Those Killigrews again!

Browsing the National Trust’s paintings on its website today, I came across this very likeable portrait, filled with symbolism and character (not to mention a devoted dog).

Thomas Killigrew (1612 - 1683) by William Sheppard (England c.1602 - Italy c.1660)

I was surprised to find I already knew who the man was, having seen his face countless times during my arty travels, but I’d never seen this painting before.

His name was Thomas Killigrew, and he was a Royalist, a Roman Catholic, a renowned wit, a theatre manager and dramatist.  You may be more familiar with him from Van Dyck’s elegant portraits of him:

Thomas Killigrew 2
Thomas Killigrew and (possibly) Lord William Crofts, from the Royal Collection

Thomas Killigrew 3
At Weston Park, Shropshire (Another version is at the NPG)

The artist of the top portrait is William Sheppard, painted in around 1650, in Venice, where Killigrew was living as a Royalist exile.  The image of Charles I tells of his loyalty to the recently executed king, and if you can see closely enough, on the table is a copy of Eikon Basilike (“The Image of the King”), which was said to have been written by Charles himself.

At the Restoration of Charles II, Killigrew returned from the continent and saw his loyalty rewarded with a position at Court, his sharp wit earning him a place in Samuel Pepys’ diary,  where it was noted that he held “the title of the King’s Foole or jester; and may with privilege revile or jeere any body, the greatest person, without offence, by the privilege of his place.” He was also an important player in the revival of English drama,  penning numerous plays himself, receiving a warrant to open a theatre company in 1660, and becoming Master of the Revels in 1673.

I always enjoy portraits such as this one, where the sitter is seen in his preferred environment, showing us not just his face but his occupation and pleasures, rather than a formulaic (if beautiful) depiction that tells us nothing of the man behind it. And I just love the dog!


Leave a comment


  1. That’s the first portrait I ever saw of Killigrew! It was a black and white reproduction in the Weidenfeld and Nicolson series of the “life and times of” English monarchs, in the volume on Charles II. It was intriguing to see Van Dyck’s double portrait after that. Sheppard’s portrait looks like he was familiar with it – Killigrew’s pose is so similar. Or perhaps he liked posing that way? 😉

    I presume you know about Killigrew’s involvement with that attmpted smearing of Anne Hyde when James was dithering about marrying her? He made the most over-the-top of the claims to have had sex with her, saying it was in a room over the water (I presume he meant a loo) and “several swans were witness to my happiness.” I hope he was trying to show how ridiculous and noxious all the boys’-club claims were …


  2. Susanne

     /  April 7, 2017

    I certainly remember the third painting having seen it many times. I do like it.

    Perhaps you could do a post about paintings featuring dogs. I love dogs, have got two myself, and a post about dogs in paintings would be the perfect excuse for a bit of Ruperting. He also loved dogs and is portrayed with them in several paintings. And then we could have Boye as painted by Rupert’s sister Louise. Sorry, am getting a bit carried away here. Happens when Rupert’s name comes up 🙂


    • Ruperting is good!

      There are so many men of that era whose names and portraits should be mentioned at all possible times …


  3. I don’t know how I’d managed to never see it before! Must have walked past the NPG version lots of times and shamefully missed it. mind you I’m usually in a rush to get to the Dobsons, so that’s my excuse…!

    Can do a dog blog. Even a Rupert one, just for you, Susanne! Any links for Louise’s Boye picture?

    I’m also open to guest blogging, so if anyone fancies it…😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne

       /  April 7, 2017

      Oh please do! I would just love it!

      I am afraid that I am unable to find the painting of Boye in other than black and white. I’ll consult my Patrick Morrah biography of Rupert when I get home from work ( I know it is there but also in b&w) and see where the original is and if nothing else I am going to write asking for a copy in colour. I have every biography of Rupert in English, German and French but I have never seen this painting in colour. Strange – but it happens. I have the same problem with a portrait of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, which has been reproduced in books and papers for the last two hundred years, just not in colour.


  4. Not to mention that he was a most notorious spymaster, apparently…. deceptive young gentleman. Recruited Affie Behn – so they say….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know that! It’s a shame there isn’t a major biog on the whole family. There’s so much material!


      • Apparently so. (If I wasn’t at work I’d find you the references!) He recruits my Russell in A Broom At The Masthead, so I have a bit of a vested interest in his extra-curricular activities.


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