Katherine Ferrars (1634-1660), later wife of Thomas Fanshawe

Object number

LDVAL 2004.5.1


after 1634 – before 1660


Born 4th May 1634, Katherine was the daughter of Knighton Ferrers of Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire, and his wife Katherine Walter. She became the step-daugther of Sir Simon Fanshawe (See nos.20&33) after her fathers death and mothers remarriage. In 1648 she married 2nd Viscount Thomas Fanshawe at Hamerton, she being 14 years old and he 16. She died in June 1660, aged 26 years, during the celebrations of the return of King Charles II to the throne. She possibly died during the birth of a child, as the register of the Church of Ayott St. Lawrence gives the burial, on 22nd November the same year, of Mrs. Marie Fanshawe daughter of Sir Thomas Fanshawe. In the 19th century, Katherine was accused of being ?The Wicked Lady?, an infamous highwayman. It is a story immortalised in the film The Wicked Lady starring Margaret Lockwood. The legend recounts how Katherine was forced, at the age of 14, to marry Thomas Fanshawe, and after becoming bored with married life and suffering the constant absence of her husband she turned to highway robbery to entertain herself. One night, whilst robbing a victim, she was fatally wounded and died outside her home at Markyate Cell,
Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire. It is said her ghost still haunts the neighbourhood and to this day she is known as Wicked
Lady Ferrers. The origins of the story are unknown. During the 17th century, highway robbery was still an activity undertaken by gentlemen, and at the time both the Ferrers and Fanshawe family were struggling to raise money to support
the Royalist cause during the Civil War by selling land and property. Markyate Cell was one of these properties and Katherine was certainly not living there at the time of her death. In 1760, Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl of Ferrers was hanged for murdering a servant and afterwards became known as “Wicked Lord Ferrers”. It would have been easy for 19th century romanticism to turn “Wicked Lord Ferrers” into “Wicked Lady Ferrers” and make an innocent young woman from a financially struggling family into a notorious highwayman.

Physical description

Bust length portrait of a young girl in a green silk dress that has white slashings in the centre of the bodice and in the sleeves. The slash in the bodice is held together with jewel encrusted buttons. She has brown hair with is dressed in ringlets on either side of her head, and she has a pearl hair decorations.She also wears a string of peals around her neck.Turned to her left and looking at the artist, she has a long face with a pointy chin and rosy cheeks. Set on a plain background.




John Greenhill (1642–76) English portrait painter and draughtsman. He moved from his native Somerset first to Salisbury, then to London. In 1662 he joined the studio of Peter Lely, whose style he occasionally followed. Greenhill soon established his own studio. His early works consisted chiefly of theatrical drawings of actors as characters, executed in crayons and pastel, such as the portrayal of Joseph Harris as Cardinal Wolsey (Magdalen College, Oxford). The actor William Cartwright commissioned him to paint James, Duke of York (circa 1663) and members of his own family. The portrait of ‘A Woman as a Shepherdess’, shown in a silk dress, standing and resting her hand on the head of a sheep, is believed to represent Mrs Cartwright (all paintings in Dulwich Picture Gallery, London). Greenhill’s self-portrait, modelled partly on Van Dyck’s self-portrait with a sunflower, dates from the same period (circa 1664, also in Dulwich). The portrait of his brother, Henry, is known from the artist’s sole etching (1667, British Museum, London and other collections). Besides these private works he made portraits of such important figures as Seth Ward, Bishop of Salisbury (1673, Salisbury Guildhall) and the philosopher John Locke (circa 1672–1676, National Portrait Gallery, London). The former portrait is modelled on Lely, while the latter is more stylistically independent. Greenhill’s short career was brought to an abrupt end when he tragically drowned in a gutter after a drinking spree.


Portrait Painting


Frame height: 620mm
width: 500mm
Canvas height: 520mm
width: 410mm

Collection type

Visual arts, Fanshawe Portraits

Alternative reference

Entry Number 1539

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Start dateafter 1634
End datebefore 1660
InstitutionValence House Museum
TypePortrait Painting
Collection type
Visual arts
Fanshawe Portraits