John Cleveley (British, circa 1712-1777) The flotilla of ships, led by the Royal Charlotte in company with five other royal yachts, arriving off Harwich on 6th September 1761, after conveying Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg to England for her marriage to George III
Lot 122W
John Cleveley
(British c. 1712-1777)
The flotilla of ships, led by the Royal Charlotte in company with five other royal yachts, arriving off Harwich on 6th September 1761, after conveying Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg to England for her marriage to George III
£300,000 - 500,000
US$ 500,000 - 830,000
Lot Details
John Cleveley (British c. 1712-1777)
The flotilla of ships, led by the Royal Charlotte in company with five other royal yachts, arriving off Harwich on 6th September 1761, after conveying Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg to England for her marriage to George III
oil on canvas
110.5 x 196.8cm (43 1/2 x 77 1/2in).
in a reproduction 'Kent' frame


  • Provenance
    Sale, Christie's London, 6 May 1993, catalogued as by 'Cleveley the Elder' with the erroneous title: 'Lord Anson with the 'William and Mary 13 May 1748, escorting George II to Holland with the 'Royal Caroline', 'Katherine' and 'Charlotte''
    with Lane Fine Art
    J. W. Robertson Esq. (bought from the above, 1996)

    When George III selected Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to be both his bride and his queen, it was obvious that she would need to be conveyed to England in safety as well as in luxury. It was not surprising therefore that the vessel chosen for the task of crossing the notorious North Sea was the largest royal yacht of the day, hitherto named Royal Caroline, in honour of George's mother. After she was hastily renamed (on 27th July 1761) to celebrate the new bride, a special squadron of six royal yachts (Royal Charlotte together with William & Mary, Charlot II, Katherine III, Fubbs III and Mary III) accompanied by six ships-of-war was quickly assembled at Harwich and, on 7th August, sailed for Cuxhaven under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Anson. The future queen and her suite came aboard at the north German town of Stade where the young princess was so overwhelmed by the farewell ceremonies that she remarked 'And am I worthy of all these honours?' The return journey was beset by appalling weather and when the royal flotilla eventually made Harwich safely on 6th September, it had survived three severe storms and been almost wrecked on the coast of Norway on two occasions. Remaining on the yacht overnight, Charlotte disembarked early the next morning to travel to London where, after meeting her future husband for the first time, she and George were married at St. James's Palace the very next day, 8th September, and crowned two weeks later.

    There are two other depictions of this event by Cleveley the Elder. The first measuring 36 x 58 inches, titled 'The Landing of Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz at Harwich' is in the collection of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath (Accession number : BATVG : P : 1949.7 - A gift from Francis Llewellyn Bridges, 1949). The other titled 'Arrival of Princess Charlotte at Harwich in September, 1761' measuring 34 x 67 inches, is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem MA. This version shows the jubilation of the scene, with the royal yacht surrounded by escorting vessels with the sailors lined up on the booms. The present work shows the scene more round to seaward than Bath's example and Landguard Fort can be seen on the very right of the composition.

    Royal Caroline, principal yacht to King George II and named in honour of his wife Caroline [of Ansbach], was built at Deptford by Mr. J. Allin in 1749. Designed as a sixth-rate mounting 10-3pdrs. and 8-½ pdr. swivel guns, she was measured at 232 tons burden with a 90 foot gundeck and a 24½ foot beam. The largest royal yacht to date and the only such vessel to exceed 200 tons until Royal Sovereign was launched in 1804, she was one of the most sumptuously decorated vessels ever constructed and her full ship rig required a crew of 70 men to handle. She was also a uniquely important link in the development of fast sailing vessels for the Royal Navy and her hull lines, inherited from the last years of the seventeenth century, were scaled up for some of the new frigates and sloops of the 1750s whilst her design was being re-used as late as 1804. Quite apart from her many other duties, George II's frequent visits to Hanover meant that she was in constant use ferrying him to and from the continent and she remained a firm favourite with the King until his death in 1760.

    After the Princess Augusta was launched in 1771, Royal Charlotte lost her place as the most favoured royal yacht but continued in service, her duties actually increasing as George III's children grew into adulthood and greater independence. In October 1797, Royal Charlotte reverted briefly to her former pre-eminence by taking the King down to the Nore to visit the fleet after its victory at Camperdown although the actual review had to be abandoned due to adverse weather. This proved her last ceremonial outing and other than carrying the King on the occasional holiday trip to Weymouth during 1801-04, she was mostly laid up at Deptford due to the prevailing war with France and finally broken up in 1820.

    John Cleveley the Elder was born in Southwark, London c.1712. By 1726 he was apprenticed to a joiner, later working in the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, where he lived until his death in 1777. It is assumed that he learned to paint from one or some of the dockyard painters with whom he came into contact and only gradually refined his work to easel paintings, as it seems that he did not take up this profession seriously until he was in his thirties. Cleveley painted a series of launches of ships, ship portraits, a few battle scenes and royal occasions. Apparently, he did not feel he could give up his dockyard appointment as, in the year after his death, he is referred to in documents as 'carpenter, belonging to His Majesty's Ship Victory in the pay of His Mjs Navy'.

    We would like to thank Dr. Pieter van der Merwe MBE, General Editor and Greenwich Curator, National Maritime Museum for his help in cataloguing this lot.

    Works by Cleveley are in the collections of the Glasgow City Art Gallery,(1), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (16), the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut (1)
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
W Shipping & handling restrictions apply

Objects displayed with a w will be located in the Bonhams Warehouse and will only be available for collection from this location.

  1. Customer Services (UK)
    Customer Services
    Work +44 20 7447 7447
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7401
  2. Shipping (UK)
    Logistics - Shipping
    Work +44 20 7468 8302
    FaxFax: + 44 20 7629 9673
Similar items