Katheryn of Berain, 'The Mother of Wales' (1534/5-1591)

The life of Katheryn of Berain is laden with intrigue. This wealthy heiress from Denbighshire had Tudor blood in her veins, and was a distant relative to Queen Elizabeth I.

The story of her and her many husbands has become one of the chief romances of north Wales. She had six children and over thirty grandchildren who all went on to form some of the country's richest families, earning her the title 'the Mother of Wales'.

In Katheryn's age people married for money, land and power, not love. As a wealthy heiress of royal descent, Katheryn was considered a bit of a catch! She married four times to high-profile Welshmen, and became related to the richest, most important families of north Wales.

Wealthy sitters would often have their portraits painted to flaunt their richness and social status. But in this religious time it was just as important to appear humble in front of God.

The portrait is attributed to the Dutch artist Adriaen van Cronenburgh, who often painted portraits of the Friesian nobility. His work demonstrates the sophisticated Netherlandish oil painting technique of the time.

When Katheryn's second husband died abroad, she returned to Denbighshire with this portrait, where it remained for almost four hundred years. Just before the Second World War it was sold and taken to the Netherlands. From there it was sold to a collector who brought the work back to Britain. Finally, it was purchased by the Friends of National Museum Wales who presented it to the Museum in 1957.

Kathryn of Berain can be seen in the Historic Art galleries at National Museum Cardiff

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Art  Portraiture & Landscape 

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