I think the dress is too early for Cromwell and still suspect the panels show scenes from the Dutch Revolt. Also, I think the panels may pre-date the rest of the piece.
It is possible that the panels focus on FranÃ§ois, Duke of Anjou and AlenÃ§on (the very same that Elizabeth I called her ‘Frog’). Anjou was the youngest son of Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici — and a Catholic. His crest is shown below.
In 1576, Anjou negotiated the Edict of Beaulieu during the French Wars of Religion. In 1579, he was invited by William the Silent to become hereditary sovereign to the United Provinces, as this might be a way to garner the protection of England and France in the face of Spanish claims on the Netherlands. On September 29, 1580, the Dutch States-General (with the exception of Zeeland and Holland) signed the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours with the Duke, who would assume the title "Protector of the Liberty of the Netherlands" and become the sovereign.
Anjou arrived in the Netherlands on February 10, 1582, and was officially welcomed by William in Flushing. In spite of the Joyous Entries he was accorded in Bruges and Ghent and his ceremonious installation as Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders, Anjou was not popular with the Dutch and Flemish, who continued to see the Catholic French as enemies; the provinces of Zeeland and Holland refused to recognise him as their sovereign.
Anjou himself was dissatisfied with his limited power, and decided to take the Flemish cities of Antwerp, Bruges, Dunkirk and Ostend by force.
He decided to head personally the attack on Antwerp on January 18, 1583. In an attempt to fool the citizens of Antwerp, Anjou asked to be permitted to make a 'Joyous Entry’ to the city in order to honour them with a parade. No one was fooled. As soon as the troops entered the city, the gates of Antwerp were slammed shut behind them. The French troops were trapped in the city and were bombarded from windows and rooftops with stones, rocks, logs and heavy chains. Then the city's garrison opened deadly, point-blank fire on the troops. Only a few Frenchmen, including Anjou, escaped. Over 1500 troops perished, eventually hacked to death by the enraged citizens of Antwerp. This incident is called the ‘French Fury.’
How does all this relate to the six silver panels? Well, notice how the crest above the door in the fourth panel may well be Anjou’s.
The first panel may show his joyous entry to Bruges or Ghent in 1582, and the second show jousting at the same occasion.
The third panel may depict his being trapped in Antwerp during the French Fury of 1583.
As mentioned above, the fourth panel seems to show Anjou’s crest, the three fleurs-de-lys, above the door, but I do not yet have an explanation for the murder we are witnessing, except that it may show some alleged Calvinist attack on Anjou or someone in his household.
The fifth panel shows a battle, apparently guided by Christ; perhaps Anjou’s attack on Bruges, Dunkirk or Ostend.
The sixth panel may show Anjou’s ceremonious installation as Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders. This panel has a distinct Catholic angle, rather than a Calvinist one, and this is important in my believing that the panels show Anjou rather than the Dutch hero William the Silent.
The panels may therefore have been used as propaganda — something that the unpopular Anjou might well have needed to shore up the support of his Catholic base. For example, if the third panel is indeed a scene from the French Fury, it seems to stress the cruelty of Antwerp’s Calvinist citizenry.
If all this is true, the order of the panels is not chronological, and it is tempting to speculate that the panels predate the rest of Lisa’s piece. In fact, judging from the excellent pictures, the panels seem to have been clipped around the edges before being soldered onto the frame. But it will probably take an expert with access to the piece to determine this.
Most of this is pure speculation, of course!