Pregnant Queen Elizabeth?


This portrait depicts Queen Elizabeth in a maternity dress, raising the distinct possibility that the "Virgin Queen" bore children, namely Francis Bacon. A mysterious sonnet speaking of "a just complaint to the unjust" is found on the lower right side. The painting is on display at Hampton Court, south of London.

A History of the Painting

Hampton Court (299). 85 1/4 x 53 1/4 in., 217 x 135.3 cm.; stretched in lining.

Full-length standing in a wooded landscape in a loose white Oriental dress, richly embroidered with birds and flowers, and in a Persian head-dress and long veil; a ring is suspended from her neck on a black thread; she wears another ring on her right thumb and pearls round her right arm, and places a chaplet of flowers on the head of a stag; behind her is a tree bearing fruit and birds and two inscriptions: Iniusti Justa querela and Mea sic mihi; there is a third inscription by the stag's head: Dolor est medicina (e)d[o]lori. On a cartouche is inscribed a sonnet:

The restles swallow fits my restles minde,
In still revivinge still renewinge wronges;
her Just complaintes of cruelly unkinde,
are all the Musique, that my life prolonges.

With pensive thoughtes my weeping Stagg I crowne
whose Melancholy teares my cares Expresse
hes Teares in sylence, and my sighes unknowne
are all the physicke that my harmes redresse.

My onely hope was in this goodly tree,which I did plant in love bringe up in care:
but all in vanie [sic], for now to late I see the shales be mine, the kernels others are.

My Musique may be plaintes, my physique teares
If this be all the fruite my love tree beares.

Vertue states (Notebooks, vol. IV, p. 77) that "Sr John [Stanley], some time ago recoverd to the Crown the picture of Qu. Elisabeth in a strange fantastick habit, when he was deputy chamberlain to Qu. Anne,1 which had K. Ch. 1 mark behind it." It had been "bought as rubbish in Moor fields by a Painter." It was placed at St. James's (Queen Anne, St. James's, note by Thomas Coke: In the Blew Room . . . over ye Doors . . . Queen Elizabeth in fancy dress . . .) and later at Kensington in the Queen's Gallery of full-length portraits of sovereigns (Vertue inv., Kensington, f. 22); moved to Hampton Court, l2 September 1838.

Literature: Vertue, Notebooks, vol. II, pp. 48-9, vol. IV, pp. 65, 77; Walpole, Anecdotes, vol. I, pp. 162-3; Pyne, vol. II, Kensington, pp. 68-9 and seen in pl.; Law, 1881, 1898 (349); F. M. O'Donoghue, A Descriptive . . . Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth (1894), p. 23; Sir L. Cust, "Marcus Gheeraerts," Walpole Soc.,vol. III (1914), p. 27, pl. xxiv; Collins Baker, Lely, vol. I, pp. 23-4, Hampton Court, p. 64; R. A., King's Pictures (II); Miss F. Yates, "Boissard's Costume-Book and two Portraits," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. XXII (1959), pp. 365-6.

The identification of no. 87 with Queen Elizabeth persisted until the time of Law (loc. cit.); the name of "Zucchero" (varying with that of Holbein) was attached to it as early as the reign of George I (B. M., Stowe MS. 567, f. 69 v.). Vertue thought the verses were by Spenser, but Walpole (MS. notes in Bathoe, James II, pt. II, p. 48) thought "these silly romantic lines are of her Majesty's own composition." The more recent identification with Lady Arbella Stuart (1575-1615), supported by Cust (loc. cit.) and very tempting, cannot stand comparison with established portraits of her. If Vertue was correct in stating that the portrait had belonged to Charles I (the CR brand was presumably removed in relining), no. 87 could have been tentatively identified with a portrait of "the Lady Arbella at length in an embroidered habit" which had hung in the Queen's Gallery at Greenwich (Van der Doort, p. 196), but the measurements are given as 78 x 46 in. There was in the same Gallery at Greenwich "A lady's picture at length in white lawn masking habit" (ibid., p. 197, measurements given as 86 x 54 in.); this may have been The Lady shorley at Length. in phantastick habitt, valued among the pictures in the Queen's Gallery at £6 by the Trustees for Sale (L. R. MS., f. 7), sold to Murray and others on 23 October 1651 and not apparently recovered at the Restoration; in 1613 the Duke of Saxe-Weimar had seen at Somerset House the portrait, apparently at length, of "A beautiful Turkish lady" (W. B. Rye, England as seen by Foreigners (1865), p. 163).

1. Sir John Stanley, Bart., was secretary to the Lord Chamberlain, 1689-99, 1770-14.

A Hilliard drawing of Elizabeth and her son.

Francis Carr's article on the painting. - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning