Catherine Howard was the daughter of Theophilus, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and 2nd Baron Howard de Walden, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of George, Earl of Dunbar. In 1638 she married Lord George Stuart, 9th Seigneur d'Aubigny (1618-1642), son of Esm Stuart, 3rd Duke of Lennox, and brother of James Stuart, 4th Duke of Lennox and 1st Duke of Richmond.
The Stuart family, who were cousins of King Charles I, were among the King's most ardent supporters. Lord George Stuart's elder brother James, who succeeded to the Dukedom of Lennox in 1624 and was created Duke of Richmond in 1641, held many offices of State. His devotion to his sovereign was matched by his generosity. The Duke lent the King 30,000 before the Civil War, and during the war advanced a further 66,000. After the King's execution he was entrusted with his burial in St. Georges Chapel, Windsor. Lord George Stuart, Seigneur d' Aubigny, the sitter's husband, whom Clarendon described as 'a gentleman of great hopes, of a gentle disposition, and of very clear courage' (The Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, ed. W.D. Macray, 1988, II, p.368), was killed in the Royalist cause at the Battle of Edgehill on 22 October 1642, in command of the Duke of York's troop in the Prince of Wales's regiment of Horse. Lord George Stuart's two younger brothers, Lord John Stuart (1621-44) and Lord Bernard Stuart, Earl of Lichfield (1622-45), were to meet the same fate later in the conflict, the former at the Battle of Cheriton on 29 March 1644, and the latter at the Battle of Rowton Heath on 26 September 1645.
After her husband's death, Lady d'Aubigny married James Livingstone, Viscount Newburgh, another staunch cavalier, with whom she plotted to facilitate King Charles I's escape from Hampton Court. After the King's execution she moved with her husband to the Hague, where she died in 1650. Viscount Newburgh returned to England at the Restoration in 1660, and was created Earl of Newburgh in the same year.
The Stuart family, like King Charles I, were important patrons of van Dyck. Lady d'Aubigny's first husband was almost certainly the sitter in the celebrated whole-length, in a private collection, painted towards the end of the artist's career (see O. Millar, Van Dyck in England, catalogue to the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 19 November 1982-3, pp. 101-2, no.61). Her brother-in-law James Stuart, 1st Duke of Richmond, sat at least twice to the artist, once for a frontal portrait, and on another occasion for a head, turned to the left, which was used by van Dyck in a portrait of him as Paris (of which the best known version is in the Louvre) and also in the full-length in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (see Sir O. Millar, op. cit., p.91, under no.48). The most dazzling of the portraits which van Dyck executed for the Stuarts is his double portrait of Lord George Stuart's younger brothers, Lord John Stuart and Lord Bernard Stuart, presumed to have been painted just prior to their visit to Italy in early 1639, which is one of the most remarkable of all the portraits the artist painted in England (London, National Gallery; see O. Millar, op.cit., p.89, no.44, colour plate IX).
This portrait of Lady d'Aubigny is one of three which van Dyck executed of her. A three-quarter-length portrait, datable to circa 1638, in which the sitter is shown holding a wreath of flowers, is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (see E. Larsen, The Paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, 1988, II, no.118a, illustrated). The sitter was also portrayed in a double portrait with her sister-in-law Frances Stuart, Countess of Portland (Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; see E. Larsen, op.cit, I, pp.386-7, pl. 386, II, p.323, no.819a).
The portrait is believed to have entered the Prussian Royal collection before 1700. It seems likely to have been acquired by either Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg (d.1688), or by King Frederick I of Prussia. The inventory number '5', on the lower right hand side of the picture, is from the Prussian Royal collection and is thought to date from circa 1700. While it is believed that the picture most probably hung in the painting gallery of the Berliner Stadtschloss, the most important residence of the Prussian royal family, no early inventories of the castle exist to prove this. The portrait is first recorded in the Prussian Royal collection in the Berliner Stadtschloss, in 1790 ( J.G. Puhlmann, op.cit., no.114). In the entry in that catalogue the sitter is erroneously identified as the Countess of Carnarvon. The portrait was also mistakenly included in M. Bernard, K. Martin and K. Rogner's Verlorene Werke der Malerei in Deutschland in der Zeit von 1939 bis 1945. Zerstorte und verschollene Gemalde aus Museen und Galerien, Munich, 1969, p.62, under Potsdam-Sanssouci/Neues-Palais, under the 1873 inventory number.
We are grateful to Herr. Gerd Bartoschek, Curator of the Stifftung Preussiche Schlosser und Garten, Berlin, Brandenburg, for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.