Young Man Among Roses by Nicolas Hilliard (1585-95)

This watercolor miniature can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, in their British Galleries walk. It is a lovely piece of work from the Elizabethan era.

The young man is said to be the 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Devereaux, one of Elizabeth I’s favorites. At this point, compared to Elizabeth, he would be a “young, young, young man,” as Blanche Dubois says, compared to her. She would have been 52-62, while he was 30 years younger.

The V&A website suggests that this might have been given to Elizabeth by Essex on an Accession Day exercise, where “knights” often gave the queen their images as a token of fidelity. The young man wears white and black–Elizabeth’s colors–and stands among eglantine roses–her flower. 

Hilliard himself was an interesting man: he painted not only miniatures of Elizabeth’s court, but of her, her successor Janes I, and James’s family, all in watercolor miniatures. He was a master goldsmith, as well.

And of course you may know the 1939 film The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, starring Betty Davis and Errol Flynn. It is a fabulously produced costume drama, and the cast wonderful.


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