Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of George, 1st Earl of MacCartney (1737-1806), and his secretary Sir George Leonard Staunton (1737-1801) c. 1792 

Lemuel Francis Abbott (c.1760-1802)

Portrait of George, 1st Earl of MacCartney (1737-1806), and his secretary Sir George Leonard Staunton (1737-1801) c. 1792, Lemuel Francis Abbott
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 in (127 x 101.2 cm)
The sitter, Sir George Leonard Staunton, Bt. (1737-1801) of County Gal way, Ireland By family descent to Charlotte Margaretta Lynch Given on 11 October 1875 to her son, George Staunton Lynch-Staunton His sale, Christie''s, 8 July 1927, Lot.70, bt.Pawsey Payne Collection of Dr.Dallas Bache Pratt (1914-94), U.S.A.
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This significant portrait record was commissioned to commemorate the Peace of Mangalore, signed on 11 March 1784 by Lord George Macartney and Tipu Sultan (1749/53-99), the Sultan of Mysore. The latter was one of the last powerful, independent sovereigns in southern India before it was subdued by the British. Depicted in conference with Macartney is his fellow countryman and secretary Sir George Leonard Staunton of Cargin, County Galway.

Macartney, one of the most distinguished and far travelled diplomats of his day, was born the only son of George Macartney of Lissanoure, County Antrim, Ireland. His achievements during his brilliant early career included the post of envoy-extraordinary to Saint Petersburg and the speech that he delivered to Catherine the Great was so accomplished it drew the comment from Charles James Fox that it was one of the neatest things of the kind I ever saw; and I can assure you Burke admires it prodigiously. On his return to England he was offered the ambassadorship to Russia which he declined. He was elected to Parliament for Cockermouth but resigned when elected for Antrim in the Irish House of Commons, in view of his becoming chief secretary for Ireland - a post to which he was appointed 1 January 1769 and held until 1772. As leader of the ministerial side in the Irish house, he was noted for his good temper and firmness in dealing with the opposition led by Henry Flood and Dr Charles Lucas. In 1774 he was made governor of Toome Castle, a sinecure worth 1,000/.

The next year he accepted the governorship of the Caribbee Islands (Grenada and Tobago). His aide-de-campe in Grenada was Staunton and both men were captured by the French but only after defending the territory with honour. Staunton became and remained Macartney''s life-long secretary and companion. A man of great education and a friend of Edmund Burke and Dr Johnson, his service to diplomacy was ultimately recognised with an Irish baronetcy in 1765. He published an account of his later travels with Macartney in 1797 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In 1780 Macartney was appointed governor and president of Fort St. George in Madras, the main stronghold and administrative centre of the British in southern India and Staunton accompanied him as his secretary. On his arrival in Madras in June 1781 the British were engage in war against the Dutch and the British position was seriously threatened by the Sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali''s alliance with the Dutch and French. Macartney efficiently seized the Dutch ports and outposts in India and swiftly concluded the matter, culminating in the death of Hyder soon after.

At this point Macartney conceived the idea of making peace with Hyder''s successor, the famous Tipu Sultan in an attempt to avoid future clashes with the Sultanate of Mysore. Tipu, newly ascended to the throne and faced with the defeat of the Dutch and an alliance between Britain and France, agreed to co-operate. As the governor''s most trusted colleague, Staunton was chosen in late 1783 as one of three envoys sent to negotiate with Tipu Sultan. The present picture is a commemoration of that event, with Macartney presenting Staunton with the terms of peace that are to be offered to the Sultan, while Staunton points to the city of Mangalore on the map (the port on the Indian ocean where the treaty was signed).

After the successful completion of the treaty Staunton was created an Irish baronet and Macartney was offered the governor-generalship of India, which he declined. Macartney took his seat in the Irish House of Peers in 1788, was made custos rotulurum of Antrim and a member of the Irish Privy Council.

In 1792 Macartney and Staunton headed the first English embassy to China to meet with the Quianlong Emperor himself.
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