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Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Bt

6 of 118 portraits of Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Bt

Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Bt, by Sir William Charles Ross, circa 1840 - NPG 2056 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Bt

by Sir William Charles Ross
watercolour on ivory, circa 1840
15 1/2 in. x 13 1/2 in. (394 mm x 343 mm)
Transferred from Tate Gallery: London: UK, 1957
Primary Collection
NPG 2056


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Sir Francis Burdett was one of the most radical and outspoken politicians of his time. A fearless advocate of free speech and of the reform of the House of Commons, he was a constant thorn in the side of the government and was twice imprisoned. Pursuing his humanitarian interests, Burdett was one of the sponsors of the Martin Act of 1822, the first piece of legislation for protecting animals. In this miniature he is shown in riding dress with a dog, notably provided with a water bowl, at his feet. By the time this portrait was painted Burdett had more or less retired from active politics. His support for animal rights did not extend to fox-hunting, a pastime to which he devoted much of his retirement.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 2057: Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts (companion portrait)

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Events of 1840back to top

Current affairs

Victoria marries her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; he is given the title of Prince Consort. The Penny Black stamp is introduced by Rowland Hill; the first pre-paid, self-adhesive stamp, it marks the start of the modern postal system. The start of the Irish potato famine, which by the time of its peak in 1851, had caused the deaths of one million, and contributed to the sharp rise of emigration from Ireland to England and America.

Art and science

Beau Brummel, the fashion leader responsible for sparking the culture of 'Dandyism', dies of syphilis. The first stone is laid on the new Houses of Parliament, based on the gothic designs by the architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. The old buildings had burned down in 1834, following a blaze caused by burning wooden tallies used by the Exchequer to calculate tax.

International

The Afghans surrender to Britain during the Afghan-British war (1839-42). The war was sparked by British fear over Russian influence in Afghanistan, with the British East India Company resolving to depose the Afghan leader, Dost Muhammad, who was insistent on Afghan independence, and restore the former leader Shoja Shah. The Maoris yield sovereignty of New Zealand under Treaty of Waitangi.

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