Henry VII: The First Royal Portrait

Opens 17 October 2017 to 6 January 2018

Free entry 

The Museum of Somerset is bringing an artwork of outstanding national significance to the county this autumn.

Working with the National Portrait Gallery in London, the museum will display an extraordinary portrait of King Henry VII dated 1505.

It is the first image of an English monarch painted from life and the earliest portrait in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

NPG 416; King Henry VII by Unknown artist

King Henry VII by an unknown Netherlandish artist, 1505 (National Portrait Gallery)

The Return of the King

Henry VII has special associations with Taunton Castle, home of the Museum of Somerset.

It was there in 1497 that he confronted the rebel Perkin Warbeck after Warbeck’s failed attempt to claim the throne.

The king’s portrait will be displayed in the very room where the fateful meeting between king and rebel may have taken place.

The Warbeck rebellion

Perkin Warbeck claimed to be rightful heir to the throne of England and growing numbers of people found it convenient to support his claim. Warbeck arrived from Ireland on 7 September 1497 and was proclaimed King Richard IV at Bodmin. He marched towards Exeter with an army of 3,000 but failed to take the heavily-defended city. On 20 September his forces, now 8,000 strong, mustered in fields outside Taunton. Warbeck was demoralised and at midnight he fled secretly, leaving his supporters to their fate. On 5 October he was brought back as a prisoner to Taunton Castle to face King Henry. At first the king spared Warbeck’s life but in 1499 he was executed.

The failure of the Warbeck rebellion marked a key moment in English history. It ended the dynastic struggles of the 15th century and ensured that the new Tudor dynasty was finally secure.

Associated events

Tuesday 14 November, 7.30 pm

Game of Thrones: Henry VII and the Perkin Warbeck Rebellion *SOLD OUT*

Tom Mayberry, Chief Executive of the South West Heritage Trust, tells the dramatic story of Perkin Warbeck’s rebellion against Henry VII and how it ended in humiliation at Taunton Castle in 1497. *SOLD OUT*

Friday 24 November, 7.30 pm

Images of Majesty

An art history lecture by Richard Kay, picture specialist at Lawrences Auctioneers, surveying portraits of every British ruler since 1485.

£8.00, Booking advised

Monday 13 November, 10.30 am – 3.30 pm

A Royal Miscellany 

Inspired by the exhibition Somerset Archives & Local Studies will be displaying a range of documents with royal connections at the Somerset Heritage Centre for one day only. Entry is free, with donations to the work of the South West Heritage Trust gratefully received.

For families

A Tudor Christmas

Thursday 28 & Friday 29 December

Music, crafts and re-enactors for families. Free. Read more and come along

Spotlight loans

The display of this remarkable artwork continues the museum’s programme of spotlight loans which has already brought the Alfred Jewel from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Becket Casket from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

More from the National Portrait Gallery online 

Read more about the portrait of Henry VII on the National Portrait Gallery Website.

Discover the Tudor and Elizabethan collections at the National Portrait Gallery.

Also on now

Colours of Exile: The Art of Hans Schwarz . See vibrant paintings of places and people by the Austrian artist who made his home in London and West Somerset. Read more