HENRIETTA MARIA, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts



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Unless otherwise indicated the image is of the most significant part of the object
Holbein's portrait of Sir Thomas More

HENRIETTA MARIA (1609-1669). Queen of Charles I.
Important Letter Signed ('Henriette Marie R') in French, to the Marchese Crescenzio, 1 page folio with address-leaf and red wax seals, St Germain, 17 June 1647. The Queen has heard from Sir Kenelm Digby of the Marchese's offer of Holbein's portrait of Sir Thomas More, for which she thanks the Marchese profusely and promises to do her utmost to satisfy the conditions surrounding the gift.
The portrait of More referred to is almost certainly the one now in the Frick Museum. Legend has it that the picture was thrown out of the window, either by Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn, when they heard of the execution of More, and was picked up by a passer-by who took it to Rome. More likely is the commonly-held belief that it was taken by a Catholic exile. It is known that it was in the possession of Cardinal Crescenzio in 1631.
 The interesting question raised by this letter is what exactly the conditions were that the Queen promises to bend her efforts to satisfying. Speculation has suggested that they were the restoration of peace and the King's return to England, guaranteeing safe passage, was the contingency on which the presentation of the picture rested. In promising her support, however, she uses the phrase 'that the honour due to the memory of this great and holy personage may be worthily rendered', which indicates that the condition was somehow connected with More himself and the portrait. Whatever the conditions were, they were not met and the picture remained in Rome.
  Sir Kenelm Digby made two visits to Rome to rally support for the King. The first, in 1645, was successful in raising 20,000 crowns for the Royalist cause, against the promise of freedom of worship for Catholics on the restoration of the King. The second, made in 1647, the year of this letter, was fruitless.
With a full translation.
[No: 20111]


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