Can you say exhausted? This is our last stop for Day 2 but by this time, I’m surprised either of us can actually walk! It was necessary though, as I had been dying to see some real Tudor portraits and the National Portrait Gallery is the place for those!
First up, we have King Richard III. This portrait was painted long after he had died at the Battle of Bosworth Field and lost the throne to Henry VII. I have such a soft spot for this king. Aside from the incredibly inaccurate but hilarious retelling of his defeat in the 1980s sitcom, Blackadder, I feel poor Richard was totally cheated by Henry Tudor! (More about him when I get to documenting our visit to Leicester.)
Here are Henry VIII’s parents – Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Hard to believe these portraits were painted in the early 1500s. They have been preserved (and probably restored) beautifully!
Then we see a portrait of their infamous son, King Henry VIII. This one was painted during Henry VIII’s lifetime but shortly before he died. It is believed to have been owned by his personal chaplain and displayed to show loyalty to the king.
Here she is! Poor ol’ Anne Boleyn. Another royal for whom I have a big soft spot. Granted, she created some serious drama by marrying Henry VIII while he was still married to Catherine of Aragon, helping him break away from Rome to establish the Church of England so he could be head of the church and get a divorce, but she was SERIOUSLY ripped off by Henry in the end. He accused her of adultery and incest without any evidence, mostly because she hadn’t bore him a son. Then it was off to the Tower of London and off with her head! Anyway, this portrait was lovely to see. I love her little B necklace with pearl drops and her headdress. So iconic!
Now we get to the two portraits I found most intriguing. Queen Elizabeth I. The gold paint actually glittered. I walked around the portraits and saw them from different angles…they glittered! How did they do that back in the day? Real gold? I could have stared at these paintings for hours! Such intricate brush strokes they almost didn’t seem real.
Some very famous non-Tudor portraits are also housed at the NPG. William Shakespeare’s portrait doesn’t quite have the sparkle or detail of the Tudor portraits (it probably didn’t get royal-level preservation treatment) but still wonderful to see. According to the Gallery, this was the first portrait it acquired when it was founded in 1856.
Thanks again to Blackadder for giving me a rather inaccurate portrayal of British royal history; portraits of George IV will always make me giggle. But he was quite the character in real life, apparently! George IV’s father suffered from mental illness, so he stood in as Prince Regent and then only reigned for 10 years after his father died. He lived a very indulgent lifestyle and ran up a lot of debt that had to be paid off by parliament. I guess that persona actually is portrayed pretty well in Blackadder after all. Here he is…
Still on the non-royal portraits, we came across portrait of George Washington. Mostly likely painted after he died it was done by the painter for whom Washington had previously sat, so we’re all good here.
Then finally, with pure exhaustion and jetlag sinking in once again, we came across this lovely and romantic sculpture of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria before we headed back to the hotel. Aww, they were so in love.
The National Portrait Gallery is jam packed with both significant historical portraits and modern art. Again, it’s one of those places you could spend a significant amount of time and still not see it all. Can we live in London now, please? We have so much to see and learn and these short little visits aren’t nearly enough.