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Sir Allen Apsley (1567-1630)

Artist

Circle of Marcus Gheeraerts, 1617

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Sir Allen Apsley (1567-1630)

Artist

Circle of Marcus Gheeraerts, 1617

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Oil on wood panel; held in ebonised oak frame;
overall 34 by 26 ins; 86.5 x 66 cm

Provenance: Private estate, Yorkshire, England

Sir Allen Apsley, Lieutenant of the Tower of London, was the younger son of John Apsley of The Old Place, Pulborough, Sussex, and Elizabeth daughter of Edward Shelley of Warminghurst, Sussex. The poet, translator and biographer, Lucy Hutchinson (1620-1681), his daughter by his third wife, summorised his early life

“My father…had not patience to stay the perfecting of his studies, but put himself into present action, sold his annuity, bought himself good clothes, put some money in his purse, and came to London; and by means of a relation at court, got a place in the household of Queen Elizabeth where he behaved himself so that he won the love of many of the court; but being young, took an affection to gaming, and spent most of the money he had in his purse.”

However, by 1596 Apsley joined the Earl of Essex’s expedition to Cadiz working for the Victualler of the Navy, and by the September is recorded as acting as a deputy purveyor for the navy in the west of England. In this post he must have excelled as a few years later he was appointed Commissary of Victuals for Munster, serving in Ireland under Sir George Carew. By 1602 Apsley’s first wife had died and he subsequently married Carew’s niece, Anne. Briefly imprisoned in Cork during the Recusancy Revolt of 1603, he was confirmed in his Irish post a year later and knighted in Dublin in June 1605.

By 1610, however, he returned to England, and is recorded as Victualler to the Navy, a post he was to hold for the remainder of his life. He married for the third time in October 1615; his wife was Lucy St John (c.1589–1659), niece of Sir Oliver St John and a relative by marriage of the powerful Villiers family.

Apsley’s appointment to the post of lieutenant of the Tower of London in March 1617 was seen as linked to the patronage of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. As lieutenant of the Tower, Apsley acted as ward to Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir John Eliot, and the other MPs imprisoned after the 1629 parliament. In June 1627 he witnessed Buckingham’s will before the duke set off on the Ré expedition; Apsley accompanied him but was soon reported ‘very sick and very melancholy’. His daughter surmised that he never recovered from the fever caught on the voyage, and he died in London in May 1630 and was buried in the chapel of the Tower of London on 24th May.

This portrait was almost certainly painted when he became Lieutenant of the Tower as it is dated 1617. It shows the style of the dominant Flemish artist at the Tudor court, Marcus Gheeraerts and was probably painted by an artist of his studio.