Thursday, June 27, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Miniature of Queen Victoria’s Father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, 1814

Edward, Duke of Kent
Miniature on Ivory in Gold Locket
The Royal Collection
The fourth son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn was a military officer with expensive and debauched tastes as well as a host of illegitimate children. At the time of George III’s death, the King only had one legitimate grandchild, and she died young—leaving no one in line for the throne after the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and his younger brother, William. George III’s unmarried sons tried to make suitable marriages to produce a legitimate heir presumptice. Among this rush, The Duke of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld. They had one child—Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent. The Princess was the only legitimate issue in line for the Crown, and after the death of her uncle, King William IV, she ascended the throne as Queen Victoria in 1837. The Duke of Kent never saw his daughter as Queen. He died seventeen years earlier.

But, here he is on a watercolor on ivory miniature in a gold locket. The painting is by Johan Georg Paul Fischer and dates to 1814.

Queen Victoria was painted in 1821, before her accession, holding this miniature in a portrait by Sir William Beechey which depicts the the Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria. The elaborate gold locket is the work of the jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, and shows their masterful chasing and repoussé work. The Duke is identified by his Garter emblems, his coronet and his name, EDWARD. The locket’s reverse is similarly chased and is adorned with the badge of the Bath within the collar, and the collar and badge of St Patrick.

Fischer based this miniature on a portrait by Sir Beechey which also dates to 1814. No stranger to the Royal Family, Fischer’s first Royal sitter was King George III, whom Fischer painted for his Golden Jubilee.

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