A rare Dutch engraved portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as the governor-general in military outfit. In July 1584 the protestant Prince of Orange was murdered and the following year the city of Antwerp fell to the Spanish. Queen Elizabeth though reluctant to intervene found it necessary to do so to protect the Protestant cause. The ideal candidate to represent her was her favourite, the Earl of Leicester. He was already popular in the Low Countries and in December 1585 he arrived in Flushing and was warmly greeted on his progress to Amsterdam. The greeting was so warm that one governor of a town even wrote to Francis Walsingham in England to state that the Queen would “bring back to life the late Prince of Orange in the person of the Earl of Leicester, on whose coming men have fixed their eyes” (Strong & van Dorsten). Arriving at The Hague on 1 January 1586 he was offered the title of the governor-general by the States General of the United Provinces. This was against the instructions of Queen Elizabeth but after some negotiations she conceded. This was another major step forward in the birth of the Dutch republic.
Official portraits were of course commissioned and engraved likenesses produced. This particular print, dated to c.1586, emphasizes his military role, showing him in armour with the baton of command, a helmet, coat of arms and coronet at his feet. The engraver is Christoffel van Sichem (1546-1624) from Amsterdam, both his sons became artists as did a grandson. The engraving is found in the National Portrait Gallery. This example is a later state with ‘fol 662’ engraved upper right. NPG 20904 (not numbered). Strong, R.C. and van Dorsten, J.A. (1964): Leicester’s Triumph.