Portrait of Sir William Croft returns to Croft Castle

A portrait of Sir William Croft in the Entrance Hall at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

A portrait, which we believe to be of Sir William Croft (1593-1645), has been bought by the National Trust and is now on display in the Entrance Hall at Croft, where he rejoins his brothers. Sir William is a key figure in the history of Croft and prior to this acquisition, we had no portraits of him in the collection. This makes the purchase particularly significant.

Background

William Croft’s father, Herbert Croft (1566-1629) was responsible for building the shell of the present castle in the early seventeenth century.  He had three sons, of whom William, the eldest, served as an MP and when the Civil War broke out who fought on the Royalist side at Edgehill. He was captured by Parliamentary forces at Hereford in 1642 and held prisoner in Bristol until 1643.

In 1645 he fought with the enemy at Stokesay but after losing 100 men fled back to Croft, pursued by Parliamentarians who shot him whilst he scaled the park boundary. He is said to have fallen near an oak tree, which we now call the William Croft Oak. He is a heroic figure in the history of Croft and we're thrilled to have his portrait as part of our collection.

Family portraiture

William Croft was succeeded by his two brothers, firstly Sir James Croft (d.1659), who was a Colonel in the Royalist army, and later by Sir Herbert Croft (1603-91), who had been appointed Chaplain to Charles I and following the Restoration was made Bishop of Hereford by Charles II. We have portraits of the two brothers which can also be seen in the Entrance Hall.

Portrait of Sir James Croft (d.1659)
A portrait of Sir James Croft in the Entrance Hall at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

The artist

The artist, Van Mierevelt (1566-1641), was one of the most successful Dutch painters of the seventeenth century. From 1590 he focussed entirely on portraiture and in 1607 was appointed court painter to the Prince of Orange – Nassau, thereafter receiving numerous commissions not only from the noble families of the Dutch Republic but also from foreign sitters.

Solving the mystery...

At present, we cannot prove that the portrait is of Sir William, but this provides us with an exciting opportunity to carry out further research into his life and share the current mystery with you. Art historical research is a fascinating and detailed process, and we're looking forward to sharing our discoveries as the project develops.

Keep checking our website for further updates on the project or why not ask our volunteers about the painting on your next visit?