Francis Cotes (London 1726-1770) Portrait of Maria Walpole, Countess of Waldegrave and later Duchess
Lot 59
Francis Cotes (London 1726-1770) Portrait of Maria Walpole, Countess of Waldegrave and later Duchess of Gloucester, 112 x 137 cm. (44 x 54 in.)
Sold for £45,410 (US$ 74,149) inc. premium

Lot Details
Francis Cotes (London 1726-1770)
Portrait of Maria Walpole, Countess of Waldegrave and later Duchess of Gloucester, half-length, in a white dress embroidered with gold and a pink shawl, holding a guitar in her left hand, seated in a landscape
signed and dated 'FCotes / 1765' (FC in ligature, on tree, upper left)
oil on canvas
112 x 137 cm. (44 x 54 in.)

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    The sitter
    Her son, William, second Duke of Gloucester
    His wife, Princess Mary
    Her favourite nephew, George, second Duke of Cambridge
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    Maria Walpole was one of the three illegitimate daughters of the Hon. Edward Walpole of Frogmore House in Windsor, by Dorothy Clements, a milliner from Darlington in County Durham. Edward never married his mistress, fearing opposition from his father, Sir Robert. Her uncle, Horace Walpole called Maria 'Beauty itself' and when he introduced her to the forty-three-year-old Lord Waldegrave, the latter was soon captivated and the two were married on the 15th May 1759. Waldegrave was an intimate friend and adviser to George II and became governor to the future George III in 1752, apparently against his will, since he resigned 'this most painful servitude' after four years. After acting as premier for a few days after this he was rewarded with the Order of the Garter but died of smallpox in 1763.

    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote from Padua in June 1759: 'I am not surprised at Lady Waldegrave's good fortune. Beauty has a large prerogative'. Lady Coventry, the more famous Miss Gunning and the new Countess's only rival, made the best of things by striking up a great alliance with her and the two were thence constantly to be seen together. Horace Walpole tells of their being mobbed in the Park and described his home on occasion as 'a perfect Paphos, a land of beauties' since this pair, as well as the Duchess of Richmond, Lady Ailesbury and the Duchess of Hamilton had all been dining there. 'A thousand years hence,' he wrote,'when I begin to grow old, if that can ever be, I shall tell of that event, and tell young people how much handsomer the women of my time were than they will be then.'

    Following her first husband's death, adoring Eton boys were crowding to St. George's Chapel to gaze on 'Lady Waldegrave at Castle prayers' and before long she astonished society by refusing the hand of the Duke of Portland and becoming attached to George III's favourite brother, William, Duke of Gloucester, who was eight years her junior. Following the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland, another one of George III's brothers, to a Mrs Horton and the passing of the Royal Marriage Act in March 1772, it was announced that William had married Maria secretly at their house in Pall Mall on the 6th September 1766. Although the chaplain who had married the couple had subsequently died and they were the only witnesses to the ceremony, Parliament pronounced in favour of the union and Maria became a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland. William, like his brother, however, was banished from Court, where his wife was never to be received as Duchess.

    A daughter, Sophia, was born to the couple in 1773, followed by a son, William. This second Duke of Gloucester was later to be kept in reserve as a possible Prince Consort of England, should a suitable foreign husband not be found for Princess Charlotte of Wales. A few weeks after her wedding, in 1816, he married his old sweetheart, Princess Mary, George III's daughter and Queen Victoria's favourite aunt. All the Gloucesters were buried in St.George's Chapel, Windsor.
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