Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Anne (1665-1714) 

Edmond Lilly (d.1716)

Portrait of Queen Anne (1665-1714), Edmond Lilly
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
8ft ¼ x 4ft 11 ¼ in (204.6 x 150.5 cm)
John Cantor Esq., Woodbastwick Hall, Norwich; Sothebys’ London, 16th December 1970, lot 1; bt. Mrs Ward for £150; English Private Collection.
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This newly discovered portrait of Queen Anne by her favoured artist Edmund Lilly is one of the most impressively regal depictions of her. As a full-length state portrait, most likely intended for some form of public use, the Queen is surrounded by the regalia of monarchy. Set in a finely rendered architectural setting in which a canopied throne can be seen in the background, Anne bears a greater Garter ‘George’ around her neck, and with her left hand holds the orb from the crown jewels, which is placed on a velvet cushion next to the sceptre and St Edward’s Crown, the crown still used for coronations today. Anne also wears a sumptuous red, ermine-lined robe, another traditionally royal garment, which is held in place by heavy gilt tassels acting as a counterweight.

This portrait was probably painted in about 1705/6, for it corresponds to a version dated 1706 in the Clarendon Collection. The Clarendon picture is identical to the present portrait in Anne’s pose and dress, but differs with a plainer background, and a different table, which is shown without a red cover. The more elaborate setting and a significant pentiment in the present portrait, where originally Anne’s robe came more fully over her shoulder, confirms it as the first of the two versions.

Lilly’s earliest full-length portrait of Anne is thought to be the 1703 full-length at Blenheim Palace, home of Anne’s close supporters the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. As in the present portrait, Anne is presented in the Blenheim example with the crown jewels on a table beside her, and with a glimpse into an architectural background of stone columns and pediments which, when it was exhibited at the Tate gallery in 1987, was said to deliberately resemble Blenheim’s interior. In fact, the architecture in both the Blenheim portrait and the present example probably, since Blenheim was not begun until 1705, owes more to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh’s collaborator and tutor. The background architecture in the present version appears to be close to the Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh designs for Castle Howard, but whatever their inspiration the portrayal of Anne was evidently designed to show her in the latest and most opulent setting imaginable, as a means of projecting her royal status.

Little is known of Lilly’s work and life, except that he is thought to have come from a family in Norwich. He enjoyed significant patronage from Anne, who appeared to prefer him to the more well-known Michael Dahl and Sir Godfrey Kneller. His oeuvre is frequently misunderstood and his portraits, as this example previously was, are often described as works by other artists. A half-length version of the Blenheim portrait in the Dover Museum, for example, is still firmly attributed by that museum to Kneller. Philip Mould & Co also previously discovered a rare portrait of Anne’s son, Prince William, by Lilly, which had not only lost its attribution, but, in being described as showing the first Duke of St Albans, illegitimate son of Charles II, its identity too. The present portrait may well be the full-length of Anne described in Lilly’s will, where a ‘whole length picture of Queen Ann’ of ‘about 5 foot breadth and about 8 foot in height’ was bequeathed to the artist’s nephew Edward Lilly. It is possible, therefore, since the painting was formerly at Woodbastwick Hall in Norwich, that it entered that collection directly from Lilly’s Norwich-based descendants.

The accession of Queen Anne in 1702 was seen by many as a moment of particular national pride and hope. Detractors of William III were swift to point out that she was an Englishwoman where he was a foreigner (in Lilly’s portrait here Anne is placed beneath a large roundel of Britannia), and - which no English sovereign had been since Elizabeth I - the child of two native-born parents. She was also a Stuart, and the daughter of the abdicated James II. His death in the year previous to her accession, and the uncompromising Catholicism and alien upbringing of his heir James Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’, made Anne an acceptable object for the loyalty of those who had been troubled by William’s legitimacy. As a focus for the nation, Anne’s motive in choosing Semper Eadem, ‘Always the same’, as her motto is plain, since it was the regnal motto of Queen Elizabeth I. Until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1711 her reign was characterised by comparable military achievements in the land victories of Marlborough and the naval triumphs of admirals such as Shovell.

Anne - whose sympathies had always lain with the Tory party - was also fondly remembered for supporting the Tory administration which lasted from 1711 until her death in 1714, the last such government, its adherents began to appreciate after its fall, that would hold office for fifty years. Parsimonious as Elizabeth, Anne resented the great expense of Marlborough's campaigns, and in this she was in accord with the Tory leaders. Equally, she found the Whig philosophy distasteful, with its encroachments on the prerogatives of the monarch, and was far more comfortable with the Tories’ absolute defence of Episcopacy and Monarchy. The affection and gratitude in which she was held after her death by these deposed ministers is shown by the monuments erected to her by them and by their children, such as that set up at Wimpole Hall by the 2nd Earl of Oxford, or the memorial that the 1st Earl Bathurst designed at Cirencester.

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