Some years ago, I spotted Adam Zamoyski walking past my window. I had only recently finished his excellent book, Rites of Peace, and had a nerdy, and rather superficial question to ask him, so I rushed out of my house to catch the eminent historian as he turned the corner into the adjacent street. Breathless, I struggled to say “excuse me for bothering you, but you’re one of the leading Napoleonic historians in Britain and I can’t find an answer to this question.” “Go on,” he said, a little miffed by my sudden entrance into his life. “Did Wellington ever see Napoleon with his own eyes? I am aware that they never met but did he at least spy the great thief of Europe through his telescope at Waterloo?” Zamoyski began to scratch his chin and ponder. “I do seem to remember a moment when Wellington spotted Napoleon at Waterloo, but that could well be from the 1970 film.” It seemed to be so. I could find no record of Wellington witnessing his nemesis in the flesh.
Holbein’s tiny portrait projects us into a private moment in the life of an ordinary middle-class woman living in the reign of Henry VIII.