Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1565 - 1601. Statesman and courtier about 1588 - 1590


This miniature has been the subject of much discussion regarding the identity of the sitter. It is now largely considered to be a portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Devereux rose to prominence at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I and by 1588 had succeeded Sir Walter Raleigh as the Queen’s favourite. However, following his unsuccessful effort to crush the rebellious army of the Earl of Tyrone in 1599, which resulted in his removal from office, he attempted to raise a rebellion against Elizabeth’s counsellors. He was tried for treason and executed in 1601. With clear lighting and an elegant line this miniature is an excellent example of Hilliard’s mature work. The bold colouring of ultramarine blue and gold give the piece a rich, courtly appeal.

Glossary Open


A painting or drawing, usually a portrait, on a very small scale. These were popular prior to the invention of photographic portraits in the 19th century.



  • Acc. No. PG 3423
  • Medium Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum stuck on card, set in a gilt-metal locket
  • Size Height: 4.40 cm
  • Credit Accepted by HM government in lieu of inheritance tax, 2006