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Elizabeth Vernon Countess of Southampton (1572-1655)

Anonymous (British School)

Oil on Canvas 

1603 

Height 188 cm x width 109 cm

PD.6-1984

This large painting is of Elizabeth Vernon, the daughter of John Vernon of Hodnet in Shropshire, and the first cousin of the Earl of Essex. This lucky start in life allowed her to gain a highly respected position as one of the chief ladies in waiting to Queen Elizabeth I (for whom she is often mistaken). 

In 1598, Vernon secretly married Henry Wriothersley, 3rd Earl of Southampton who was rumoured to have been one of the Queen's favourites. Wriothersley was the patron of several poets and writers including William Shakespeare. Unfortunately for him, he was also close friends with the Earl of Essex who, in 1601, rebelled against the Queen. Wriothesley was imprisoned for his involvement in the plot. 

Vernon's sumptuous costume of white silk dripping with pearls, a robe, and coronet (a mini-crown worn by a countess) suggests this painting was made to celebrate the coronation of James I,  when her husband was pardoned and released from jail.

We also have portrait minatures of Henry Wriothersley in our collection that can be found here

 

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