Nathaniel Fiennes

Second son of the William Fiennes, the 1st Viscount Saye and Sele, Nathaniel had a mixed war on the Parliament side. He was elected MP for Banbury in 1640 and took part in several actions early on and fighting with distinction at Edgehill. Later he found himself embroiled in a political argument following his surrender of Bristol to Prince Rupert’s forces in 1643. He made a spirited defence of his actions for which he was really not at all at fault, but following this he retired from public life for the rest of the first civil war. This rather splendid portrait was painted during the war by Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt and hangs still in the Great Hall of Broughton Castle near Banbury, the ancestral home of the Fiennes family and is copyright Martin Fiennes.

Nathaniel wears clothes that at first sight are understated but if you look closely it’s real quality stuff. The sleeves and skirt of his buff coat are officer thickness. I’ve seen surviving ordinary trooper’s versions and the leather is much thinner. Pay close attention also to the scalloped edges on the over sleeves. His orange parliamentarian scarf is silk, and decorated with a thin stripe of silver thread embroidery. His falling band has been and tied down for action with the bandstrings, but notice the detail on the tassels. That’s not simple work either. The lace on his band is matched with his cuffs. His breast plate and righthand gauntlet are decorated with gilt rivets as is the helmet hanging beside him. Last but not least, his sword is a serviceable mortuary hilt rather than a rapier, but the handle is wrapped with gold wire.

Update. There are, as pointed out by two commenters, a set of tassets or leg protectors peeping out from below his buffcoat at the very bottom of the portrait. This makes no sense at all, you could never sit on a horse as Nathaniel would have done with armour that reached so low. Perhaps the artist began the picture with full armour, in common with a lot of military portraits of the age and for whatever reason changed to a picture that was more representative of what was worn on the battlefield, but omitted to paint out the leg armour?

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3 Comments to “Nathaniel Fiennes”

  1. The sword looks more like a Mourtury hilt to me. The other thing that always puzzles me is that the tassets are attached UNDER the Buffcoat?

  2. Good point about the sword. I think the tassets attach to the breastplate and are over the buff coat though. Would they be articulated or solid Adam? They look like they might be uncomfortable when sitting on a horse

  3. There appear to be _two_ sets of tassets – short ones attached to the breastplate, but you can just see the lames and rivets of what looks like another set on the right leg below the buffcoat, at the very bottom of the picture.

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