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King George IV

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King George IV

by Richard Cosway
watercolour on ivory, 1792
2 3/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. (70 mm x 57 mm) oval
Purchased, 1981
Primary Collection
NPG 5389

Sitterback to top

  • King George IV (1762-1830), Regent 1811-19; Reigned 1820-30. Sitter associated with 273 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Richard Cosway (1742-1821), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 98 portraits, Sitter in 16 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This miniature depicts George, Prince of Wales in van Dyck-style masquerade costume with a heavily powdered grey wig. It is mounted in a fine gold locket with a 'true-love' lock of plaited hair on the reverse. The precious and intimate nature of this object suggests that it was intended as a love-token for either Mrs Fitzherbert or Mrs Crouch, the Prince's two lovers in 1792.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 162 Read entry

    As Prince of Wales, George was given no official duties by his father King George III. As had become typical, as the eldest son of the monarch, he sought to undermine the king by siding with his political opponents. When the king suffered a bout of mental illness in 1788, the prime minister William Pitt proposed a restricted regency to protect the king's interests. The king's recovery three months later ended the 'regency crisis'. Pitt's Regency Bill was revived, however, during the king's final illness: George was sworn regent in 1811, crowned king in 1820 and ruled until 1830.

    This miniature, here shown slightly larger than life-size, by George's friend and Principal Painter Richard Cosway, depicts the prince in van Dyck-style masquerade costume with a heavily powdered grey wig. It is mounted in a fine gold locket with a 'true-love' lock of plaited hair on the reverse. The precious and intimate nature of this object suggests that it was intended as a love-token for either Mrs Fitzherbert or Mrs Crouch, the prince's two lovers in 1791.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 241
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 74
  • Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 93 Read entry

    By 1785 Cosway was allowed to describe himself as the Prince's Principal Painter, and thereafter delighted to inscribe his works as in NPG 5389, for instance. This is dated 1792 and an account for it was sent to the Prince for thirty guineas, though the bill may never have been settled.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 200

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1792back to top

Current affairs

The famous seven year trial of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal, on charges of embezzlement and murder, ends with his acquittal. Pro-Revolutionary philosopher Joseph Priestley's house is destroyed by a mob on the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. Their actions are later seen as a key moment in the defeat of Enlightenment ideals in England.

Art and science

Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; a radical work which called on women to be allies to one another; fearless in their support and free in their criticism.
Sir Joshua Reynolds dies and is succeeded by Benjamin West as President of the Royal Academy.


The mob invades the Tuileries and the French Royal Family is imprisoned marking the end of France's experiment with constitutional monarchy and the declaration of the first French Republic.
The Revolutionary Commune is established in Paris.
France declares war on Austria and then Prussia.

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