Rare Historical Treasures Head to Six Lives Exhibition

May 14 2024 | Castle

Two pieces from the collection at Hever Castle are to go on loan from 14th May 2024 for display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of their Six Lives: The Stories of Henry VIII’s Queens exhibition which runs from 20th June until 8 September 2024.

Six Lives will chronicle the lives and afterlives of the six women who married Henry VIII. From historic paintings, drawings and ephemera, to contemporary photography, costume and film, the exhibition draws upon a wealth of factual and fictional materials to present the life, legacy and portrayal of six women who forever changed the landscape of English history.

One of the artefacts on loan is a wooden panel that is associated with Henry’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves. It is the only panel currently in a private collection, another is at the Museum of London and these are believed to have come from a former home of Anne of Cleves, which could have been Hever Castle.

The oak panel shows Anne’s insignia and appears to have been made for her and installed on her orders. It is one of several panels removed after she died. The design is believed to have been a basis for the decoration used on her tomb in Westminster Abbey.

Anne of Cleves owned Hever Castle until her death in 1557. There is a surviving letter written by Anne to Mary Tudor in 1554 signed ‘from my poore house of Hever’.

The other piece going on display in the Six Lives exhibition is a rare portrait of Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur, the first husband of Catherine of Aragon.

The artwork, which was purchased in 2005 as the only surviving portrait of Arthur painted in his lifetime. The painting was previously owned by the Royal Collection from at least 1542 until 1714 when it was sold into a private collection.

Hever Castle’s Curator, Alison Palmer remarked that ‘‘This will be the first time that we have loaned either of these pieces since their purchase, so we are thrilled to be able to assist the National Portrait Gallery with such an exciting exhibition. It is an honour that Hever Castle was asked to participate in the ‘Six Lives’ exhibition, especially as the Castle was home to two of King Henry VIII’s Queens, Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves.”

These pieces are due to return to Hever Castle in late September.