Historians have just identified a previously unknown portrait of Henry VIII with his children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

I was quite surprised, because, given their dynastic wranglings you don’t expect to see all of them in the one room together (not, of course, that they necessarily were. It’s not a photograph after all, but it was commissioned to show them all together).

But what struck me most was how normal they look. Henry is ageing and getting fat, but looks like the proud father. Edward is a frail-looking but dignified young man, Mary looks wary and Elizabeth just looks like a little girl, almost old enough to sit at the big table, but not quite.

And then you think about the lives of high drama and treachery and death and power that they were to lead (well, not so much Edward, sadly for him), and it’s astonishing. And sad.

(And if you don’t know much about them, I can recommend Phillipa Gregory’s mostly excellent historical romps through the period – although, The Boleyn Inheritance was a stretch, in my opinion).


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