Marcus Gheeraerts II (Bruges 1561/2-1635/6 London) and Studio
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY OF THE LATE MRS BARBARA OVERLAND, REMOVED FROM MONTPELLIER, JERSEY (101 & 171)
Marcus Gheeraerts II (Bruges 1561/2-1635/6 London) and Studio

Portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601), three-quarter-length, in a white doublet and hose with a black cape, wearing the Order of the Garter

Marcus Gheeraerts II (Bruges 1561/2-1635/6 London) and Studio
Portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601), three-quarter-length, in a white doublet and hose with a black cape, wearing the Order of the Garter
oil on panel
44 ¾ x 34 ¾ in. (113.5 x 88.5 cm.)
in an English early eigthteenth century frame
Mr. and Mrs. Eric Bullivant, Anderson Manor, Dorset, their sale; Sotheby’s, London, 8 May 1974, lot 8 (£3,800).
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 15 November 1991, lot 4, as ‘ Attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’, when acquired by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

The picture is based on the full-length portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601), in the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, painted on the sitter’s return from Cadiz in 1596.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601) was the elder son and heir of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex (1539-1576), and his wife Lettice née Knollys (1543-1634). After his father’s death in 1576, Essex became a ward of the crown and was the responsibility of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer. After studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined his stepfather, the Earl of Leicester, at court in 1585, and subsequently accompanied him to war in the Netherlands, returning in
1586 as a war hero. He quickly became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and was made Master of the Horse. In 1589, he took part in Sir Francis Drake’s English Armada, after the Queen specifically forbade him from going. He returned after the failure of the English fleet to take Lisbon. In 1590, he secretly married Frances (1567-1632), the widow of Sir Philip Sidney, but the marriage was only revealed when it became clear that the Countess was pregnant, in 1591. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to Robert Devereux, Lord Hereford (later 3rd Earl of Essex). They had two more sons and four daughters together, despite Essex’s dalliances with other women at court. Later that year, the Earl left to lead English forces in Normandy, alongside the army of King Henri IV of France, but returned unsuccessful in January 1592. He was a Privy Councillor between 1593 and 1595, during which time he focussed on foreign policy, European intelligence gathering and correspondence. Enjoying a high public profile, Essex received as many dedications as the Queen during the 1590s and was a key patron of portraiture, poetry and music, as well as being a poet himself.

During the late 1590s, Essex campaigned to be promoted as the Queen’s next Chief Minister, after Lord Burghley’s retirement, and achieved a small victory at Cadiz, although this had little long-term impact on Spain’s military capabilities. It was on this journey that Essex also grew his iconic ‘square’ beard, which can be seen in the present portrait. A failed expedition to Spain weakened Essex’s influence at Court, although he retained the Queen’s favour and was created Earl Marshal in 1598. That same year, however, after an argument with the Queen over the choice of a new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Essex removed himself from court. In 1599, as the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he sailed to Ireland to command the Queen’s forces against the Earl of Tyrone (as part of the Nine Years’ War, 1594-1603), but contrary to the Queen’s orders, conferred a large number of knighthoods on his soldiers, wasted funds, garrisoned his men, all of which resulted in several defeats. Sensing that victory was no longer in his grasp, Essex reached a truce with Tyrone, independent of orders from the Crown. Although Essex was ordered not to return to court, he did, and was subsequently imprisoned. On 5 June 1600, he was charged with acts of insubordination whilst in Ireland and detained under house arrest, but granted his liberty on 26 August. Ruined, after the source of his basic income - the customs on sweet wines - was not renewed, disappointed and worried that the Queen was being misadvised, Essex led a band of 300 men to march into the City in an attempted coup against the government. However, the gates were shut, and Essex and his core band of men were arrested, tried for treason and condemned to death. He was beheaded at the Tower of London on 25 February 1601 - the last person ever to be beheaded there. His reputation posthumously, however, remained a good one, and recent historians have praised his military strategy, intelligence gathering and patronage of eminent scholars.

We are grateful to Karen Hearn for her help in compiling this entry.

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