If you’re a student of British history, you know that this is a picture of Lady Jane Grey, the hapless teenager who spent a few short days as Queen of England, only to end up beheaded when Bloody Mary took the throne. Except that it’s not. Turns out that this is not a contemporaneous portrait but is one that dates from long after her death and is simply believed to be a portrait of her. Now, however, news comes out of England that a historian may have identified is really a contemporaneous portrait of this poor girl:
The great unsolved mystery of what Lady Jane Grey, England’s shortest reigning monarch, looked like may finally have been cracked, thanks to a piece of jewellery, a flower related to the cabbage and the historian David Starkey.
Dr Starkey, a Tudor specialist, claimed yesterday that he was “90 per cent certain” that he had succeeded in identifying the first contemporary portrait of Jane Grey, the pious Protestant pawn who was queen for nine days in 1553 before being beheaded at the Tower of London.
The portrait, less than two inches in diameter, belongs to an American collection and is known to date from the mid-16th century. The sitter has never before been named, but Dr Starkey said that he had identified her as Jane Grey from a brooch on her dress and a highly symbolic jewellery spray of foliage behind it, linking her to her husband.
Jane Grey is the only English monarch since 1485 of whom no proven contemporary portrait survives. Many candidates have appeared and been dismissed or found to be imagined likenesses painted after her death.
Dr Starkey, best known for his television series on the kings and queens of England, said: “It’s terribly exciting because she has been so elusive. I think that we’ve now got a full hand of monarchs.
“I have to qualify this by saying that I am 90 per cent certain, but not 100 per cent. I’m delighted, but I’m in modified rapture.”
Here’s the portrait that may be the real deal: