For a small historic house museum, Agecroft Hall has a fairly extensive collection of Tudor-Stuart portraits. It becomes even more impressive when one thinks about how we depict Tudor-Stuart England while situated on the banks of a river in modern-day Richmond, Virginia. One of our portraits is a late seventeenth century, early eighteenth century portrait of James VI and I, King of Scotland (1567-1625) and England (1603-1625).
In this half-length portrait of King James, he is turned slightly to the left wearing a high crowned gray hat with a turned up brim which is decorated with a jewel and feather. A large collar with a lace edge rests a top a dark cloak which covers a many pearl buttoned gray doublet. His Order of the Garter collar rests on a red sash. The dark background makes differentiating between the background and his cloak difficult.
This oil on canvas portrait is from around 1700, about 75 years after King James’ death. It was popular custom to hang a portrait of an English monarch, not necessarily that of the reigning monarch, in the Great Hall of a manor house. Members of landed gentry without strong court connections, such as the Dauntesey family of Agecroft Hall, would not have owned an official portrait of the monarch. An official portrait would have been one painted by a court artist. Our portrait of James appears to be an example of the many inferior copies painted by provincial artists.
James I became the King of England in 1603 after Queen Elizabeth I died. His coronation was met with skepticism. Many saw him as a plain man with a Scottish accent. As a result of rickets as a child, he walked unevenly, his steps erratic. He rarely bathed, he was an extravagant spender, and it was widely known he played to his favorites. He was, or at least thought himself to be, very intelligent and well-versed in a variety of topics, including witchcraft and tobacco. He sponsored a translation of the Bible that would become known as the King James Version. Married to Anne of Denmark, they had seven children, three of whom lived into adulthood. James also participated in countless extramarital affairs—many of which were homosexual relationships. He reigned until his death in 1625 at the age of 58. His son, Charles I, succeeded him on the throne.