Godfrey Kneller, Charles II (1630–1685)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Charles II (1630–1685)
The Stone Parlour
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 122.5 cm, Overall width: 98.5 cm
Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)
Catalogue Number


Charles II visited Raynham Hall on 30 September 1671 while on progress round Norfolk. He was accompanied throughout the county by Horatio, Lord Townshend in his capacity as lord lieutenant. The king and the court lodged at Raynham, where they received ‘a great and noble Entertainment’.1 After a period in opposition Townshend returned his support to the king and was rewarded with a promotion to viscount on 2 December 1682.

This was one of several royal portraits that hung at Raynham. It may have been acquired as a pair with a portrait of James II, by or after Kneller, sold at the Townshend Heirlooms sale in 1904.2 Viscount Townshend also possessed a portrait of Charles II in armour by John Riley for which a bill survives in the Raynham archive. This latter portrait was also sold in 1904.3

In the opinion of Oliver Millar, who saw the painting at Raynham in 1995, RN59 could be Kneller’s original composition of c.1678. While he noted some weakness in the draperies, Millar observed that the composition was ‘smoother and more restrained in the head’. A studio copy, with slight variations, is at Saltram, Cornwall (National Trust, NT 337031; currently on loan to Trerice). In the Raynham version the knotted silk rope that forms a part of the complicated Garter ensemble is omitted. An engraving by Robert White, of the head and shoulders contained within a cartouche, published in 1679, bears a close resemblance to RN59 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, SPL 23.7). Kneller had arrived in London in 1676 and, according to Douglas Stewart, a portrait of Charles II was commissioned by the Duke of Monmouth,4 after which Kneller’s ‘reputation daily increased so that most noblemen & Ladies would have their picture done by him’.5 If RN59 is the original portrait of Charles II by Kneller, it is a highly significant painting in Kneller’s oeuvre.

by Amy Lim


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, p. 224, no. 3 (‘CHARLES II’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 19


  1. The London Gazette, no. 614, 2–5 October 1671.

  2. Townshend Heirlooms sale, 7 March 1904, p. 41 (180); Singh, 1928, vol. 2, p. 205, no. 50.

  3. Townshend Heirlooms sale, 7 March 1904, p. 38 (166); Singh, 1928, vol. 2, p. 200, no. 12. A version of the Riley portrait appears on the website of Historical Portraits, London, (accessed 3 February 2020).

  4. J. Douglas Stewart, ‘Kneller, Sir Godfrey [formerly Gottfried Kniller], baronet (1646–1723), history and portrait painter’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 September 2010,> (accessed 2 February 2020).

  5. ‘The Notebooks of George Vertue relating to artists and collections in England, Volume I’, The Walpole Society, vol. 18, 1929–30, p. 28.


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