Thomas (or Tom) Killigrew (1612-83) was an actor, theatre manager and acknowledged jester to Charles II (r. 1660-85) – there is a reference in the court accounts to payments made to him for lengths of rather sumptuous cloths such as velvet and damask, explicitly for making a ‘Livery for ye jester’. There are also many stories told of his outspoken irreverence and candour towards the king, which we will be featuring in future posts.
This portrait, however, has a more personal and human aspect. Killigrew’s wife, Cecilia Crofts, died on 1st January 1638, after two years of marriage, leaving behind a young son. Killigrew is here shown in mourning:
He wears his wife’s wedding ring attached to his left wrist by a black silk band. A silver cross inscribed with her intertwined initials is attached to his doublet and he wears a mourning ring next to his wedding band. In his hands is a piece of paper on which there are drawings, possibly made with a funerary monument in mind.
In addition, his leaning his head on his hand would have been associated with melancholy.
It is thought that the other sitter is William, Lord Crofts (c. 1611-77), Cecilia’s nephew. See also the commentary provided by the Royal Collection.
The son was Henry Killigrew (1637-1705) who, like his father, is recorded in the court accounts as jester, suggesting the role could informally pass from father to son. The entry amounts to a royal IOU.
Credit: ‘Portrait of Thomas Killigrew (1612-83) and (possibly) Lord William Crofts’, Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641); Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Royal Collection, public domain; engraving of Cecilia by Wenceslaus Hollar, after a portrait by Anthony van Dyck; University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Collection