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The inscription, bottom right, identifies this sumptuously dressed lady as Mary, the unhappy wife of Thomas, 3rd Baron Darcy of Chiche. The couple were to separate in 1594. Thirty-six years after this portrait was painted, Thomas became the Earl Rivers. Mary’s white sleeves and stomacher are embroidered with hops and carnations, and her black sleeveless gown with honeysuckle. An earlier portrait of Mary’s mother, Lady Kytson, also hangs on this wall, to the left. Both paintings once hung at the Kytsons’ Suffolk house, Hengrave Hall. The French inscription, top right, means roughly ‘never act in haste.’

May 2007