Firstly, congratulations to HJ on winning the blog contest and thank you to everyone who entered!
Today I’m talking about a trip to London I made this week to see the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery entitled The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart.There are a number of historical characters who never live to fulfil their promise or who become largely lost from history. One example would be Prince Frederick Louis, the father of King George III. Despite knowing my English royal genealogies fairly well I often forget that George III was the grandson not the son of George II. Frederick Louis, George’s father, is largely forgotten by history. Thus it is with Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, the first son of King James I. We all know what happened when James I died; his son Charles inherited the throne and a very turbulent period of English history followed. But Charles was not the first born. Henry “born to make our eight Henries nine” as one contemporary put it, was Prince of Wales until he died tragically at only eighteen years of age.
This exhibition celebrates Henry’s life, his interests, influences, and his place in the wider world. It is a glorious display of art and artefacts from the early 17th century. From the letters Henry wrote to his parents as a child to the highly-decorated armour he wore, the exhibition splendidly illuminates 17th century life in the court of the young heir to the throne. There are full length portraits and tiny miniatures (including one of wicked Sir Walter Raleigh looking every chaperon’s nightmare!) There is even the wooden effigy that was made to lie on top of Prince Henry’s coffin, now missing the head and hands, which had been modelled in wax. The exhibition is sumptuous in its reflection of the riches of the Jacobean court but it is also tragic. It was fascinating to see the expectations that had been riding on Prince Henry and the way in which his public image as a heroic, martial ruler was being built. It was moving to see the genuine grief that erupted on his death, from the devastation felt by his parents to the outpouring of grief on the streets to see the brightest star of the next generation go out: “Our Rising Sun Is Set.”
On a lighter note, we took Rochester the Guide Dog Puppy with us and he behaved like an angel dog during the entire day. Thank you to the National Portrait Gallery for allowing him to train there and a special note on how delicious the lunch in the cafe was afterwards! Here is Rochester outside Buckingham Palace as part of his training that day!
Over on the Ashdown House Blog I will be blogging in more detail about those elements of the exhibition that involved Henry’s sister Elizabeth of Bohemia.