|Portrait of Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. By Rowland Lockey, 1592. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.|
Recently I've seen quite a few celebratory posts on Facebook about a blog post on a certain blog (which I will decline to give publicity here) claiming that a portrait of Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury by Rowland Lockey (1592) is actually a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Furthermore, the blog post claims that this portrait of Bess-turned-Queen Elizabeth proves that she had an illegitimate child. While I acknowledge that everyone, including myself, subscribes to at least one or two historical conspiracy theories, can we please let the "Queen Elizabeth I had an illegitimate child/ren" theory die once and for all? There are so many historical reasons why she would not/could not have had secret children.
Also, regrettably The da Vinci Code seems to have made everyone think that they can find a hidden meaning behind every portrait that has ever been painted in the history of mankind (and remember that Dan Brown's work is considered fiction). While Tudor and Elizabethan portraiture is certainly loaded with symbols with dual meanings, I assure you, the squiggles in Bess of Hardwick's hair and the lines on her dress do not reveal her secret royal identity. Furthermore, in my opinion, anyone making a claim this outlandish had better have at least a graduate degree in art history, if not a PhD, and ideally have published some scholarly journal articles on 16th century portraiture.