Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Charles II (1630-85), as Prince of Wales, in armour breastplate, wearing the blue sash of the Order of Garter, c.1653 

David Des Granges (1611/13 - 1671/2)

Portrait miniature of Charles II (1630-85), as Prince of Wales, in armour breastplate, wearing the blue sash of the Order of Garter, c.1653, David Des Granges
Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 64mm (2 ½ in.) high
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This portrait of the young Charles II when Prince of Wales was taken in exile by his loyal miniature painter David des Granges. Des Granges was evidently employed by the prince to provide him with portrait miniatures to be given to loyal supporters, which ultimately (and secretively) disseminated his image back to England. The gift of such a personal token from the exiled prince maintained his cause while also persuading supporters to send financial aid to the exiled court. It was both an emotive and politically astute reminder of the ‘king in waiting’.

Charles had a long association with des Granges, who had painted him as a young boy copying portraits of him after Hoskins and Dobson during the late 1630s. In 1647, he was perhaps the natural choice to follow the young Prince of Wales in his exile to The Hague. In 1651, he was appointed ‘His Majesty's Limner in Scotland’, the same year as Charles was crowned ‘King of Scotland’ at Scone. Charles could barely afford an official artist in his entourage, but des Granges’ loyalty was such that he endured penury to aid his king. His early devotion remained unrewarded even ten years into the Restoration; in a petition to the king in 1671 he states that he had been ‘…forced to rely on the charity of well-disposed persons’ to survive.

Des Granges painted ad vivum portraits of Charles in exile but also relied on oil portraits for his likeness. Many versions were taken from a now lost oil by Adriaen Hanneman (1601?-1671?). The present portrait appears to relate to the full-length portrait of Charles by Philippe de Champaigne, painted in 1653 [Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio]. As no engravings of this portrait appear to exist, it is probable that Des Granges was copying from the original oil painting, then in the possession of the king. There are other extant portraits of Charles by des Granges which also use this head type but differ in costume, such as the version in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery [previously in the Albion Collection], which shows him in full armour.

Documentary evidence suggests that miniatures painted in the early 1650s were also sent as personal tokens of affection and thanks, including one to Jane Lane who had heroically assisted Charles in escaping to Bristol after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. In 1654, a letter from Charles in Paris to Lane states, “Mistris Lane,…Your cousin will let you know that I have given order for my pickture for you; and if in this or in anything else I can shew the sence I have of that wch I owe you, pray lett me know it, and it shall be done. Your most assured and constant friend, Charles R.”. It is not known what form this ‘pickture’ of the king took, but it is likely to have been a miniature (one was certainly in possession of the family until its later destruction by fire). In other instances, such miniatures were sent after a request for the king’s image, including, in 1654, from the landlord of the inn where Charles had stayed en route to Dusseldorf. Although the history of the present portrait is unknown, it would have been a possession much treasured by the recipient.
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