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George Canning

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George Canning

by Sir Thomas Lawrence
oil on canvas, 1825
93 3/4 in. x 58 in. (2381 mm x 1473 mm)
Given by Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, 1919
Primary Collection
NPG 1832


This classic ‘Lawrence’ frame of…

Sitterback to top

  • George Canning (1770-1827), Prime Minister. Sitter associated with 62 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Portrait painter, collector and President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 689 portraits, Sitter in 25 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Lawrence depicts Canning declaiming in the House of Commons. One supporter saw it and recalled his spirit-rousing 'Portugal' speech: 'Here I plant my standard and where the standard of Britain is planted no oppressor can ever come!' However Burdett, an opponent, thought him posed 'like an actor standing before a glass rehearsing a part.'

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 1338: George Canning (variant version)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
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  • Cox, Paul, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, 2015 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 March - 7 June 2015), p. 100 Read entry

    Castlereagh was succeeded as foreign secretary by George Canning. It was as a result of Canning's foreign policies that a rift developed between him and Wellington. For example, Canning was sympathetic to the South American states that wished to break away from Spanish and Portuguese rule. Wellington, on the other hand, had an instinctive respect for the royal authority represented by the existing arrangements. Furthermore, he felt it wrong to support such movements abroad while suppressing similar aspirations for Irish independence. An additional disagreement with Canning was over the issue of Catholic emancipation - the removal of the restrictions preventing Catholics from participation in public life, particularly in government, which had been in place since the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Although Lord Liverpool had become prime minister in 1812 on the understanding that his Cabinet would remain neutral on the issue, Canning was openly sympathetic to Catholic emancipation, despite the threat this posed to the government's authority.

    In the light of this visible split, it was inevitable that people assumed Wellington held opposite views to Canning on all the burning questions of the day. On the Catholic issue even his political colleagues failed to understand his actual position. For example in 1825 he drafted a plan to legalise the Catholic Church's relationship with the British government though an agreement with the Pope. Although this plan was never enacted, it is clear that Wellington was not, as the Tories restisting Catholic emancipation supposed, entirely opposed to some form of settlement.

    Lord Liverpool suffered a stroke in 1827, which ended his prime ministership. To many, Canning and Wellington were the leading candidates to replace him but Wellington refused to have his name put forward. In fact, he proporsed alternatives, but also warned the King that choosing Canning would weaken the government. When George IV finally selected Canning, Wellington refused to serve in his Cabinet, resigning his position as Master-General of the Ordnance. He also resigned as commander-in-chief of the army, a position usually reserved for a member of the royal family, but which had been given to him on the death of the Duke of York at the beginning of the year. Six other ministers resigned alongside Wellington, leading to accusations othat he was leading a 'cabal' against the King and the new Prime Minister.1

    1 Elizabeth Longford, Wellington: Pillar of State (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1972), p 57.

  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 99
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 100
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 100, 167 Read entry

    Gilt compo on pine, mitred with corner blocks, the sight slip water gilt. 11 inches wide including slip.

    The classic Lawrence frame of the 1820s on this portrait of the Foreign Secretary, George Canning, was probably made by George Morant, whose label is found on the almost identical frame on Lawrence's portrait of the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool (National Portrait Gallery, on loan to the National Gallery). Both portraits formed part of Sir Robert Peel's gallery of statesmen; see also NPG 1804.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 94

Placesback to top

Events of 1825back to top

Current affairs

Strikes, contract breaking and worker intimidation prompt the passing of a new Anti-Trade Union Combination Act to the dismay of economist John McCulloch, MP Joseph Hume and radical Francis Place who had worked for the repeal of the previous year.
Catholic Relief Bill is rejected by the House of Lords.

Art and science

Construction of Thames Tunnel begins under the direction of Marc Isambard Brunel.
Stockton to Darlington Railway, the world's first passenger system, opens.
William Hazlitt publishes The Spirit of the Age; twenty-five pen-portraits of his contemporaries in the world of literature, philosophy and politics.


Beethoven's Ninth Symphony premieres in London.
John Quincy Adams is elected President of the United States.

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