Tory Historian managed to visit the exhibition about Prince Henry at the National Portrait Gallery, The Lost Prince, in its dying hours or, to be precise, on the day before it close. It was a fascinating compilation of portraits, books, manuscripts and other artefacts related to Prince Frederick Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, James I's eldest son, who died unexpectedly at the age of eighteen, leaving the inevitable feeling of lost opportunities?

Would he have been a better and, most importantly, a more intelligent king than his brother became? Would he have ended up on the scaffold? We cannot tell, for despite the wealth of material in the exhibition and despite a determined attempt to draw a picture of the prince as a forward looking king in training who was a determined Protestant, loved art, architecture and jousting and was interested in kingly matters such as relations with other countries and dynasties, the truth remains that we do not know enough about him. Detailed letters written to him by members of his circle chosen by his father and books dedicated to him mean little unless we have his responses, which, apparently, we do not. We do know, however, that he was inordinately fond of jewellery and of armour.

Here is Brian Sewell's amusing and perceptive review of the exhibition.

TH was touched and amused by a letter from James I to a very young Prince Henry in which he praises the boy for his improved handwriting (which, indeed, was mostly terrible) but expresses the strong suspicion that the boy did not write the Latin lines himself but copied them from somewhere else.

For many reasons, to do with fears of instability and James I's unpopularity a sort of mythology grew up around the successor and his early death in 1612 caused what seems to be a genuine outpouring of national grief. This did not last long and did not cause the dynasty to become any more popular.

However, the magical aspect of the monarchy was well demonstrated outside the rooms where the exhibition was held. Tory Historian turned into the corridor and was faced with a dense crowd. What on earth was happening? Answer: the new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge has gone on view and people rushed into the National Portrait Gallery to see what in TH's opinion is a somewhat schmaltzy uninteresting picture. (Oh where are the Isaac Olivers de nos jours?)

Not far from it a slightly smaller crowd was examining and commenting on the older picture of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his brother, Prince Harry. Moving around the two groups into the exhibition about the "lost" prince and back again served to remind TH and, indeed, anyone else that the extraordinary magic and attraction of the British monarchy remains resolutely with us.


Powered by Blogger.




Blog Archive