The year is 1526. Hans Holbein the Younger is at the beginning of his remarkable career when he travels to England under the patronage of Sir Thomas More. His arrival brings the Renaissance in painting from Europe to Britain. As a guest in the splendid More household in Chelsea, Holbein begins to paint their first family portrait. Little could he know that in a few short years, the family, Tudor society and England itself would have changed beyond recognition.
The great household of the courtier and scholar, Sir Thomas More, was famous for its liveliness and learning. More had taken under his patronage distinguished astrologers, artists, politicians and men of religion, as well as wards of court, proteges and many others. Two people visiting the great house find themselves irresistibly drawn to Meg Giggs, one of More's foster daughters. One of them is John Clement - dark, tall, elegant - an erstwhile tutor, now practising to become a medical doctor; a man of compelling presence and mysterious background. The other is Holbein himself - warm, ebullient, radical and foreign - sent by the great Erasmus to paint the More family portraits. Meg will find herself powerfully drawn to these two wildly contrasting men. She will love one, and marry the other.
The two Holbein family portraits frame this remarkable story with its background of love, family, and of religious and political turmoil. Vanora Bennett has created an exceptionally rich novel, presenting the atmosphere of this Tudor household as rarely achieved.