David Starkey, a specialist in Tudor history, believes that he has identified a miniature in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art as the only known contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), queen regnant for nine days (10 July – 19 July 1553).
His detective work began when he saw a photograph of the miniature, painted on vellum, in a book. He said: “Almost all the early miniatures such as this were of royal subjects. This one struck me instantly and I thought it had to be of Lady Jane.
“What I noticed was the evident youth of the sitter. It would be unusual for someone to sit for a miniature unless they had very high status.”
But it was the jewellery that eventually gave the evidence. He found that the brooch in the portrait matched one in an inventory of Jane Grey’s possessions at the British Library. It is described as being made of gold with an agate centre and bearing the profile of a classical face.
He also worked out that the “foliage” behind the brooch was the badge of the Dudley family. John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, effectively ruled England in the last days of Edward VI, the sickly boy king whose death propelled Jane to the throne. The duke married one of his four sons, Guildford Dudley, to Jane Grey, to assert his control of the throne.
The foliage includes the four-petalled gillyflower, a relative of the cabbage.
“Gilly” was the nickname or rebus of Guildford Dudley. A 16th-century stone carving of the gillyflower* survives in a wall of the Beauchamp Tower at the Tower of London where Guildford, his father, and his three brothers were incarcerated with Lady Jane before their executions.
Dr Starkey believes the portrait was made by Lavinia Teerlinc, the Belgian miniaturist who succeeded Hans Holbein as Henry VIII’s court painter. It may have been painted to record Jane and Guildford’s wedding or while Jane was at the Tower awaiting her death.
*Apparently, the wallflower (a number of members of the Genus Erysimum), which has four petals, but which is not –as the Telegraph says– a relative of the cabbage.