John Somers, Baron Somers
17 of 21 portraits on display in Room 9 at the National Portrait Gallery
John Somers, Baron Somers
by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
oil on canvas, before 1711
35 3/4 in. x 27 3/4 in. (908 mm x 705 mm)
Given by the Art Fund, 1945
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Sitterback to top
- John Somers, Baron Somers (1651-1716), Lord Chancellor. Sitter associated with 38 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (1646-1723), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 1681 portraits, Sitter associated with 30 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Having entered the Middle Temple in 1669, Somers won a great legal reputation and was junior counsel for the Seven Bishops in 1688. He also helped to draft the Bill of Rights. As Solicitor-General and Attorney-General he created a new and important tradition by his temperate prosecution of the enemies of the new regime of William and Mary. As a leader of the Whigs he organised the Junto, a close body of ministers which in some ways anticipated the Cabinet. He became a Baron and Lord Chancellor in 1697 and was finally ousted from office when the Tories came to power in 1710. Described by Johnathan Swift as possessing 'all excellent qualifications, except virtue', in this portrait Somers holds a first edition of an octavo edition of Spenser's Fairie Queene published in 1715 and dedicated to him.
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Events of 1711back to top
Current affairsQueen Anne dismisses from office her closest companion, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, over disagreements principally concerning matters of state. Sarah's husband, the Duke of Marlborough, is also dismissed, a victim of ambition and political intrigue. The South Sea Company is launched to undertake the nation's debt.
Art and scienceComposer, George Frideric Handel's first London opera Rinaldo is staged at the Queen's Theatre and privately performed for the queen on her birthday at St. James's Palace. The following year Handel would leave the Hanoverian court to settle in London. Essayists, Sir Richard Steele and Joseph Addison establish The Spectator.
InternationalSecret peace negotiations between France and England resume to end the War of the Spanish Succession. Lord treasurer, Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford sends poet and diplomat, Matthew Prior, to France accompanied by Louis XIV's secret negotiator, François Gaultier, to conduct talks directly with the French king.
See this portrait
On display in Room 9 at the National Portrait Gallery