circle of Peter Lely, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621–1683)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621–1683)
The Belisarius Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 122 cm, Overall width: 99 cm
circle of Peter Lely (1618-1680)
Catalogue Number


The politician Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621–1683) was the son of the politician Sir John Cooper (d. 1631), Baronet of Rockbourne, Hampshire, and Anne Ashley (d. 1628) of Wimborne St Giles, who both died when he was young. Ashley-Cooper fought for both Charles I and Parliament during the English Civil Wars but was pardoned by Charles II on the Restoration. He became a prominent leader of the Whig party and was a member of the ‘Cabal’ ministry, named after the ministers Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. On 23 April 1672, Ashley-Cooper was created the Earl of Shaftesbury and Baron Cooper of Paulet. Later that year, on 17 November, he was made lord chancellor (1672–4). He fled to the Netherlands in 1682, after a fall from grace following the failure of the Exclusion Bill, and died in Amsterdam.

This portrait represents Shaftesbury in armour with a baton of command, standing beside a table on which is displayed his parliamentary regalia of a mace and black-and-gold robes set in front of the lord chancellor’s embroidered ‘burse’, the purse used to carry the Great Seal of the Realm. RN74 has been traditionally attributed to Kneller. However, this is unlikely given that Shaftesbury was lord chancellor in 1672–4 and the artist did not arrive in England until two years later. The face, hair and parts of the armour are painted to a technically high standard, though other passages, notably the left hand, are somewhat weaker. It is possible that the figure is based on a portrait of Shaftesbury by Sir Peter Lely, in Earl Spencer’s collection at Althorp, possibly taken from a print showing the bust directed to the left (British Museum, K.68.127). The portrait is also comparable to a portrait at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, by Lely of James II in armour holding a baton (National Trust, NT 453780).

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 234, no. 52 [‘MAN’]

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