Maria Anne Fitzherbert (née Smythe)

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

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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

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

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

This portraitback to top

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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Events of 1788back to top

Current affairs

Parliament begins an investigation into the slave trade, led by reformers Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.
Regency Crisis; George III's madness is announced provoking a political storm.
Former Governor-General of Bengal Warren Hastings' trial begins before the House of Lords.
Henry Benedict Stuart becomes the new Stuart claimant to the British throne.

Art and science

Artist Thomas Gainsborough dies.
First edition of The Times newspaper is published in London.
Scottish engineer and inventor William Symington demonstrates the first paddle steamer on Dalswinton Loch near Dumfries.
Robert Burns writes his version of the Scots poem Auld Lang Syne.


Ministers of the French King, Louis XVI, reluctantly announce that the Estates General will meet the following year, for the first time since 1614.
United States constitution comes into force when New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify it.
First Fleet reaches Australia, anchoring in Botany Bay. Arthur Phillip, selecting a suitable site for the first Australian penal colony, names the place Sydney Cove.

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