Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' (1720-88) 

Giles Hussey 

Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' (1720-88), Giles Hussey
Pencil on Paper
18th Century
9 x 6.8 in (229 x 177 mm)
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This fine pencil portrait of the Young Pretender was drawn by Giles Hussey in the mid-1730s. Charles Edward would then have been about fifteen years old. Hussey, a Catholic who, having been abandoned by his master Vincenzo Damini, had found his way to Rome in search of patronage, became known for the fine draughtmanship seen here. His profile portraits in particular proved popular with the exiled Jacobite court and their supporters. His connection to the Stuart family is not certainly known – one source suggests he was briefly Charles Edward’s private secretary – but he is known to have drawn both Charles and his father James, the Old Pretender.

Hussey became a passionate supporter of the Jacobite movement, and of Charles in particular, during the years that he spent in Rome between 1732 and 1737. The highly-finished portrait drawing seen here became something of a Jacobite ''icon'', designed for the contemplation of Stuart supporters both in Britain and in exile on the Continent. These early portraits of the Prince record Charles’ appearance in the critical period leading up to the ill-fated 1745 invasion of Scotland and England, and are amongst the most engaging portraits of him.

The present drawing is one of a number of versions. Versions include: that formerly in the Ilchester collection at Holland House, which has been dated to 1735; that belonging to the Duke of Atholl; and a version formerly in the collection of Lord Montague at Cowdray Park. Two versions in red chalk, showing the head only, are known, one in the British Museum and a second formerly in the collection of Horace Walpole. Some versions show the Prince in armour, and as a slightly older man than in the present example. A small and damaged example on vellum of this last type was formerly in the collection of Lord Arundell of Wardour and most recently in the collection of Roger Warner. These later likenesses may have been begun by Hussey after the failure of the 1745 rebellion, as a means of raising income by capitalizing on the Prince’s romantic heroism status; it was once claimed that Hussey, struggling in poverty, found that repetitions of his likeness of Charles provided his only regular income. This hypothesis is given further weight by an oil painting of Charles in armour by Hussey which is signed and dated 1765 [private collection].

The present drawing, however, stands apart from all of the other versions in its fineness. The costume, for example, is more elaborate and decorative than the Atholl and Ilchester versions, most notably the lace, which is finely drawn over the top of the Garter ribbon. This picture descended from the Stuart Coxon family, and is first recorded in the possession of John Stuart Coxon of Flesk Priory, in Killarney, Ireland, sometime secretary to the Duke of Wellington. Stuart Coxon legend suggests that the Prince stayed with the family in 1745 in Brampton, Cumbria during his invasion of England, and that this drawing was given to them then. A further family legend maintains that the name Stuart is held by them after Charles fathered an illegitimate child by Barbara Coxon, wife of the Rev. John Coxon (d.1787), who ‘obliged’ the Prince during his stay, as a way of demonstrating her ‘loyalty’ to the cause.
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