William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam

William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam, by William Owen, exhibited 1817 - NPG 4979 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam

by William Owen
oil on canvas, exhibited 1817
50 in. x 40 in. (1270 mm x 1016 mm)
Purchased, 1974
Primary Collection
NPG 4979

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • William Owen (1769-1825), Painter. Artist associated with 97 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Fitzwilliam was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1796 but lasted only three weeks in office. He was a well-known Catholic sympathiser and his appointment was regarded as a sign of approaching concessions. Rashly, Fitzwilliam began to initiate changes within days of his arrival. He was forced to resign and, claiming to have been misled by William Pitt, he challenged the Prime Minister to a duel on returning to England. Police intervention prevented it from taking place. His recall is often seen as a tragic turning point in Irish affairs, marking the end of hopes of constitutional reform and paving the way for the use of armed force.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D36957: William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam (source portrait)
  • NPG D36958: William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1817back to top

Current affairs

Princess Charlotte, only daughter of George, Prince Regent and Caroline of Brunswick, dies in childbirth, prompting widespread mourning.
Seditious Meetings Bill drives democratic societies underground.
Rising depression and discontent; Prince Regent's coach attacked at state opening of Parliament.

Art and science

John Keats begins to write his epic poem Endymion on the Isle of Wight; a rite of passage as a professional poet after deserting his medical career.
John Constable exhibits Flatford Mill, one of his most famous naturalistic landscape paintings, at the Royal Academy
John Rennie's new Waterloo Bridge opens.


Journalist William Cobbett flees to America fearing prosecution. Already imprisoned for two years for seditious libel he grew more vehemently pro-reform on his release and reduced the price of his weekly periodical the Political Register to expand its circulation and influence to all classes.
James Monroe is elected President of the United States.

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