This document, on vellum, recording the elevation of William Cecil to the peerage as Lord Burghley, 25 February 1571, bears a fine, coloured initial letter portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. It is believed that the portrait, and the illumination work, may be by Lavinia Teerlinc who was one of the leading miniaturists of the period; the features given to the Queen resemble other portraits of her known to be by Teerlinc, who was both painter and gentlewoman at Elizabeth’s court. The Great Seal of England at the base of the document is broken, and it is interesting to note that the cloth bag that contains it bears the Treasurer’s writing, so it was clearly broken in his lifetime. His dismay at the breaking of the seal on this most important of documents can only be imagined!
Lavinia Teerlinc was born in Bruges circa 1510-20 and died in London in 1576. She was one of five daughters of the renowned illuminator of the Ghent/Bruges school, Simon Benninc, who probably trained her as a manuscript painter. Interestingly, it is thought that she may have designed the first Great Seal of Elizabeth’s reign.