Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charles 4th Duke of Richmond (1764-1819) 1790c.

John Hoppner RA (17581810)

Portrait of Charles 4th Duke of Richmond (1764-1819), John Hoppner RA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25inches 76.2 x 63.5cm
Baroness Burdett Coutts
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The character of Charles Duke of Richmond that emerges from his biography would seem very ably to have been captured in Hoppner's portrait. Charm and arrogance each reveal themselves in the actions of a man who endeared himself to the regiment of which he was colonel by playing cricket with the ranks, but who fought two duels during his military career, one of them, remarkably, with the Duke of York, son of his sovereign, King George III.

Richmond was for much of his life plain Charles Lennox, son of Lieutenant General Lord George Lennox, the younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Richmond. Like his father -and uncle- he pursued a military career, and entered the Coldstream Guards. It was whilst he was a captain in this regiment that he challenged the Duke of York to a duel. On August 26th 1789 the two men met on Wimbledon Common. The Duke fired in the air, declaring that he bore no animosity to the other man, but had appeared merely to give him satisfaction. A tribunal of his brother officers convened to pass opinion on the incident declared that Lennox had ''behaved with courage, but from the pecularity of the circumstances, not with judgment.'' This is a precise and elegant pronouncement on an episode which with the death of either participant would have wiped out completely the agreeable future that Lennox was to enjoy.

In June of the following year, Lennox exchanged his captaincy in the Guards with Lord Strathnairn for the lieutenant colonelcy of the 35th Foot. This regiment was then stationed in Edinburgh, and on Lennox's arrival the Castle was illuminated for his sake. He was further honoured by being presented with the Freedom of the City and by being made an honorary member of the Corporation of Goldsmiths. It was in Edinburgh that he took the unprecedented step of playing cricket alongside the rank and file of his command, which earned him the affection of his regiment. Before assuming his command, however, he had fought a further duel in London. He met near Uxbridge with Theophilus Swift, who had published a pamphlet attacking Lennox's character. Swift was hit in the body, but he survived his wound.

His next posting was to the Leeward Islands, where, in St Dominca in 1794, his regiment was more than decimated by Yellow Fever, some forty officers and six hundred other ranks being afflicted. Promotion removed Lennox from such disagreeable stations, and in the following year he was appointed Colonel aide-de-camp to King George III. In 1798 he was promoted major general. In 1800 he was made colonel-commandant and in 1803 Colonel of the 35th Foot. Two years later he was appointed Lieutenant General, although his promotion to full General would not come for another nine years in 1814.

He did not neglect a political career at this time. From 1790 he had been Member of Parliament for Sussex, in which role he was, like the father whom he replaced, a supporter of Pitt. He continued to represent this constituency until he succeeded to the Dukedom of Richmond and Lennox on the death of his uncle on December 29th 1806. In the following year he was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His Chief Secretary was Colonel Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington. He left Ireland only in 1813, when he took up residence in Brussels. It was there in 1815 that his wife hosted the spectacular Ball before the Battle of Quatre Bras -immortalised shortly afterwards by Byron and more recently by film. During the Battle of Waterloo the Duke was in the company of Wellington, and his son, Charles Gordon Lennox Earl of March -who had first served Wellington in this capacity in 1810- acted as an aide-de-camp to the Field Marshal.

In 1818 Richmond was appointed Governor of British North America (Upper and Lower Canada), although he did not live long to enjoy the appointment, as he died on August 20th 1819 from rabies. This hideous end was probably the result of being bitten by a young fox.

This portrait places itself firmly in the early 1790s, the most accomplished period of Hoppner's work, before he became tormented by competition with Lawrence. It has all of the virtues of his art at its best, displaying an easy freedom, a bold sureness of stroke and an apparently effortless yet ingenious harmonisation of tones. This portrait relates to a similar composition in the collection of The Earl Bathurst, in which the Duke is shown in uniform with his dog under his arm. This latter portrait has had the later addition of a Garter Star, to which the Duke was entitled by his investiture in 1812. The present portrait is arguably a finer painting and plainly derives immediately from a life sitting. Until recently it was identified merely as a portrait of Mr Lenox(sic), as the Duke was known until he succeeded to his uncle''s title in 1806.
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