to see to the delivery of the said jewels (fn. n4) besides a letter to the Queen herself in credence of the messenger, who said to her in the King's name that he was very much astonished at her not having sent her jewels forthwith when he first asked for them, as the queen of France, her sister, and many other [ladies] would have done." (fn. n5) Upon which the Queen gently pleaded excuse for her former refusal, and sent him. the whole of her jewels, and the King, as I am given to understand, is very much pleased and glad at it.»
(It does, however, seem as if Katherine was in possession of some of her jewellery when she died, and had enough control of them to bequeath them to whom she wished, in this case her daughter Mary. Highlighting perhaps the difference between a Queen's personal property and what belonged to the Crown? Or simply that she dared to keep something that was unequivocally hers, in spite of Henry.
Katherine of Aragon's will: «Desires the King to let her have the goods she holds of him in gold and silver and the money due to her in time past; that her body may be buried in a convent of Observant Friars; that 500 masses be said for her soul; that some personage go to our Lady of Walsingham on pilgrimage and distribute 20 nobles on the way. Bequests: to Mrs. Darel 200l. for her marriage. To my daughter, the collar of gold which I brought out of Spain. To Mrs. Blanche 100l. To Mrs. Margery and Mrs. [Whyller] 40l. each. To Mrs. Mary, my physicians [wife, and] Mrs. Isabel, daughter to Mr. Ma[rguerite], 40l. each. To my physician the year’s coming [wages]. To Francisco Philippo all that I owe him, and 40l. besides. To Master John, my apothecary, [a year’s wages] and all that is due to him besides. That Mr. Whiller be paid expenses about the making of my gown, and 20l. besides. To Philip, Anthony, and Bastian, 20l. each. To the little maidens 10l. each. That my goldsmith be paid his wages for the year coming and all that is due to him besides. That my lavander [her laundress] be paid what is due to her and her wages for the year coming. To Isabel of Vergas 20l. To my ghostly father [her confessor] his wages for the year coming. That ornaments be made of my gowns for the convent where I shall be [buried] and the furs of the same I give to my daughter.»
Possibly the collar of gold
which Katherine of Aragon brought out of Spain with her
and left to her daughter Mary
The fact that it could be the same collar is supported by the fact that it is known that she had to sell off much of her own jewellery to support herself in her widowhood after the death of her husband, the eldest son of Henry VII, Arthur.
Henry VII was not kind to her after she was widowed.
He had little use for the Spanish princess who lived when his own son died.
However, I cannot recall any instances, apart from this one, which I believe to be posthumous and reconstructed years down the line, of seeing Anne Boleyn wear the same jewellery as Katherine of Aragon.
Reading the inventory of Anne Boleyn's jewellery, it would appear as if most if not all of it was re-set. «Certen jewelles of the Kinges highnes which be trussed and inclosed within a faire deske of wodde, maser colour." B. M. A descriptive list of 27 items of gold chains, 7 items of gold "carkants," 9 elaborate gold broaches, 2 bracelets, 27 rings set with diamonds (several with the letters H. I., (fn. n22) two with H. A., (fn. n23) and one with the word MOSTE engraved on them), 15 with rubies, 7 with turquoises, 5 with emeralds, 2 with sapphires, and 1 "like a signet with a rose graven in it." Pp. 8. Cott. Appx. xxviii. 31. B. M. 2. "Certen riche jewelles of the Kynges highnes." Jewels in 10 different boxes. Some having the letters H. A. upon them and one (a broach) having the letters R. A. in diamonds.»
By the contents of her jewellery chest, it seems as if Anne Boleyn preferred to have everything made over for her anew, rather than wearing Katherine of Aragon's jewellery as they were, as all of the discernible items in her jewellery chest are rather personalised jewellery that can be connected to Anne Boleyn's own name, her person or her relationship with Henry.
From the Whitehall Mural, we can see that Jane Seymour was so far from being uncomfortable with the idea of wearing her predecessor's belongings that she appears to be wearing Anne Boleyn's gable hood.
Anne Boleyn – The Nidd Hall Portrait
It would indeed appear that Jane Seymour was less squeamish about wearing the possessions of her predecessor as they were left her.
In addition to the headdress and necklace, she could very well have obtained the cross the same way, wearing the cross looking precisely as it had done when her predecessor had worn it, without having the jewels re-set.
One thing that does perhaps speak for it being Katherine of Aragon's cross is that her daughter, Mary, can be seen wearing it in two portraits from a year after she became queen. One is Mary I (1516–1558), Queen of England and Ireland by Hans Eworth, shown further up on this page and today at Burlington House. The other one is the portrait below, Queen Mary I, also by Hans Eworth, purchased by the National Gallery in 1972 with the help of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton:
The only thing I can find to suggest that the cross originated with Anne, is if it were a play on names. Anne famously loved jewellery that incorporated her initials. This type of cross is also called a St. Anthony's cross. St. Anthony – Anne. That is such a feeble suggestion, however, that I am ashamed to make it.
However, the fact that Mary is wearing the cross does not necessarily negate the idea that it originally originated with Anne Boleyn. I do not know how much contact Mary actually had with her step-mother after Anne became Queen. It is quite possible that Mary never actually saw Anne with this cross, and instead associated it with Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr, two step-mothers who were kind to her.
It is entirely possible Mary that simply thought of it as a «Queen's cross», after having seen it around the throat of many successive Queens of England.
From the later portraits of her, it does not appear as if Anne was fond of ostentatious jewellery.
It has often been bemoaned that none of the existing portraits of Anne are contemporary.
However, perhaps in one sense, that has allowed Anne to appear as people remembered her, not as she wished to appear?
What people remembered, were clearly her dark hair, French hoods, personalised jewellery and her elegance.