William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle and 11th Baron Morley, ca. 1615
Oil on panel
41 x 32 in. (104.1 x 84.3 cm)
William Parker (1575-1622) has a special place in English history as the man who revealed the Gunpowder Plot, a Catholic conspiracy to blow up James I and the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605. Parker, a long-time Catholic, in a letter to King James in 1605 declared his desire to become a Protestant. This change of allegiance put Parker in good favor. He was created Lord Monteagle and invited to join the House of Lords for its next sitting on November 5. But a few nights before he was to attend Parliament for the first time, he received an unsigned letter warning him not to go, as there was to be a "terrible blow." Parker immediately took the letter, probably written by his brother-in-law Francis Tresham, one of the conspirators, to the King at Whitehall Palace. A search of the Parliament building was ordered, during which the ringleader of the conspiracy, Guy Fawkes, was discovered with hundreds of barrels of gunpowder in the cellar. The event is celebrated in England every November 5 with fireworks and by burning effigies of Fawkes--known as "guys" on bonfires.
Parker likely sat for this portrait toward the end of his life, probably around 1615. He wears the conservative fashion of the older, serious man but with the rich decoration appropriate to his status as a peer of the realm. His jerkin (or doublet) and paneled trunk hose, while richly embroidered, are made from a sober brown fabric. His lace cuffs are short and functional, and his ruff is of the simple folded-down and unstarched type, rather than the ostentatious, dandified designs common among the young fashionable set.
John Webb (1770-1869) by 1866; Christie's, New York, November 14, 1979, lot 131 (attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger); private collection, U.K.
Literature: R. L. Poole, "An Outline of the de Critz Family of Painters," Walpole Society, Vol. II, 1912-13
Exhibited: South Kensington Museum, London, The First Special Collection of National Portraits Ending with the Reign of King James I, April 1866, no. 431
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