Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Princess Augusta (1737-1813) as a Baby, with Britannia 

Charles Philips (1703-47)

Princess Augusta (1737-1813) as a Baby, with Britannia, Charles Philips
Zoom
Oil and Canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches, 127 x 101.6 cm
 
Provenance:
US Private Collection
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This portrait shows Princess Augusta (1737-1813) when a baby, greeted by the armoured figure of Britannia. Augusta was the eldest daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta, Princess of Wales, and also the elder sister of King George III. The picture relates to a large full-length portrait of the Princess of Wales holding her new born baby currently hanging at Warwick Castle, in which Augusta is presented facing a different direction. Philips was regularly patronised by Frederick, Prince of Wales.

That the figure in the present painting is intended to portray Britannia is confirmed by that goddess’s presence in the background of the full-length at Warwick. There, she is depicted with a shield inscribed with the union flag. The presence of Britannia makes the picture an interesting piece of royal propaganda.

The young Augusta was the first Hanoverian heiress to be born in Britain, and she was proudly heralded by her parents as an emphatically 'British' royal baby. At the time of her birth in 1737, Frederick, Prince of Wales was politically estranged from his father, George II, and actively tried to present himself as a British prince, in opposition to his German-speaking parents. 'Rule Britannia', for example, was first sung in Frederick's presence at Cliveden House in Berkshire. Indeed, such was the tension between Prince of Wales and his father that when his wife went into labour, Frederick insisted they flee Hampton Court so that the baby could be born in London, as a Londoner, away from the King and Queen. The poor Princess of Wales was raced over rough roads, and only just got to St James' Palace in time for a healthy birth.

This newly discovered painting is evidently unfinished, and a number of pentimenti visible in the background show that it was probably a composition abandoned in favour of the larger picture at Warwick Castle. However, the present picture was reproduced in mezzotinit in 1738 (published by John Faber the Younger), when it was given the caption, 'painted from ye life'.
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