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(Trixie and Henry)

Henry Wriothesley and Trixie, c.1601-1603.
Painted by John de Critz the Elder.


This is a painting of a cat named Trixie with Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southhampton. It came to pass that Henry was suspected of treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1601. Trixie so missed Henry that he found his way to the Tower, and climbed down to his cell through the chimneys. Upon hearing this story, King James was impressed by Trixie’s devotion to Henry. The King decided that a man with such a loyal cat could not possibly be guilty of treason, and pardoned him.

That’s the story, and a wonderful story it is. The painting is real, there was a cat named Trixie and the Earl did have his portrait painted with him. And Trixie was in fact in the Tower of London with Henry. More than likely however, Trixie was smuggled into the Tower by Henry’s wife. And the new King pardoned Henry for political reasons. Nonetheless Henry was obviously comforted by the presence of Trixie in the Tower during his imprisonment, thus the famous portrait. As far as I know this is the only portrait of a lord and his cat ever painted, Trixie must have been a very special cat.

The portrait was painted by John de Critz the Elder (probably,) and can be seen at Boughton House, the English Versailles. Henry Wriothesley had a rich and varied life, including being a patron of Shakespeare, read more about him here.

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