Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bt

1 portrait of Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bt

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Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bt

by John Linnell
oil on panel, 1838
17 7/8 in. x 14 7/8 in. (455 mm x 378 mm)
Purchased, 1887
Primary Collection
NPG 772

On display in Room 15 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • John Linnell (1792-1882), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 69 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • The British Portrait, 1660-1960, 1991, p. 308 number 301
  • Foister, Susan, Cardinal Newman 1801-90, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 20 May 1990), p. 23, 38 Read entry

    Peel became an MP in 1809 aged twenty-one and soon became embroiled in the Irish question; in 1812 he took up the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland which he held until 1818. His task was to maintain authority and order in the face of opposition from Daniel O'Connell which he approached by establishing a police force and speaking against Catholic emancipation. His acrimonious relationship with O'Connell resulted in Peel challenging him to a duel in 1815, which never took place, as O'Connell was arrested on his way to meet him.

    In 1822 Peel became Home Secretary; he resigned in 1827 when Canning succeeded Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister, because Canning was in favour of Catholic emancipation. He then changed his mind, believing that maintaining order in Ireland took priority, and introduced a bill for Catholic emancipation. He subsequently resigned and sought re-election at Oxford, where he was defeated and earned Newman's disapproval.

    Peel was afterwards re-elected elsewhere, and continued his political career, eventually introducing the bill to abolish Irish tithes as well as other church reforms, notably the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Commission in 1835. In 1841 he became Prime Minister, and once more faced the Irish question and O'Connell, now more than ever a crisis because of the potato famine; the suspension of the Corn Laws was one consequence of the situation.

  • Ormond, Richard, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p. 368
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 486

Events of 1838back to top

Current affairs

The Anti-Corn Law league is established in Manchester, led by Richard Cobden and John Bright, aiming to create a fully free-trade economy.
The People's Charter is published, demanding many constitutional amendments that would become central to future democratic reform, including universal male suffrage and secret ballots. Despite having one million signatures (and 5 million by 1848), the petition was rejected.
Slavery is completely abolished.

Art and science

Turner's The Fighting Temeraire is exhibited at the Royal Academy. The Temeraire, which had broken the line at the Battle of Trafalgar, was a reflection on the rapid changes of the industrial age. This was demonstrated this year when Isambard Brunel's Great Western crosses the Atlantic, in just fifteen days - a ship under sail could take a month.
The London-Birmingham railway is also completed, the line engineered by Robert Stephenson.


The first stage in the formation of independent Boer republics in South Africa, as the Republic of Natal is formed in South Africa, following the Boers defeat of the Matabele of Mzilikasi. This comes two years after the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the British-ruled colony of South Africa set out on the Great Trek, in search of their own independent state.
The Central American Federation, an experimental republic formed of several Latin states splits.

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