Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of the Hon. Henry Knight (1728-1762) 1742/3

 English School 

Portrait of the Hon. Henry Knight (1728-1762),  English School
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25inches 76.2 x 63.5cm
Robert Knight, Earl of Catherlough Barrells Hall, Warwickshire.
Henry Knight was the son of Robert Knight of Barrells Hall in Warwickshire and Henrietta St John, daughter of Henry Viscount St John and half sister of the famous Lord Bolingbroke. Henry Knight's grandfather, Robert Knight the elder had made his fortune through his position as Cashier to the South Sea Company, the collapse of which forced him to flee to Paris in 1721, where he became a banker. Robert his son set about restoring the family fortunes and dignity, and as a Whig adherent of Robert Walpole steadily rose in the Government's favour. In 1746 he was created Baron Luxborough of Shannon in the peerage of Ireland. Shortly after the fall of Walpole in 1742 he succeeded in having his father pardoned, arguing that in his personal loss of 200,000 he had suffered sufficiently for his irregularities. Robert the elder died, now blameless, two years later in 1744.

Robert Knight married Henrietta St. John, a half-sister of the 1st Viscount Bolingbroke in 1727, but their marriage was not happy. In 1736, when Henry Knight was eight years old, the couple separated, reputedly after Knight discovered his wife in bed the poet John Dalton (1709-1763). Knight then left Warwickshire for London, and would seem not to have returned there during his wife's lifetime. In his absence she sought the company of poets and writers and in the fanciful words of Horace Walpole, made Barrells ''a hermitage on Parnassus.''

Henry Knight - brought up under the tutelage of his father and away from the influence of Parnassus- married a daughter of Thomas Heath of Stanstead, Essex, in 1750. He died without issue, and did not live to bear the courtesy title of Viscount Barrells that would have been his right had he survived to see his father promoted to the Earldom of Catherlough in 1763. Lord Catherlough died in 1772 and bequeathed all of his property to his illegitimate son Robert Knight, through whose line Barrells Hall descended into this century.

A magnificent marble aedicule, erected by Lord Catherlough in the parish church of Wooton Wawen in Warwickshire, commemorates Henry Knight and his sister Henrietta, and also their mother Lady Luxborough, proudly identified as the sister to Queen Anne''s Principal Secretary of State. A poignant object hanging high in the clerestory of the church is Henry Knight''s painted funerary hatchment.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.