The relationship of King James VI and I with his elder son and heir, Prince Henry Frederick, has received much scholarly attention in recent years. James has often been portrayed as a resentful father whose peaceful policies were at odds with his son’s martial interests and militant Protestantism. With reference to the Letters Patent of James I, creating his son Henry, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1610, British Library, Additional MS 36932), this article reassesses their familial and political relationship, as well as its contemporary representation. Decorated with two superb and extremely detailed miniature portraits of the King and his son, here their conflicting iconographical identities were carefully managed and depicted in finely balanced harmony. Questions of artistic attribution, patronage and display are addressed, while the Patent’s imagery is contextualized by analysis of its use during the ceremonial investiture of Henry as Prince of Wales and consideration of the surrounding celebrations. The Letters Patent is a complex object, containing a variety of visual and textual material which can only be properly understood when its contents, context and function are considered in their entirety.
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