'Jack the Indian' Re-identified (?)

October 9 2020

Image of 'Jack the Indian' Re-identified (?)

Picture: Warwick Castle via. Adam Busiakiewicz

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

I thought it might be of interest to share this blog written by my friend and colleague Aaron Manning. Aaron is a fellow Warwick Castle enthusiast, although his day job is being Interpretation Manager at the Historic Royal Palaces.

Through some painstaking and diligent research into some seventeenth century account books, Aaron seems to have been able to give a possible name for the black servant that features within a family portrait at Warwick Castle.

This painting (pictured) has intrigued us for a long time. It shows Robert Greville (d.1677), 4th Baron Brooke, being attended to by a black servant who offers up a silver basket of oranges and lemons. The question has always been does the portrait depict a real black servant (or slave) who worked for the family, or was his inclusion in the picture a piece of artistic license.

Aaron's research into the many account books has identified an 'Indian Boy' who worked in the castle's kitchens during the 1640s. He is later referred to in the accounts as 'Jack the Indian'. The Greville family had established colonies in modern-day Connecticut and the Caribbean in the 1630s. Jack may have been an indigenous American from New England or the Caribbean who was brought back over the Atlantic to work for the family. Might it have been Jack who was featured in this family portrait?

Aaron and I had criticised the recent removal of the portrait from the castle's walls in the press last month. The current owners of the castle and portrait, Merlin Entertainments, had said they removed the painting to "conduct a full review into the subject matter portrayed in the painting discussed." We hope they will change their minds and have it redisplayed in due course.

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