Historical Portraits Picture Archive

George Boscawen 3rd Viscount Falmouth (1758 - 1808) 1784

George Romney (1734-1802)

George Boscawen 3rd Viscount Falmouth (1758 - 1808), George Romney
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63.5 cm
Elizabeth, daughter of the sitter, who married Lord Arthur John Henry Somerset; Her son Rev. George Henry Somerset, rector of St Mabyn Cornwall; His daughter Mrs George Stapleton and then to her daughter; Spink and Son, London c.1930; Howard Young Galleries; Newhouse Galleries, New York; Private Collection Ohio.
Humphry Ward and William Roberts A biographical and critical essay with a catalogue raisonne of the works of George Romney 1904 Vol. II p.52
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Sittings listed
1784 February 10th 13th 18th 25th 28th March 2nd 3rd 20th 23rd May 8th 10th

The battlefields of North America occupied the British arms for much of the eighteenth century, in fighting against the French, the Indians and ultimately the American colonists. The Boscawen family were well-represented in this struggle. Most notably, Lord Falmouth's father, Admiral Sir Edward Boscawen earned undying fame in his defeat of the French at Louisbourg in Canada in 1758, a magnificent combined operation in which the land forces were commanded by James Wolfe.

Lord Falmouth, who had been born in the year of this victory, duly served not in the Navy, but in the army, taking a commission in the 15th (Royal Irish) Dragoons. Although this regiment did not serve in the American War, Falmouth himself is described (Walter Hawken Tregellas in Dictionary of National Biography) as being present at the Battle of Lexington Green in 1775, the first engagement of the American War of Independence. In this confused beginning to the war, a British column on its way to Concord to investigate a cache of weapons believed to be held by the rebellious colonists of Massachusetts, engaged a company of minutemen at the small village of Lexington. Two volleys were fired by the British when the rebels would not disperse, the second of these hitting the American lines and killing eighteen men. The minutemen withdrew, but harried the British during their advance to Concord and during their subsequent retreat to Boston. This technique of guerrilla warfare, relatively new to the British army, was to become characteristic of the warfare, and gave the undergunned American forces their greatest advantages in its initial phases.

Lord Falmouth did not serve at any length in America, and it may be that he was there only for a brief secondment. He had obtained his commission in the previous year, which was to be the beginning of a lengthy career in the service. In the absence of legitimate children in 1782 he succeeded his uncle - a ''persistent whoremonger'' (Complete Peerage p.247 n) - as Viscount Falmouth, and appropriate court appointments followed. In 1789 - 1790 he served as Chief Justice in Eyre North of the Trent, and in 1790 was appointed to the Privy Council. From that year until very nearly the end of his life he held the command of the Gentleman Pensioners, and in 1795 while still serving was promoted to full colonel.

He took little part in politics - unlike his late brothers and other members of the Boscawen family, who had made a private political fiefdom out of the influence they held in their native Cornwall and the parliamentary seats of Penryn, St Mawes and Truro - but supported the administration of William Pitt the younger, from whose favour he no doubt received these conventional appointments. His sphere of authority would have been local rather than national, based on the patronage that radiated from his seat at Tregothnan in Cornwall.

In June 1784 he married Anne the daughter and heir of John Crewe of Bolesworth Castle Cheshire. Their son Edward succeeded his father in 1808 and in 1821 was created Earl of Falmouth.

This portrait is a characteristic, polished work of the 1780s, perhaps the period in which Romney was enjoying to the full his reputation as a society portraitist, independently of the Royal Academy and to the chagrin of Reynolds. Two portraits were probably produced from the numerous recorded sittings that Lord Falmouth gave to Romney, one of which is still in the collection of the Dukes of Beaufort. The timing of the commission strongly suggested that it was for a marriage pair, and there may exist a companion portrait of Anne Crewe intended to hang alongside, although no sittings are known. Lord Falmouth''s famous uncle Sir Edward Boscawen was painted by Romney in 1776.
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