Anne, Lady Pope with her children
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Arty Fact

More about Anne, Lady Pope with her children

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Marcus Gheerhaerts the Younger painted Anne, Lady Pope with her Children as a celebration of a stepfamily at the height of the Elizabethan era.

It was the reign of Elizabeth I, the namesake of the current Queen of England and the last of the Tudor monarchs, and theater was flourishing as people decided that Shakespeare and Marlowe plays were just as compelling as bear fights along the Thames. That's right: in a pretty direct continuation of the bloodthirsty antics of the Colosseum, one of the most popular pastimes in London was watching bears fight with a pack of dogs, placing bets to see which dog would last the longest. They were doing this next door to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

As Sara N. James wisely observes, Elizabethan English people were anxious and more than a little self-conscious about the fact that their queen had no children, never married, and had no "living, legitimately born siblings." Although there was a considerable cult of virginity around Elizabeth, there was also an explosion of paintings of pregnant women, which was, in that era of Europe, an important way of indicating that the family line would continue. As is the case in some circles today, nobody could imagine nobility beyond the boundary of pedigree. It was like a great big dog show.

As you can see, Anne Hopton, who had just recently gotten hitched again to become the Lady of Sir William Pope, is pregnant. I guess Sir Pope was "too busy" with Earl stuff to pose for this one. Pregnancy was even more dangerous in Elizabethan England than paragliding or climbing Everest, so Gheerhaerts portrayed pregnant women, in part, to preserve their legacies. The logic here is somewhat difficult, but the Biblical obligation to "be fruitful and multiply" applies only to men, not to women, even though a womb is a necessary ingredient in the summoning of a baby. In other words, if a man never reproduces, according to this law, he's liable, but if a woman never even tries to get pregnant, like Elizabeth I, she's off the hook. So Anne, Lady Pope is really taking one for the team!

The artist's grandfather was named Egbert, or Hegghebaert, if you prefer. Egbert was a little successful, his son Marcus was a little more successful, and by the time Marcus the Younger came around, big things were poppin' off for the Gheerhaert dynasty. As they say, third time's the charm. Or, try again, fail again, fail better.

Anne and her new beau want the children to know that there's nothing wrong with being half-siblings: the three children in the foreground are from her first marriage to Henry, third Baron Wentworth, and the unborn one is from Sir Pope. We can only hope that the three Wentworth babies never screamed at him, "You're not my real dad!" when they didn't get the keys to the horse and buggy.




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