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The Family of Henry VIII: an Allegory of the Tudor Succession

HEERE, Lucas de (1534 - 1584)

The Family of Henry VIII: an Allegory of the Tudor Succession

Media: oil on panel

Size: 131.2 x 184.0 cm

Acquired: 1991; Gift; Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of inheritance tax

Accession Number: NMW A 564

This picture celebrates the harmony established by Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth is on the right, holding the hand of Peace and followed by Plenty. Her father Henry VIII, the founder of the Church of England, sits on his throne, and passes the sword of justice to his Protestant son Edward VI. On the left are Elizabeth’s Catholic half-sister and predecessor Mary I and her husband Philip II of Spain, with Mars, the God of War. The picture, a gift from Queen Elizabeth to Sir Francis Walsingham, exemplifies the 16th century's fascination with allegory, the Queen's vision of herself as the culmination of the Tudor dynasty and her concern with the legitimacy of her regime.

Lucas de Heere came to London from Ghent in the late 1560s, one of many Flemish Protestant artists and craftspeople to flee religious persecution. This painting was accepted under the 'in lieu in situ scheme'. It was purchased by J.C.Dent at the sale of the collection of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, in 1842.

Comments (22)

Elizabeth M Giles
18 November 2021, 17:24
Is the male face at the far left, under the small arch to the left of Mars (not visible in the incomplete image of the painting above) Owain Tudur, father of the dynasty? Also, why is Henry VII not depicted?
5 January 2019, 10:45
Hello, and happy new year!
Do you know anything about the text framing the painting?
"A face of mvche nobillitye in a litle roome, /
Fowr states with theyr conditions heare shadowed in a showe /
A father more than valyant. A rare and vertvvs soon. /
A zealvs davghter in her kynd what els the world dothe knowe / And last of all a vyrgin qveen to Englands joy we see,/
Successyvely to hold the right and vertves of the three."
Thank you very much for your answer!
Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
19 April 2017, 15:00
Hi there Monica

Thank you for your comment.

This painting would be classified as a dynastic portrait and it's in the style of the 16th Century Dutch school.

If you are analysing the meaning of the painting, you could look at some of the symbolism (such as the 'sword of justice' and other items that the subjects are carrying) or the positioning of the different subjects within the painting - who is the most prominent? Who is the 'next in line'?

Another theme to explore could be the textiles in the painting - are they wearing clothes from their own period from history? Are some wearing historical costumes? Why would they choose to do this? What kind of messages are they putting across by wearing silk, velvet, gold and jewels?

In terms of textures and detail - having seen this painting in person I always wonder whether some of the techniques e.g. the intricate perspective of the patterned rug, is the artist showing off their technical expertise, as well as showing off the wealth of the portrait's subject.

Thanks again for your enquiry and best of luck with your assignment from Wales!

Digital Team
19 April 2017, 14:25
Hi! I'm a senior high school student doing a project on the subject of monarchy for my AP English class. I was wondering what type of art-style this painting would classify as? I also need to analyze the colors, texture, and lines. Is there any way you could help me with that? I figured that the reds and oranges represent the royalty and the bloodline. It is a very warm painting and the lines are small to create detail. Is there any other element you could help me analyze that could highlight the theme of monarchy? Any help or comments will be very appreciated! Thank you!
Amgueddfa Cymru
9 March 2017, 10:16

Dear Josh,
Thank you for your enquiry, apologies for the delay in responding but we have been trying to locate further information for you. Unfortunately our collections don't hold much in the way of pre-18th century costume so we aren't able to help with this. I would suggest contacting Historic Royal Palaces, or email who should have far more knowledge of this sort of thing.
Thank you for your interest,
Graham Davies

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

20 February 2017, 19:24
I would like to know a little it about the two different dresses Elizabeth and Mary are wearing. I notice that Mary is wearing an older style while Elizabeth is wearing a newer style. Why are they painted this way?

Could it have something to do with the supremacy of Elizabeth in the painting? Also, what time period is Mary's dress from?

Thank you,
Graham Davies Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
3 June 2016, 15:44

Dear Bob, thanks for getting in touch. This work is currently on display in the Art Wales (1550-1700) Gallery at the National Museum Cardiff.
If you intend to visit, please ring beforehand as some of our services are currently affected by industrial action. (03 June 2016)
Graham Davies
Digital Team

3 June 2016, 14:47
where is the location of this painting now?
Sara Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
17 March 2016, 15:48


Hi Justine,

A colleague from the Department of Art has been in touch with the following: "The background view past the pillars on the left of the painting is thought to represent the Palace of Whitehall, the main residence of the English and British monarchy between 1530 and 1698 when it was destroyed by fire."

All the best and thanks again for your enquiry,

Digital Team

Sara Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
9 March 2016, 10:20

Hi Justine,

Thanks for your question - it's a really interesting one! I'll pass it on to the Department of Art and post their reply. I might even pop down to the gallery to have a look myself!

Digital Team

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