Maria Anne Fitzherbert (née Smythe)

1 portrait on display in Room 17 at the National Portrait Gallery

Maria Anne Fitzherbert (née Smythe), by Sir Joshua Reynolds, circa 1788 - NPG L162 - By consent of the owners; on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London; photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

By consent of the owners; on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London; photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

Maria Anne Fitzherbert (née Smythe)

by Sir Joshua Reynolds
oil on canvas, circa 1788
36 in. x 28 in. (914 mm x 711 mm)
Lent by Tweed Investments Ltd, 1976
Primary Collection
NPG L162

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  • Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Painter and first President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 1413 portraits, Sitter associated with 38 portraits.

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Alongside his gambling, drinking and gluttony, George, Prince of Wales was notorious for his serial amorous adventures. His most extreme seduction campaign came when he met the beautiful Catholic widow Mrs Fitzherbert in 1784. She resisted his advances, but George was not going to take 'no' for an answer. He proposed despite being forbidden, as heir to the throne, to marry a Catholic.Maria declined and made plans to flee the country until she received word that 'The Prince has stabbed himself. Only you can save his life.' When she arrived, she found herself coerced into marriage and a ring slipped onto her finger. Despite the secrecy that shrouded their relationship,
by George's standards it was amazingly enduring, lasting until 1805. Even after a succession of other mistresses and his failed marriage to Princess Caroline, his love for Maria never faded. Her portrait in miniature was found around his neck when he died and it was buried with him.

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