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Charles I when Prince of Wales

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1613 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas, born 1542 - died 1619 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck to a playing card in a frame of ebony on oak

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 56e, case 6

Object Type
After the childless Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603), James I (ruled 1603-1625) offered the nation a hopeful dynastic future. He had a young family: Prince Henry (1594-1612), who was his heir, Prince Charles (1600-1649) and Princess Elizabeth (1596-1662). James embraced portraiture as a way to promote the new Stuart dynasty. During this reign, there was a massive proliferation of miniature portraits of members of the Royal Family.

Prince Charles was the second son of James I. He became heir to the throne on 6 November 1612, on the death of his older brother, Henry, Prince of Wales. He was then only 12 years of age. Charles, who had been Duke of York, was invested as Prince of Wales in 1616. He ascended the throne as Charles I in 1625. In 1649, after years of civil war, he was executed by the victorious Parliamentary forces.

This miniature was painted from life by Nicholas Hilliard (possibly born in 1547, died 1619). Prince Charles wears the blue ribbon and Lesser George of the Order of the Garter. An English order of knighthood, the Garter traditionally comprises the Sovereign and 25 Knights Companions. Thie miniature was painted after May 1611, when Charles received the Garter. It could have been painted to celebrate the event. Charles did not have his own court at this date and so sat for Hilliard, his father's limner (an old term for miniaturist).

Physical description

Portrait miniature of Charles I mounted in an ebony frame with five other portraits of the Royal family. Head and shoulders, oval, turned to front. The back of the support has been overpainted with bands of opaque pink and green watercolour.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (painted)


ca. 1613 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas, born 1542 - died 1619 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck to a playing card in a frame of ebony on oak


Height: 27.5 cm frame, Width: 19.4 cm frame, Depth: 2.7 cm frame

Object history note

Painted by Nicholas Hilliard

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of Charles I when Prince of Wales, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, ca. 1613.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.
Cat. 249, p. 150. Full Citation:


249 Charles I as Prince of Wales, c. 1613

Victoria & Albert Museum (P.150-1910)
Vellum stuck to a playing card with spades at the reverse. The back of the card has been overpainted with bands of opaque pink and green watercolour, oval, 51 x 41 mm, 2 x 1 5/8 in.

Although faded, a superb ad vivum likeness of the young Charles I. He wears the Lesser George of the Order of the Garter with which he was invested in May 1611. It must therefore be after that date but precede Hilliard’s portrait of 1614 at Belvoir (Auerbach, Hilliard, pl. 158). It is tempting to associate it with the payment to Hilliard for a portrait of the Prince on November 3rd 1613 (Toynbee cited P.R.O. Declared Accounts Roll 544, f.32). In composition it is strongly reminiscent, as Reynolds has pointed out, of two other miniatures; of James (no. 235 [P.3-1937]) and Elizabeth of Bohemia (no.247 [P.4-1937)) which both depict the sitters in light coloured costumes against crimson velvet curtains. It differs from them, however, in the introduction of a decorative border of patterned gold over smalt (blue), a compositional innovation of precisely this period. It is basically in good condition, although the background and jewel in the hat have craquelured and the silver oxidized

Framed at an early date with miniatures of James I, Anne of Denmark, Prince Henry, Frederick, Elector Palatine and Elizabeth of Bohemia (Auerbach, Hilliard, pl. 160).

COLLECTIONS: On a label on the back of the frame is written: “Sheriff Hutton Park / 23rd July 1866 / Miniatures by Isaac Oliver / Family of King James 1st/ Leonard Thompson”; George Lowther Thompson, Sheriff HUTTON Park; sold Christie’s 5th July 1894 (lot 65); bequeathed by George Salting, 1911.

LITERATURE: V&A, 1947 (89).
Margaret Toynbee, “Some Early Portraits of Charles I”, Burlington Magazine, XCI, 1949, p. 14.
Reynolds, Walpole Society, XXXIV, 1958, no. D.2, pl. VI (c).
Auerbach, Hilliard, pp. 158, pl. 157, 159; 315 (165).”

Exhibition History

Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver (V&A 01/01/1947-31/12/1947)
Artists of the Tudor Court: the portrait miniature rediscovered, 1520-1620 (V&A 09/07/1983-06/11/1983)

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Probably framed together 1625-1650

James I's young family, celebrated in this group of miniatures, offered hope of a secure dynasty. Prince Henry, James I's elder son, was a noted patron of artists, who died suddenly aged 18. Miniatures were given as personal gifts and were small enough to be worn to mark a courtier's loyalty. [27/03/2003]


Watercolour; Cardboard; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Prince; Charles I (King of England)


Paintings; Portraits; Royalty

Collection code


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