1611 Frances Howard, Countess of Hertford, later Duchess of Lennox and Richmond by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (auctioned by Christie's)


The Puritan movement was gathering momentum when this was painted. Décolleté dresses like this no doubt infuriated the Puritans.

There were several Frances Howards. This one is the subject of the following article at A Who's Who of Tudor Women.

"Frances Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, viscount Bindon (c.1520-January 28,1582) and his third wife, Mabel Burton (1540-1580) and was born at Lytchett, Dorset. She married Henry Prannell (d. December 10,1599), the son of a wealthy vintner, in 1592. In 1597, Frances began to consult Simon Forman the astrologer. According to Forman’s records, she was hoping to begin an affair with the earl of Southampton. In April, 1600, widowed, she was being courted by William Eure, heir to baron Eure, but on May 27,1601 she married Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford (1539-April 6,1621), whose previous wife had also been named Frances Howard. When their marriage became known, another former suitor, Sir George Rodney of Somerset, killed himself. After Hertford’s death, Frances married Lodovic Stuart, duke of Lennox (September 29,1574-February 16,1624) and became the only duchess in the kingdom. Later her husband was also created duke of Richmond, earning her the nickname the 'double duchess.' Biography: Oxford DNB entry under 'Stuart [née Howard; married name Prannell], Frances.'"

France Howard's coiffure is decidedly frizzy while I cannot figure out what kind of headdress she is wearing. Christie's referred to the dress as a "masquerade dress."

She wears what may be a narrower version of the wheel farthingale, the edge of her wheel just barely showing beneath her red wrap with gold-patterned lining. She sports a round decolletage trimmed by a lace bertha and she wears a floating ruff. The collars of gowns worn by Queen Henrietta Maria would have about the shape of Frances Howard's floating ruff. Her hem has a serrate trim while the bands and decorations towards the bottom of her skirt are decorated with metal thread adorned with spangles or jewels.

Her shoes are decorated with pretty spangled or jeweled rosettes.

Keywords:  1611, Gheeraerts - Marcus the Younger, Frances Howard, Howard family, Seymour family, Stuart family, Countess, Duchess, British, bertha, headdress, off floor hemline, shoes, shoe ornaments, cuffs, cape, wheel farthingale, scoop decolletage, frizzy coiffure, floating ruff

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