Sons of the Empire (1899).

By Harry Payne from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection.

(via creatory)

Queen Victoria
Jean-Joseph-Benjamin Constant (1845-1902)
Oil on canvas, 1899
327.2 x 202.0 x 2.8 cm
Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Description from the Royal Collection:

Queen Victoria is depicted sitting on Pugin’s throne in the Lords’ chamber in the Palace of Westminster.

This portrait was commissioned by the proprietor of the Illustrated London News. According to a contemporary, Sir Frederick Ponsonby, the Queen only agreed to give a sitting (which was not to last more than 20 minutes) under pressure from the Prince of Wales. To her surprise, the artist ‘never painted at all, but sat with his face between his hands gazing at her during the whole sitting in a most embarrassing way. Of course Benjamin-Constant realized that twenty minutes was ridiculously inadequate for the purpose: he had therefore tried to stamp an impression of her on his brain.’

The portrait was purchased from Sir William Ingram in 1901 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1902, after Queen Victoria’s death. King Edward VII did not like the colour of the Garter ribbon in the portrait and sent the artist ‘a whole Garter riband’ so that he could amend it. Constant misunderstood and thought the Order had been conferred on him. When he realized his mistake he ‘absolutely refused to alter the picture’.

The Times described it as a “generalization of the idea of sovereignty, a vision of the head of a great Empire crowned with age and authority, and placed in the throne of State the Gothic form of which seems to connote an immemorial antiquity”. A 1924 copy by W.A. Menzies hangs in the Palace of Westminster.*

*Source: Christine Riding, “The Aura of Sacred Majesty: Thrones in the New Palace of Westminster,” in The Houses of Parliament: History, Art, Architecture, David Cannadine et al, 190 (London: Merrell, 2000).


King George III Reviewing the 10th Dragoons, Sir William Beechey, 1797-98.

After impressing Queen Charlotte with a portrait in 1793, Beechey became Her Majesty’s portrait painter and was thus introduced to many great sitters at Court. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in the same year. Shortly thereafter, King George III invited Beechey to paint him at a review of his eldest son’s regiment — of which he had just recently been reluctantly given the colonelcy — the fashionable 10th Light Dragoons, which were stationed near Brighton at the time. This painting, Beechey’s largest, features the King on Adonis, Adjutant-General Sir William Fawcett on foot, and Generals Sir David Dundas and Philip Goldsworthy (the King’s chief equerry), observing a mock conflict between the 10th and 3rd Dragoon Guards (known as The Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards from 1765, though not under him). 

Although it earned Beechey a knighthood and election into the Royal Academy in 1797 and was considered his best piece by contemporaries, the painting almost did not survive George III’s first review of it —- because apparently the prominent addition of the rather silly Prince of Wales in his loud uniform of the 10th (looking for all the world as if he were about to charge into the fray as he often later claimed to have done on many an occasion) was an unwelcome surprise to His Majesty. 

The King was so angry when he saw what had been done, so the Beechey’s legend has it, that he ordered the canvas to be burned or thrown out of the window. Fortunately, the order was not carried out; and some time later, father and son being on better terms, the picture was hung at the Royal Academy. Nevertheless, when the King had a copy made to present to Henry Addington, he gave instructions that the figure of the Prince should be left out. 

— Christopher Hibbert, George III, 1998. 

The painting hung for a time at Hampton Court, then Kensington, then finally Windsor. Too large to be hastily removed from the State Dining Room, the fabulous piece was lost in the Windsor Fire of 1992, one of the very very few masterpieces of any type to be destroyed. Fortunately, many copies and mezzotints and whatnots had been made; this particular version of the painting is now the UK Department of Transport at Great Minster House, London, after being purchased from Christie’s in 1954. 

(via northernbriton)


Souvenir of the centenary of Trafalgar, 1905. British Museum