“Vox Populi” by Edmund Blair Leighton (1904)
This painting is an early 20th-century depiction of Margaret Beaufort and a young Henry Tudor. By looking at a label on the reverse of the canvas we see that the artist gives an alternative title for the painting:
“A Little Prince likely in Time to bless a Royal Throne”
The title derives from Shakespeare’s play Henry VI part II, which ends with the restoration of Edward IV to the English throne. The visual depiction of the young boy comes from an excerpt from the sixth scene:
KING HENRY VI
My Lord of Somerset, what youth is that,
Of whom you seem to have so tender care?
My liege, it is young Henry, earl of Richmond.
KING HENRY VI
Come hither, England’s hope.
[Lays his hand on his head]
If secret powers
Suggest but truth to my divining thoughts,
This pretty lad will prove our country’s bliss.
His looks are full of peaceful majesty,
His head by nature framed to wear a crown,
His hand to wield a sceptre, and himself
Likely in time to bless a regal throne.
Make much of him, my lords, for this is he
Must help you more than you are hurt by me.
This prophetic reference to the future of the young Henry of Richmond gains a visual form in the hands of the pre-Raphaelite artist. In the scene, Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, holds her son aloft on a stone parapet for all to see. There is a soft contrast between the physical strength of the armour-clad soldiers and the innocent moral strength of the young heir.
The colour scheme of the painting also lends symbolism to the scene. Red, the colour of the House of Lancaster, is abundantly present; but white, the colour of the House of York, can also be spotted. The two are harmoniously combined as a foresight of the fate of the warring houses under the Tudor dynasty.