The "only known demonstrably authentic portrait" of William Shakespeare has been revealed for the first time by Country Life magazine.

Before today, the only images we had of the great playwright were drawn after his death, or unconfirmed in authenticity. The new image shows the bard "with a film star's good looks" and in the company of Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in the land.

ITV News reporter Sally Biddulph reports:

The discovery was made by Mark Griffiths, a botanist and historian, who found the image on the title page of a 16th century book on plants.

Painstaking research into bizarre a Tudor code of "rebuses, ciphers, heraldic motifs and emblematic flowers were used to identify names and social position" eventually revealed that one of the four men depicted on the front cover of The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, was William Shakespeare himself.

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare - whose authenticity is unconfirmed Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The image, just 3.5 inches tall, was engraved in 1597, when Shakespeare would have been 33.

Edward Wilson, Emeritus Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, writes in Country Life: “This is the most important contribution to be made to our knowledge of Shakespeare in generations.”

Next week, Country Life says it will reveal a new play by Shakespeare, and how his career was launched.