A long lost lost portrait by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens of King James’s gay lover George Villiers, the First Duke of Buckingham has been found after more than 400 years.
The portrait was rediscovered hanging in a property in Glasgow, where it had been assumed it was a copy.
However the painting, was verified to be real by antiquities expert Dr Bendor Grosvenor during BBC Four show Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.
The same-sex personal relationships of King James are much debated, with Villiers the last in a succession of handsome young favorites the king lavished with affection and patronage. James’s nickname for Buckingham was “Steenie”, after St. Stephen who was said to have had “the face of an angel.
Historian David M. Bergeron claims “Buckingham became James’s last and greatest lover” but his only evidence comes from flowery letters that followed 17th century styles of masculinity.
In a letter to Buckingham in 1623, the King ends with, “God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear father and husband”. Buckingham reciprocated the King’s affections, writing back to James: “I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts, which are more than ever one man had”, “I desire only to live in the world for your sake” and “I will live and die a lover of you”.
Restoration of Apethorpe Palace in 2004–8 revealed a previously unknown passage linking Villiers’ bedchamber with that of James.
Buckingham remained at the height of royal favor for the first three years of the reign of King Charles I, until a disgruntled army-officer assassinated him.