The Vere Captains at Raynham Hall

Essay by Edward Town

No study of the building history and collection of Raynham Hall would be complete without an account of the nineteen full-length portraits of officers who served under Sir Horace Vere (1565–1635) that once hung across two rooms in the house. Casualties of the Townshend Heirloom sale of 1904, these portraits had been at the front of William Kent’s mind when he came to remodel the house at the end of the 1720s. John Cornforth argued that this campaign of building deliberately emphasised the deep roots that Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1675–1738) and his family held in Norfolk and stressed the continuity of Raynham’s design from the age of Charles I and Inigo Jones, thus creating a house suitably distinct from that newly built at Houghton by Townshend’s brother-in-law and long-time political partner, Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676–1745).1

To this end, Kent hung the Red Saloon (or Spanish Invasion Room, as it came to be known) with twelve of the Vere captains, presided over by a portrait of their commander above the fireplace, while the seven remaining portraits from the set were hung in the adjoining Stone Parlour. Ahead of their installation, all the pictures were reframed by the Master Sculptor & Carver in Wood at the King’s Works, James Richards (active 1721–67). His bill of January 1730 at Raynham enumerates a cost of £2 6s 8d each, for frames for the portraits in the Red Saloon with ovolo, egg-and-dart ornament and centred rope moulding and additional ‘ornaments of Helmets and Palms at the Top’ (see figs. 15 and 16).2 The frames for the seven portraits in the Stone Parlour were of a different design, which, instead of the helmets, had the addition of a frieze decorated with palms (see fig. 18) and came in at the slightly higher price of £2 6s 10d.3 The painter John Jones then cleaned all the pictures and gilded the frames.4 Today, a number of the extant pictures retain these Kentian frames, with the two frame types corresponding to their placement across the two rooms in 1730. For whatever reason, the crests of the palms and helmets in the Red Saloon were not removed when some of the pictures were lent to the Royal Academy in 1890, and remained fixed to the wall when all the paintings were removed for sale in 1904. As a result, they are still to be found where placed by Kent in 1730, forlorn vestiges of what was once a bombastic scheme of decoration.

A tinted photograph of the Red Saloon of about 1875–80 (fig. 1) shows the portraits in situ and hints at the impact these pictures would have made on entering the room from the Great Hall. The impressive scale, colourful costumes and strident poses of the captains have always inspired comment and, as will be seen, proved particularly popular to American buyers at the turn of the twentieth century.5 Since their sale in 1904, the pictures have been scattered across both sides of the Atlantic and, as their desirability has waxed and waned, they have changed hands many times. Tracing their ownership since their departure from Raynham tells its own story and speaks to the fluctuating demand for what the author of a Connoisseur article of 1950 could best describe as ‘Jacobean Portraits of Ceremony’. That article advertised the availability of four Vere Captains brought to the United States by Duveen Brothers, who had acquired the paintings from the 1904 sale on behalf of the American architect Stanford White (1853–1906) but had retained the pictures as stock – White’s murder at the roof theatre of Madison Square Garden presumably curtailed any pre-existing agreement to purchase them.6 Within a few years, all four had entered American museums, although two were subsequently deemed surplus to requirement at the Norton Simon Museum in California; were deaccessioned and sold at auction in London in 1973.7 As described in Martin Postle’s study in this project, Agnew’s were major buyers at the 1904 Christie’s sale of Townshend heirlooms, where they bought Sir John Borlase, Captain (see fig. 6) on behalf of Leonard Brassey, Sir Robert Carey (see fig. 13) and Captain Milles for D. C. Guthrie and Sir William Lovelace (see fig. 15), Sir Henry Peyton (see fig. 16) and Sir John Congreve (see fig. 18) on behalf of Robert Henry Benson (1850–1929), along with two excellent late paintings by Van Dyck, all of which were subsequently hung at Courteenhall, Northamptonshire, the home of Benson’s daughter Margaret and her husband, Sir Hereward Wake, 13th Baronet (1876–1963).

Tinted photograph of the Red Saloon

Figure 1.
Tinted photograph of the Red Saloon, c.1875–80. Raynham Hall Archives, Raynham Hall.


Digital image courtesy of Raynham Hall / Photo: Tom St Aubyn. (All rights reserved)

The focus here, however, is the early history of these paintings, born from a desire to learn more about the portrait of Sir Thomas Winne (fig. 2), which was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1968 for the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. As part of the present study for the Paul Mellon Centre’s Country House project, records and corresponding images of sixteen of the nineteen portraits have been found and are reproduced together here for the first time. Note that of these only a small number have been examined in person, and of course the group would lend themselves particularly well to a future technical study, perhaps ahead of and in preparation for exhibition – a logistical challenge but one that would reward the effort.

c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 129.5 cm. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1981.25.273)

Figure 2.
Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Thomas Winne, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 129.5 cm. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1981.25.273)


Digital image courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. (Public domain)

From what can be deduced from photographs and what little has been written about these pictures, none of the paintings is signed or dated, although many – possibly all – retain what look to be late seventeenth-century inscriptions painted in yellow ochre that record the name of the sitter. Without any supporting information as to the identity of the artist, a variety of attributions have been grafted onto the portraits over the course of their history. There are no documents that record their commission and the earliest description of them at Raynham, by Vertue in 1730, provides information which is at best confusing and at worst misleading. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that there has been no systematic study of the group as a whole, despite the fact that they were, and remain even in dispersal, the most formidable assemblage of military portraits from the early modern period in Britain. The present study cannot claim to provide a complete account of every painting in the group and the whereabouts of some of the paintings remain unresolved. Nevertheless, it is hoped that what has been brought together here will serve as a useful basis on which others can build, and that in the fullness of time the missing pictures will come out of the woodwork.

A cursory comparison of the costume and the handling in these paintings points towards at least nine of the portraits originating from the same painter’s workshop at roughly the same moment. These are Horace Vere’s (fig. 3) cousin Sir Edward Vere, Lieutenant Colonel (fig. 4; whereabouts unknown), Sir Thomas Dale, Captain (fig. 5; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond), Sir John Borlase, Captain (fig. 6; whereabouts unknown), Sir Thomas Dutton, Captain (fig. 7; National Trust, Lodge Park, Gloucestershire), Sir Edward Harwood (fig. 8; whereabouts unknown), Vere’s nephew Sir Thomas Conway (fig. 9; Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Shaw Center for the Arts, Baton Rouge, LA), Sir John Borlase, Lieutenant Colonel (fig. 10; whereabouts unknown), Sir Thomas Winne (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut; see fig. 2) and Sir Michael Everard (fig. 11; whereabouts unknown). Three others, Sir John Burroughs (fig. 12; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Vere’s relation Sir Robert Carey (fig. 13; whereabouts unknown) and Sir Thomas Gates (fig. 14; private collection) share similarities that suggest that they should also be considered as part of this group. To this group may also belong the Sir William Lovelace (fig. 15; private collection) and Sir Henry Peyton (fig. 16; private collection), with the same landscape background in both Sir John Borlase, Captain and Sir Henry Peyton, suggesting the Sir John Borlase is a lesser product of the same studio. Thus, by association, this group of fourteen could be products of the same workshop.8

c.1615. Oil on canvas, 29.8 x 24.1 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-A-557).

Figure 3.
Workshop of Michiel Jansz. van Mierveldt, Portrait of Sir Horace Vere, c.1615. Oil on canvas, 29.8 x 24.1 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-A-557).


Digital image courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Public domain)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.

    Figure 4.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Edward Vere, Lieutenant Colonel, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Photo: Oliver Millar Archive, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 208.3 x 115.6 cm. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (Acc. No. 52.8)

    Figure 5.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Thomas Dale, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 208.3 x 115.6 cm. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (Acc. No. 52.8)


    Digital image courtesy of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. (Creative commons CC-BY-NC)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.

    Figure 6.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir John Borlase, Captain, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Photo: Oliver Millar Archive, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

  • Sir Thomas Dutton

    Figure 7.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Thomas Dutton, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 101.6 cm. National Trust, Sherborne Park Estate, Gloucestershire (NT 562401)


    Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images. (All rights reserved)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 106.1 cm. Private Collection.

    Figure 8.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Edward Harwood, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 106.1 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Sotheby's. (All rights reserved)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 106.1 cm. Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Shaw Center for the Arts, Baton Rouge (59.2.1)

    Figure 9.


    Sir Thomas Conway, Sir Thomas Conway, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 106.1 cm. Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Shaw Center for the Arts, Baton Rouge (59.2.1)


    Digital image courtesy of Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Shaw Center for the Arts, Baton Rouge. (All rights reserved)

  • Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Borlase

    Figure 10.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Borlase, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Sotheby's. (All rights reserved)

  • c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 213 x 131 cm. Private Collection.

    Figure 11.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Michael Everid, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, 213 x 131 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Sotheby's. (All rights reserved)

  • c. 1620–23. Oil on canvas, 212.7 x 107 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-A-2527).

    Figure 12.


    Jan Anthonisz van Ravensteyn, Sir John Burroughs, c. 1620–23. Oil on canvas, 212.7 x 107 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-A-2527).


    Digital image courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Public domain)

  • c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 109.2 cm. Private Collection.

    Figure 13.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Robert Carey, c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 109.2 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Sotheby's. (All rights reserved)

  • c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 109.2 cm. Bermuda National Trust.

    Figure 14.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Thomas Gates, c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 109.2 cm. Bermuda National Trust.


    Digital image courtesy of Bermuda National Trust (All rights reserved)

  • Sir William Lovelace

    Figure 15.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir William Lovelace, c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 110.5 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Private Collection. (All rights reserved)

  • Sir Henry Peyton

    Figure 16.


    Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Sir Henry Peyton, c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 210.8 x 109.2 cm. Private Collection.


    Digital image courtesy of Private Collection. (All rights reserved)

There are two distinct outliers to the group. Sir Simon Harcourt (fig. 17), a nephew of Vere, is depicted wearing a falling ruff of a type that came into fashion towards the very end of the 1620s and the Sir John Congreve (fig. 18), which, with the coat of arms painted in the upper right of the painting and giddying perspective of the marble floor tiles, looks to be the product of another less competent studio.9 This variety across the group suggests that the paintings were not commissioned in one fell swoop but put together in an accretive fashion over the course of the second and third decades of the seventeenth century. This would fit with what we know of Horace de Vere’s movements back and forth across the Channel and the life dates of the officers depicted, which will be discussed shortly. First, though, it is necessary to establish by what means the pictures came to Raynham.

c. 1630. Oil on canvas, 231 x 107 cm. Stanton Harcourt Manor, Oxfordshire.

Figure 17.
Unknown Artist, Sir Simon Harcourt, c. 1630. Oil on canvas, 231 x 107 cm. Stanton Harcourt Manor, Oxfordshire.


Digital image courtesy of Photo: Courtauld Institute. (All rights reserved)

Sir John Congreve

Figure 18.
Unknown Artist, Sir John Congreve, c. 1625. Oil on canvas, 203.2 x 104.1 cm. Private Collection.


Digital image courtesy of Private Collection. (All rights reserved)

The paintings are first mentioned in print as early as 1657, in the posthumous publication of Sir Francis Vere’s Commentaries, dedicated by the publisher William Dillingham to Horace Townshend, later 1st Viscount Townshend (c.1630–1687). As his grandfather’s namesake, Horace carried the mantle of his ancestor’s memory and it is no surprise that he was named as the recipient of bequests from his grandmother Lady Mary Vere (née Tracy; 1581–1671) in March 1670 of ‘the Picture of my Late Deare husband Horace Lord Vere deceased in my great parloure and the Great Pictures of all my Lord Veres Officers and Captains in the said Roome or elsewhere in my house called Kerby Hall’. If Horace Townshend were to die without a male heir, the pictures were to be restored to her daughter Elizabeth Holles, Countess of Clare and her heirs, ‘so that they may be preserved to the Posteritie of my deare husband horatio Lo: Vere’.10

As the tenor of her will suggests, Lady Vere was a devout and determined individual who made a lasting impression on those who met her. For example, in 1671 Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick (1625–1678) recalled in her diary her visit to ‘pious old Lady Vere’, finding ‘much comfort in hearing that good old disciple converse’. Later that year the Countess wrote that she had ‘Heard of the death on Christmas day of that eminently pious Lady Vere [she] being above four score and eleven. She was an extremely kind friend to me’.11 It seems, therefore, that not only was Lady Vere long-lived but she was also well remembered, and that the wishes that she set out in her will for the future of the Vere Captains were honoured by her descendants, shaping the thinking of her great-grandson the 2nd Viscount during his changes to Raynham. This puts pay to Cornforth’s suggestion that the Vere Captains were used by Kent merely out of expediency and because of the dearth of available pictures at Raynham.12 Rather, the placement of the Vere Captains at the heart of the redesigned interior of the house honoured the memory of both Lord and Lady Vere and in doing so underscored their familial ties to what had been, until 1703 at the death of Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford, one of the longest lived titles in the peerage.

The Commentaries of 1657 list portraits of Henry de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1593–1625), Thomas, Lord Fairfax and seventeen of the Captains, ‘Besides divers others, whose effigies do at once both guard and adorn, Kirby-Hall in Essex, where the truly religious and Honourable the Lady Vere doth still survive, that the present age might more then read and remember what was true Godliness in eighty eight’.13 It is notable that at this early date (1657), commentators read this group of portraits through a Protestant lens that identified the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 as the first instance of a series of providential interventions that had swayed military fortune in favour of the British. No matter that few of the Vere Captains had fought against the Armada, yet as early as 1731 visitors to Raynham were under the misapprehension that they were in the presence of Elizabethan sea-captains: on 11 May 1731 John Loveday of Caversham visited Raynham and recorded one room ‘Hung with the Pictures of famous Admirals in Queen Elizabeth’s reign’.14 A few decades on, apocrypha had become gospel, as the Red Saloon at Raynham became known as the Spanish Invasion Room.15

Confusion about the nature of this group was deep set by the time that George Vertue came to visit Raynham in 1730. As suggested earlier, his record of the visit is by no means easy to understand: ‘at My Lord Townsends seat in the Country S[r]. Francis Vere. with the pictures of 19 Officers: that was with them at the siege of Ostend. Temp. Jame I. the Generals heads only. The others all att length in their proper habits. These pictures done Abroad in ye low Countries. These said also to be Copies done here. From Originals that are in poses of another branch of that family.’16 What Vertue appears to be saying is that the pictures were thought to have been made in the Low Countries but that there was also a belief that the portraits at Raynham were copies made in England of originals that were in the possession of another branch of the family. If this is true, no record of the existence of such originals has been found during the research for the present study. There is the possibility that Vertue was confused by the information he received on his visit to Raynham. Lady Vere’s will is categorical about the recipient of these pictures and there is no evidence of an additional set of portraits. It appears, therefore, that by the time of Vertue’s visit to Raynham, any meaningful knowledge about how this set of portraits was assembled had faded. To be sure, the portraits depict soldiers who served under Horace Vere but would date not to the time of the Siege of Ostend (which began in 1601) but of the decades that followed.

A kernel of truth is probably to be found in the suggestion made in the Royal Academy 1890 exhibition catalogue that described those pictures from the Red Saloon lent to the Academy: ‘the last years of his [Horatio de Vere’s] life were passed at his house at Clapton, near Hackney, and it was probably at this period that he collected the series of portraits of some of his principal officers, which subsequently came through his daughter Mary, who married Sir Roger Townshend, to Raynham.’17 It seems sensible to suggest that the portraits hung at the Vere residence at Clapton outside London at some point after the acquisition of that estate in 1625. This was the same year that Vere was elevated to the peerage and the moment that, aged sixty, he looked to retirement and a life with his wife and his five daughters, although he returned to mainland Europe to campaign during the summer months in the years that followed.

Never a large house, Kirby, or Picards House, was a dependency of Castle Hedingham in Essex, the ancient ancestral home of the Earls of Oxford, and had come into the possession of Horace de Vere’s branch of the family by virtue of an agreement between his eldest brother John Vere (c.1558–1624) and the Earl, having resigned the manors of Crepping and Crustwick nearby.18 On the death of John’s widow Thomasine in 1639, Kirby became the home of Lady Vere and it was there that she resided for the next thirty years of her life, holding court as the staunch champion of her husband’s memory. After her death, the house was sold.19 The building, still extant, was built in the late sixteenth century as a timber-framed structure on an L-shaped plan, with three gables. Clearly the Great Parlour was sufficiently large to accommodate the majority of the Vere Captains and may be the room on the south-east of the building that today retains a moulded ceiling-beam and early seventeenth-century panelling.20 Unfortunately, the probate inventory of Lady Vere of July 1673 does not list pictures, giving the contents of the Great Parlour as a velvet couch, with chair and stools en suite, three Turkey carpets, three curtains and ironwork fire-furniture. The only reference in the inventory to militaristic décor were the eight old guns that hung in the hall between the main hall and the kitchen. So either the paintings had already left Kirby for Raynham by 1673 or they were omitted from the inventory for some other reason.21

With all this in mind, a tolerably cogent narrative of the movement of the pictures can be set out. The majority of the pictures were probably brought to England between 1625 (when the Clapton estate was acquired) and 1635 (when Horace Vere died). It is likely that they were brought to Kirby Hall in Essex by his widow Mary at some point after 1639, where they remained until she died in 1671, after which they came into possession of her grandson and were brought to Raynham. It has not been possible to establish where they initially hung at Raynham but in 1730 they were set in the Red Saloon and the Stone Parlour, where they remained until the Heirloom sale of 1904.

The question remains, though, as to when these paintings were made and by whom. A persistent belief about the group is that the commission records the membership of a band of English volunteers, commanded by Horace Vere to support the beleaguered Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of James VI and I.22 However attractive this is as an idea, it does not hold true. This is because a number of the Captains had died by the time James I had given his consent to raise the troops to support his son-in-law against the Spanish. Take for example one of the most famous of the Vere Captains, Thomas Dale, who died in 1619. Dale’s biography is instructive because his frequent absences from service under Francis and then Horace Vere in the Netherlands provide clues as to when the set may have been begun. In February 1611 Dale was granted a three-year leave from the States General to travel to Virginia, which was extended through the intervention of James I. He then returned to the Netherlands in 1617 and was subsequently employed by the East India Company to launch an expedition against the Dutch viceroy Jan Pieterszoon Coen, in the East Indies. He died at Machilipatnam in South India on 9 August 1619.

Likewise Thomas Gates, who served with Dale at the English garrison of Oudewater, Netherlands, was heavily involved in colonial projects in the second decade of the seventeenth century. Gates received his year-long leave of absence from the Dutch States General in 1608, departing for America in 1609. He was sent back to England with Dale for supplies, departing again for Virginia in March 1611, finally returning to the Netherlands in around 1614, where he died, buried at Schenkenschanz in the autumn of 1622. Likewise, Sir Michael Everard died in either 1621 or 1622, while Sir Thomas Winne was hit by a cannon ball during an attempt to relieve Breda from its siege by the Spanish commander Spinola in 1625.23 As can be seen, not all the Vere Captains were members of the expeditionary force sent to Bohemia in June 1620 under Horace Vere, who was at the head of a troop of four thousand men to support the Winter King Frederick V and defend the Palatinate, with Sir John Borlase as his lieutenant, Sir Edward Vere as his general and Sir Thomas Dutton, another lieutenant.

Rather, most of the sitters in these portraits had served under Horace Vere during the previous decade in the various conflicts of the fledgling Dutch Republic, namely the battles at Jülich in 1610 and 1614. These biographies point firmly to a date of around 1615 for many of the portraits of the Vere Captains and raise the strong possibility that the initial group of pictures had been made to commemorate their part in the Cleves-Jülich campaign. For example, Dutton served as a captain in 1609 at the head of ninety men. Through Vere’s auspices he subsequently commanded a company in Vere’s regiment in Cleves-Jülich in 1614.24 Likewise, Sir Henry Peyton (d. 1622/3) was given command of a company of foot in 1604 in the Low Countries and led a company in Vere’s regiment in Cleves-Jülich in 1614.25 In 1618 he was given the command, with Sir Henry Mainwaring, of a fleet enlisted in the service of the Venetian Republic; he ‘died beyond the seas’ in either 1622 or 1623.

All this suggests that the set was begun, and was probably largely complete, prior to Peyton’s departure for Venice in 1618 and to Dale’s death in 1619, and was only added to in the following decade. Here, Vere was following the example set by Prince Maurice of Nassau who, between 1611 and 1616, commissioned an extensive group of portraits of officers in his service, for the most part from the workshop of the Hague-based Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn (1572–1657), originally from Delft but active in the Hague from 1597. This group included a portrait of Vere himself (see fig. 3) currently attributed to the workshop of Michiel Jansz. van Mierveldt (1566–1641) and now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-A-557). To judge from the photographs, and by comparing these to fully attributed work, it is Ravesteyn and his studio who emerge as the strongest candidates for producing the main group of Vere Captains. For one thing, Ravesteyn was the premier artist in the Hague, which was where Vere was stationed for much of the first fifteen years of the seventeenth century.26 The discovery of another portrait, not part of the Raynham set but clearly a product of the same workshop, of the soldier Colonel Thomas Davies (d. 1655; fig. 19), now in a private collection in Wales, suggests that English officers serving in the Hague had their portraits made of their own volition but habitually turned to the same artist as did their commander-in-chief. The painting, also known through a later copy in the National Museum of Wales, appears to have been part of a group of pictures sent to his brother Robert Davies (1581–1633) in Flintshire, shortly before Thomas’s departure for Denmark from the Hague and described in a letter of 18 November 1628.27 At this point Davies appears to have been serving in the command of Charles Morgan (1575–1643), who had travelled with the volunteer force of Horace Vere after the conclusion of the Dutch truce and commanded the British contingent at Bergen till 1622. He had helped in the defence of the siege of Breda in 1625 and in the following year he led a British force to the aid of Christian IV of Denmark on the lower Elbe but, despite naval aid, he had to yield the city of Staden to Count Tilly in 1628. The survival of this portrait hints at the existence of other portraits by Ravesteyn of English soldiers elsewhere in British collections, and it is likely that more pictures from this chapter of cultural transmission between the Netherlands and Britain will come to light.

c. 1615. Oil on canvas, dimensions unknown. Private Collection.

Figure 19.
Attributed to the workshop of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn, Colonel Thomas Davies, c. 1615. Oil on canvas, dimensions unknown. Private Collection.


Digital image courtesy of Photo: Courtauld Institute. (All rights reserved)

The collection at Raynham also provides evidence that Vere began his practice of acquiring portraits of those in his command far earlier than has hitherto been appreciated. This evidence comes in the form of the portraits at Raynham of Isaac Honywood (RN23) and Charles Scott (RN36) attributed here to Daniël van den Queborn (1552/57–1602/05). Queborn was the court painter to Prince Maurice of Orange in Middleburg and was responsible for a number of portraits of English soldiers of fortune fighting for the Protestant cause during the Anglo-Spanish wars alongside the leaders of the Dutch Revolt. A series of portraits by Queborn once at Scot’s Hall in Kent and now part of North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, and one portrait from the same collection at the Yale Center for British Art of Sir William Drury attest to his popularity and may be cited as the inspiration for large, full-length portraits on canvas of soldiers commissioned abroad and sent back to England to adorn the halls of country houses.28 Thus, it seems that Vere’s collection of full-length portraits built on an existing set of bust-length portraits of soldiers in his command that dated from the previous decade. It is possible that these pictures were those recorded by Vertue in his note on the Vere Captains of Raynham which he described as ‘the Generals heads only’.

The story of the Vere Captains is integral to the history of Raynham. Painted in the same decade as the present house took form, they were central to Kent’s reinterpretation of the Jonesian building and did much to tether the history of the Townshend family to the ‘Fighting Veres’ and their ancestors the Earls of Oxford. Re-imagined at Raynham as the Elizabethan sea-captains who repulsed the Armada, the Captains stood tall for nearly two centuries before being scattered to the four winds to staunch the haemorrhaging effect of death duties. Some found good homes, others could not sustain the interest of their American owners. Three pictures have evaded recovery: Captain Milles, Sir Jacob Astley and Captain Teboll. If ever all the paintings are recovered a true sense of their significance will be apparent to all. For among their number are some of the leading actors in Britain’s early colonial enterprises and, as the country comes to terms with this aspect of its history, it is important that the portraits that helped promote the status of these individuals are included as part of the discourse. The world of the country house is too often perceived as elitist, exclusionary and out of touch, but there is growing recognition that their collections need to be incorporated into post-colonial histories of British art, of which The Vere Captains are just one example of many.

Author

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Edward Town

    Edward Town is Head of Collections Information and Access at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut. He was a co-author and contributor to Painting in Britain 1500–1630 (British Academy, 2015) and has published numerous articles on artistic production in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including: A Biographical Dictionary of London Painters 1547–1625 (Walpole Society, 2014); “A Fête at Bermondsey—an English Landscape by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder”, The Burlington Magazine, May 2015; and with Juliet Carey and Sarah Bayliss was a co-author on the article “Nicholas Hilliard’s Portraits of Elizabeth I and Sir Amias Paulet”, The Burlington Magazine, September 2018.

Footnotes

  1. John Cornforth, Early Georgian Interiors, New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre, 2004, p. 169.

    1
  2. Raynham Hall Archives, Raynham Hall, Bill of James Richards, 28 April 1730, ‘To the Sallon 12 No. of Picture frames w[th] Ovolo and bead twisted 5 in: G[t]. w[th] ornaments of Helmets and Palms at the Top, at 2: 6: 8 Each 28 00 00’; ‘To the Stone Parlour 7 No. of Picture frames, ovolo and bead __ 4 in. ½ G[t]: 2 Scroles and A frise w[th] Palms to Each at 2 6 10 Each 16 07 10’.

    2
  3. Extant frames can be seen on the portraits of Sir Thomas Dutton at Lodge Park, Gloucestershire (National Trust, NT 562401) and the portrait of Sir John Congreve at Courteenhall, Northamptonshire. The portrait of Congreve can be seen in a photograph of Courteenhall of c.1939 alongside two portraits by Anthony Van Dyck of Princess Mary and Prince Charles as children, also from the 1904 Heirloom sale, in Arthur Oswald, ‘Courteenhall – II Northamptonshire, Seat of the Major-General Sir Hereward Wake’, Country Life, 19 August 1939, pp. 172–6.

    3
  4. Raynham Hall Archives, Bill of John Jones, 3 January 1730, ‘for gilding the supping parler and drawing room and adjoining – painting Excluded also the pictures in the stone parler & salloon to be Cleaned 70 0 0’

    4
  5. For example, Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689–1741) who said of the Saloon: ‘It is furnished with full length pictures of the famous Sir Francis Vere’s officers, all painted by Cornelius Johnson’; quoted in Andrew Moore and Charlotte Crawley, Family and Friends: A Regional Survey of British Portraiture, Norwich: Norfolk Museums Service; London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1992, p. 34.

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  6. R. Langton Douglas, ‘Some Portraits of Ceremony of the Jacobean School’, The Connoisseur, December 1950, pp. 162–6.

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  7. The four pictures acquired by Duveen remained with Duveen until 1951. They do not appear in The Artistic Property belonging to the Estate of the late Stanford White, sale cat., American Art Association, New York, 1907. The Sir John Borlase, Lieutenant Colonel and Sir Edward Harwood were acquired by the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, but deaccessioned and sold at Sotheby’s, London, 27 June 1973 (1 and 2), while Sir Thomas Conway was acquired by the Lousiana State University Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, and Sir Thomas Dale, was acquired in 1952 by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Duveen Brothers Records Box 222, folders 24–8.

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  8. There is another portrait of Petyon in Ipswich Borough Council Collection (R.1940-25.A0000), spuriously identified as of Sir Horace Vere.

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  9. The Congreve portrait shares some similarities with the portrait of Sir Henry Carey, 1st Viscount Falkland (c.1575–1633) at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (National Trust, NT 1129172).

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  10. ‘Item I give unto my loving Grandchild Horatio Lord Townshend the Picture of my late deare Husband Horace Lord Vere deceased in my great Parler And the Pictures of all my Lord Veres Officers and Captaines in the said roome or elswhere in my House called Kirby-Hall to be delivered to his Lorshipp or whome hee shall appoint immediately after my decease . . . It is my meaning and will concerning my Pictures given after my death to my loving Grandsonne Horatio Lord Townshend that if hee have noe sonne at his death Then all those pictures shall be restored to my daughter the Countesse of Clare whome I have made one of my Executors of my Will, Or if shee be not then living unto her heires that they may be preserved to the Posteritie of my deare husband horatio Lo: Vere’, 23 March 1670; original will, Raynham Hall Archives; register copy, Will of Mary Vere, Widow, NA PROB 11/338/214.

    10
  11. Charlotte Fell-Smith, Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick (1625–1678): Her Family and Friends, London and New York: Longmans Green and Co., 1901, pp. 251–2.

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  12. Cornforth, 2004, p. 171, who notes (ibid., fig. 226) that the Vere Captains were sold in 1921, although they were all auctioned off in the sale of 1904.

    12
  13. Epistle to the Reader by William Dillingham, The Commentaries of Sr. Francis Vere, Cambridge, 1657.

    13
  14. John Loveday quoted in Moore and Crawley, 1992, p. 34.

    14
  15. See Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, CT, LWL MSS File 28.

    15
  16. George Vertue, ‘Vertue Note Books’, Volume II, Walpole Society, vol. 20, 1932, p. 73.

    16
  17. Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School; Including a collection of Drawings and Models by Alfred Stevens, Winter Exhibition Twenty-First Year, London: Royal Academy, 1890, pp. 35–43.

    17
  18. Rev. Severne A. Ashhurst Majendie, Some Account of the Family of De Vere, the Earls of Oxford, and of Hedingham Castle in Essex, Chelmsford and London: H. T. Smith & Son, 1904; see also the will of John Vere of ‘Pitchards alias Kirby Hall’, NA PROB 11/436/100, and of Thomasine Vere. NA PROB 11/181/273. By the 19th century two gables of the old hall remained, with a wainscoted parlour, a kitchen fireplace and some clustered chimneys: see Clements R. Markham, ‘The Fighting Veres’, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1888, p. 25.

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  19. Ashhurst Majendie, 1904, p. 66.

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  20. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, vol. 1, London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1916, p. 57.

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  21. Other rooms at Kirby listed include ‘my Lord of Kildare’s [Wentworth FitzGerald, 17th Earl of Kildare, son of Elizabeth Vere, or his son John]; the Purple Room; the Ministers Chamber; the Great Chamber’, NA PROB 4/18681.

    21
  22. Moore and Crawley, 1992, p. 34.

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  23. For Everard see Charles Dalton, Life and Times of General Sir Edward Cecil, Viscount Wimbledon, Colonel of an English Regiment in the Dutch Service, 1605–1631, London: Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1885, vol. 2, p. 24; Calendar of Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers 1515–1690 in the National Library of Wales and Elsewhere, Aberystwyth, Cardiff and London: National Library of Wales, 1926, p. 215.

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  24. Memorials of the Duttons of Dutton in Cheshire, with notes respecting the Sherborne Branch of the Family, London and Chester: Henry Sotheran & Co., 1901, pp. 46–68.

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  25. Henry Peacham, A most true relation of the affairs of Cleve and Gulick, London, 1615.

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  26. Jonathan Bikker, ‘Reeksen van militairen ontrafeld’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 2006, pp. 412–27.

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  27. Thomas Davies to Robert Davies, 18 November 1628, Flintshire Record Office D/GW/2116.

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  28. Edward Town and Jessica David, ‘Daniël van den Queborn, Painter to the House of Orange and its English Allies in the Netherlands’, in Lucy Wrapson et al., eds, Migrants: Art, Artists, Materials and Ideas crossing Borders, London: Archetype, 2019, pp. 16–29.

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Imprint

Author
by Edward Town
Date
20 November 2020
Category
House Essay
Licence
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Edward Town, "The Vere Captains at Raynham Hall", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/RNE572