¶ The Henry VIII “look-alike”



During a talk to the Leicester Branch of the Richard III Society, in March 1997, it was noticed by Mr. R. J. Penhey that Sir Thomas More’s servant, Henry Pattison or Patterson or Paterson, hereinafter referred to as ‘Pattison’, is depicted holding the ornate handle of a short sword or sword dagger but the sword blade is missing. This may refer to the anecdotal history concerning Pattison and the Lord Mayor of London, which may enable us to fix more firmly the date of the painting Sir Thomas More and his Family.


In this connection, Thomas More was obliged to dismiss most of his household staff after his resignation as Lord Chancellor, dated 16 May 1532, and Pattison became employed as Sword Bearer to the Lord Mayor of London. One of his duties was to carry the Mayoral Sword in procession. The story is that Pattison somehow managed to lose the Lord Mayor’s sword.

In this connection, I have to draw attention to the inscription. The first line in small font reads: ‘henricus Patti∫on, a near-homophone of ‘henri Petitson’ in slightly “forced” French ‘Henry – the youngest son’ (Henry VIII was the second and ‘youngest son’ of Henry VII). The second line reads, in larger font, ‘Thomæ ∫erUUS’ – or “Thomæ servus (‘Thomas’s servant’, in Latin), which has a long-flowing first letter “s” (or “∫”) followed by two “U”s, heavily marked, ‘servus’ or∫eruus’. The ‘ser-‘ (or, fer-) and the pair of “U”s (pair d’”U”’s’, in French) is a linguistic equivalent and near homophone of ‘servus perdu and/or fer perdu’, meaning ‘The lost servant’ and/or ‘The lost sword’ (‘iron’ in familiar English or ‘fer’ in familiar French) which, as already explained and made clear, is relevant to known history.


Since investigation of the primary layers shows the picture was painted in the known time it takes for the linseed oil binding the pigment to dry – approximately one year – this suggests a terminus ab quo from when Holbein prepared the canvas, perhaps one year after 1532 when Holbein returned for his second visit to England. The inscription above Pattison’s head was therefore made some time ‘after 1533’.


Henry Pattison (or, ‘Patterson’) is termed and named in the literature, ‘More’s “Fool”’.


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From left to right:

Peter, a Nostell guide.

Rowland Winn, 4th Baron St. Oswald.

Quinten Hogg, Viscount Hailsham of St. Marylebone, Lord Chancellor.

The author.

In front of the painting. Nostell Priory, Lady Day, 1983.


Thanks are due to the Richard III Society and the Friends of Thomas More, for permitting me to repeat certain items contributed to their journals published in 1978 and 1988, respectively. I also wish to thank Charles Winn, 6th Baron St. Oswald, for allowing and encouraging me to use parts of a talk given at Nostell Priory on 2nd July 1977. Today I include Addenda & Corrigenda with three corrected items:


 (1) The symbol worn by a Duke of York on his personal arms, first and wrongly interpreted as an unconventional ‘waxing half-moon’, is corrected and correctly interpreted as a conventional solar eclipse.


 (2) The carpet on the sideboard, wrongly interpreted ‘faire la tapisserie’, is now corrected and reads: ‘to hide confidential matters (or, ‘the sideboard’) under the carpet’ (‘cacher la credence sous le tapis’).


 (3) The purple-and-gold flag iris: In this connection, one misprint has been brought to my attention to date. The ‘purple’ flag iris, described in the Journal of the Richard III Society in 1978, should read ‘purple-and-gold flag iris’. Biographers sometimes brood for many years before writing the life of their dead hero and in this I am striving to imitate them.


(4) Mary Bradshaw

 Special thanks are due to Mary Bradshaw who most kindly pointed out that Margaret Roper and Cecily Heron are depicted wearing sleeves made from material of the other sister’s bodice. Each is in the other’s sleeves. In French, ‘être dans la manche de quelqu’un’ (literally, ‘to be in the sleeves of someone’) means in familiar language ‘to help and/or support one another’. The English equivalent is ‘to be in each other’s pockets’.


(5) Patrick McEvoy

 I also wish to thank Patrick McEvoy who identified the unstrung small harp near Lady Alice’s head. The artist appears to confirm that Lady Alice had no son in her first or second marriage (‘sans fils’ means ‘unstrung’ and also means ‘without a son’).


 (6) The nose of Lady Alice More. I have to draw attention to five words written in Greek in a letter More’s friend, Ammonio, wrote to Erasmus (at Cambridge) following his recent move from More’s house (More’s former home in Bucklersbury), that he no longer has to look at ‘tes harpuias to ankylon rhomphon’, interpreted in a slightly “forced” translation, ‘The hooked beak of the Harpy’. It means, presumably, that Ammonio did not like Lady Alice and was making a most ungallant reference to her nose. (See: ALLEN I, 17 Oct 1511, No. 236) In Sir Thomas More and his Family, Holbein depicts Lady Alice with her face half-turned towards the artist and if the nose was prominent, it is not evident here. One more flattering gesture, perhaps, to the lady in whose house he had once lived as her guest.


(7) Catherine and John Buckby

 More recently, Catherine and John Buckby correctly observed (confirmed by Brendan Bothwell) that the small stay at the tip of the viol bow (beside the viol on the sideboard) is upside-down in relation to the bow handle, ‘étai au point d’archet à l’envers’, in French. I have to draw attention: 1. A line through the bow of the viol points from the lower purple peony to the carpet on the sideboard cutting the head of Margaret Clement; 2. A line from the upper purple peony through the line of the viol points to Elizabeth Dauncey. When ordered, the anomalies have the following linguistic equivalent:


‘The purple peony’ (Richard, Duke of York, also known as Dr John Clement) ‘was about to take flight like an arrow to Antwerp’ (était au point d’archer à l’Anvers), ‘cutting off a first line of descent with Margaret Clement’  (couper premier lignage avec Margaret Clement) ‘hiding everything under the carpet’ (cacher la crédence sous le tapis) ‘to descend in second lineage with Elizabeth Dauncey’ (descendre en deuxième lignage avec Elizabeth Dauncey) and his illegitimate child?


By now, the reader may not be in the least surprised that investigation in Flanders reveals an illegitimate son of John Clement, Benedictus Smyth, registered in the handwriting of the Rector of the University of Louvain on the next line after the registration of his half brother, Thomas Clement, legitimate son of the marriage of John and Margaret Clement, in a group of seven named and identified English students registered on the same day, 20th July 1548.


Thomas Clement filius Joannis

Benedictus Smyth filius Clementis, angli.


(See: Matricule de l’Université de Louvain, ed. A. Schillings, Vol. IV, #154-160, 20 July 1548, p. 369)


Thomas Clement (b. 1532) was Thomas More’s godson and John Clement’s only son by Margaret Clement. Benedictus Smyth (b. 1528) is the pseudonym of the illegitimate son, presumably, of John Clement by Elizabeth Dauncey. The age of entry to the University of Louvain, 16 years in 1548, fits well with what we are saying in the case of Thomas Clement. The illegitimacy of Benedictus Smyth upon registering at KUL, aged about 20 years, and that both young men were the sons of John Clement was open KUL knowledge thereafter. The investigation is on going.





The following is excerpted from a Benelux ‘Talkshow’ broadcast on 5 May 1999. The eminent Professor Doctor J.-J Cassiman of the Centrum Voor Menselijke Erfelijkheid at KUL (Center of Human Genetics at the Catholic University Leuven) was interviewed on the DNA investigation proposed by KUL into the bodies buried in Flanders (Sint Rumolduskerk in Mechelen and Sint Pieterskerk in Leuven) based on documentary evidence discovered by the present author in an investigation into the disappearance of two princes in 1483, the famous English mystery of The Princes in the Tower. The Press Officer representing Sint Rumoldus, Dr. Toon Osaer, speaks inter alia of a mystery tomb in the Cathedral:


There is one here [tombstone] that has no date, which does carry a crown but the initials SB do not correspond with John Clement, nor with the Duke of York.


‘Englished’ by G. Theys


I have to draw attention that DNA testing of John Clement and his legitimate son, Thomas Clement, the alleged father (according to the entry in the Matricules) of an illegitimate son and grandson of John Clement, Benedictus SMYTHE, compared with DNA findings of the remains under the tombstone carrying the initials “SB” in Sint Rumoldus, perhaps SMYTHE Benedictus, may show consanguinity. If findings are positive and merit further investigation, it may be possible to identify conclusively the maternal DNA [approximately 50% of the Benedictus Smythe DNA], and compare it with More family DNA: the most likely candidate, according to the witness Holbein, Elizabeth Dauncey. If findings are negative it means there may have been misreading of the initials on the tomb, the initials may have been inscribed in good faith referring to a person of royal origins whose family wanted him or her to remain unknown, which is not illegal, or some other human interference. The truth is in the bones.


(8) Nicholas Mark Leslau

Nicholas Mark Leslau noticed the remarkable bottom hinge on the half-open cupboard-door of the sideboard. Normally, the two parts of a self-closing door hinge on this type of door are made and angled, top left\bottom right. In the Nostell painting, the sliding faces are angled top right/bottom left. It means the door falls open instead of closing. This is interesting negative evidence of a self-closing door in the sixteenth century. In this connection, I have to draw attention that the pictorial evidence of a small door, restrained from falling open by the overhang of the carpet on the sideboard and the impression gained in the Basel sketch where an over-enthusiastic Margaret Clement leans over to point out something in a book to More’s clearly disinterested old father, Sir John More, has a linguistic equivalent. Margaret’s ‘portillon’ (literally, ‘a small door’), meaning in familiar language ‘her mouth’ (as in ‘les mots se bousculent au portillon’), tends to fall open unless restrained. I have further to draw attention that sortir de ses gonds’ (literally, ‘to part from its hinges’) means, in familiar language, ‘to become unhinged’ or ‘to go out of one’s mind’. The hinge marks Margaret Clement.


Margaret Clement (née GIGGS).

In French, the pin of a pin-and-gudgeon hinge is ‘la cheville’. Figuratively, ‘la cheville’ means that someone is the prime mover (‘principal agent ou mobile d’une affaire). On the one hand, the wife of Dr. John Clement, Margaret Clement, was perhaps ‘left on the fringe’ of the More family. The interpretation further suggests her marriage to John Clement was ‘an untidy affair’, that she nagged her husband and may have been a précieuse. On the other hand, she was instrumental in feeding and cleaning the cells of the doomed Carthusian monks imprisoned in the Tower and it was she who went with her adopted sister, Margaret Roper (née More), after More’s execution, to recover More’s head stuck on a pole by order of Henry VIII on London Bridge. Margaret Clement bribed the guards, presumably, and is said to have carried away the head in her apron. Holbein marks Margaret with an unconventional door hinge, perhaps telling us she was the ‘cheville’, the linch-pin, in the affair.


Holbein further tells us that Margaret Roper, who died at the age of 38 years, did not recover from the death of her father. I will return to this later. For the present, the skull of a man was recently found on a shelf in the Roper Family tomb in St Dunstan’s, Canterbury. The More scholar who made the discovery, Hubertus Schulte Herbruggen, carefully pointed out that the juxtaposition of the skull near the coffin of Margaret Roper suggested the last resting place of the head of Thomas More. This expert opinion was published before DNA profiling was perfected. If the public want conclusive DNA findings – no doubt this will happen in time.


(9) James Richard Leslau

 More recently still, using long-exposure photography to “see” inside the half-open cupboard door, James Richard Leslau identified a small bristle brush with a red handle and a small pot with a disturbed lid over the side of which falls a short rope of pearls. However, a linguistic equivalent, which makes sense, relevant to known history, has successfully escaped me to date. It is not at all clear unless it is an allusion that Margaret has a few potted pearls of wisdom in an otherwise empty cupboard. On the other hand, this must be balanced against the fact that many years later, the scholar and master printer of Antwerp, Christophe Plantin, wrote to a friend that Margaret Clement was a student of Greek and had taught her daughters Greek, living in exile with her husband in Flanders.



 The artist depicts the heads of Margaret Clement and Elizabeth Dauncey in profile, which was unconventional in art at this time but conventional for heads of state and their consorts on coins and medals: pointing to a joint liaison of these two ladies with, conjecturally, Richard, Duke of York, also known as John Clement.



 The artist’s fascination with facial skin, the realistic depiction of the face of Henry Patterson (or ‘Pattinson’) and the remarkable ‘waxed-young’ faces of John Clement and Lady Alice More, is seen once more in the faces of Margaret Roper and Cecily Heron, perhaps a visual echo of More’s description of Jane Shore in The History of King Richard the Third -- ‘remarkable for her dazzling-white skin’ (‘insigni cutis candore’, in More’s Latin version).


(12) Finally, I have to draw attention to the comments of art historian Pamela Tudor-Craig, Lady Wedgwood, on the two authors of the books included in the painting (Boethius and Seneca), recorded for a documentary program made for television HOLBEIN AND THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER (1991): one more “meaning” in this truly remarkable picture:


‘Boethius, the great 5th century, non-Christian philosopher, a man of tremendous ethical standards, was imprisoned unjustly and executed by his ruler...


Seneca, much earlier, a classical scholar, was imprisoned and eventually told to commit suicide by his ruler -- Nero!


If you want a meaning in this picture, which you would not want Henry VIII to see, that would do...’



With congratulations and many thanks to the puzzlers.



In putting together Holbein and the Discreet Rebus I received help from individual men and women and their institutions too numerous to list here today. For the present, I acknowledge, with gratitude and thanks, the assistance of: emeritus professor Dr. the Abbé Germain Marc’hadour, Professor Dr. the Abbé Henri Gibaud, Professor Paul E. Damon, Thomas V. N. Merriam, John Giggs, Pamela England, Christopher Hurst, the late Sir John Masterman, the late Abbé André Prévost, the late Professor Dr. Geert van den Steenhoven.


The purist may conceivably prefer the conventional format of an article in Times New Roman. The non-purist may prefer the lines of white space between each paragraph, the text which does not run the full width of the page, and the Verdana font designed by Microsoft, specifically for written texts on monitor screens, making it easier on the eyes to read.


holbeinartworks: Sir Thomas More and The Princes in the Tower, including FAQs and FAQs by children. See: FAQsINDEX, (42.3kb, 67 Files; requiring 500MHz PC: 56K V90 modem: download 250kb per minute, approximately.)


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For Comparative Studies:

1. “Holbein and the Discreet Rebus”. An up-date of the first ten years research into the works of Hans Holbein the Younger (1976-86) ISSUES, Journal of Architecture and Design, University of East London, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Dec 1990), pp. 43-72.

2. The Ricardian, Journal of the Richard III Society. See: Reading Lists of the Richard III Society, American Branch, at:


See also: Richard III Society Web site at http://www.richardiii.net

3. Holbein Foundation, R & D: Information from:


4. A lost portrait of Thomas More? Information at: http://www.ctv.es/USERS/tmore

5. The Guilford Society of America. Contact Person: Margaret Kardell at: joaquinmiller@earthlink.net

6. Conference Reviews – WN Jan 1987- Vol. 9, Number 1, Jan. 1987, pp. 16-17. Conferences in Review. Various authors. Jack Leslau visits University of Arizona. In November Mr. Jack Leslau of…



8. BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, Volume 303, 17 August 1991. “The Princes in the Tower”, by Sir Gordon WOLSTENHOME, former Harveian Librarian, Royal College of Physicians.

9. TIMES OF LONDON, 25 March 1983, p. 12. The SPECTRUM Article. By Geraldine Norman. “How Holbein hid a royal secret”.

10. MOREANA XXII, 87-88 (November. 1985), pp. 175-176. RICARDIANA IN MOREANA. By Marie-Claude Rousseau.

11. BULLETIN THOMAS MORE, January 1990. “11 January 1990 – Jack Leslau delivers a lecture filmed for a TV documentary on the Princes in the Tower at the Athenaeum Club, London.”

12. SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Australia, 18 June 1983, p. 42. “How Holbein hid a royal secret”.

13. SAUDI GAZETTE, Riyadh, 26 August 1991, p. 1. “Centuries on, they’re still arguing about Richard III”. By Randi Hutter Epstein.

14. JEWISH CHRONICLE, London, 23 August 1991, p. 5 “Historian finds clues to 500-year-old whodunit”. By Lee Levitt.

15. COUNTRY LIFE, 14 April 1983, Town & Country, p. 929. “Copy or Original?” By Susan.

16. THE GUARDIAN, August 1995, Weekend Front 2/3 PASS NOTES NO. 667: “The Princes in the Tower”.

17. SUNDAY EXPRESS, 6 August 1995, p. 31 “DNA may solve Princes’ riddle”. By Lewis Smith.

18. TUCSON CITIZEN, 2 March 1983, p. 4 “UA confirms Holbein painting is authentic”. By Carla McClain.

19. BRITISH JEWELLER & WATCH BUYER, May 1983, p. 30 COMMENTARY “Important pages of history may come to be re-written as a result of a jeweller closing down his shop”. By Gerald Carr.

20. OBSERVER, 11 August 1991, p. 7 “Princes in the Tower ‘lived on with secret identities’”. By Annabel Ferriman.

21. DAILY TELEGRAPH, 13 August 1991, p. 14 “Genetic hunt for Princes in the Tower”. By Peter Pallot.

22. INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, 6 August 1995, “Will DNA prove the princes lived?” By Annabel Ferriman.


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