THE PROPERTY OF MR AND MRS SHELSWELL-WHITE, REMOVED FROM BANTRY HOUSE, COUNTY CORK
The sitter in the present portrait was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon and his wife Mabel Burton. A noted beauty, with many suitors for her hand, she married three times. Her first husband, Henry Prannell, a rich wine merchant, died in 1599 leaving her a great heiress. In 1601 she married her second husband, Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (1537-1621), son of the Protector Somerset. They were married by dispensation 'the marriage being performed clandestinely in their private house', following which a rival suitor, Sir George Rodney, wrote her a dying love letter, which he penned in his own blood, before running himself through on his sword. Often inclined towards arrogance on account of having two Dukes in her lineage (her father was the son of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, and her mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Buckingham), on such occasions her second husband would tap her on the cheek and say 'Frank! Frank! How long was it since you married the vintner?'
Hertford died on 6th April 1621, and on 13th June that year she married her third husband, Ludovic Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lennox (1574-1624), Privy Councillor and Steward of the Household to James I, who was created Duke of Richmond in 1623. She died in 1639 and, in accordance with her will, was buried in Westminster Abbey, alongside the body of her third husband, 'whose matchless memory and faire needs to me shall ever live with me to the uttermost of affection and dutie, whiles I breath on earth'.
The composition is based on a portrait of the sitter by van Dyck, executed in 1633. The original painting is now lost, but is believed to have hung in the Bear Gallery at Whitehall near to a portrait of her late 3rd husband by Mytens [i]. This perhaps explains the almost Jacobean formality of her pose. The Duchess is represented in mourning, wearing a miniature of her third husband over her heart, and holds his Lord Steward's staff of office in a black case. Versions of this portrait are at Longleat and in the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida, and another version was sold in these rooms, 22nd March 2000 (lot 46).
i. see Barnes et al., Van Dyck; A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, 2004, no. IV.A32, p. 640
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