attributed to William Beechey, Lord Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend (1785–1853)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Lord Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend (1785–1853)
The State Dining Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 109 cm, Overall width: 87.5 cm
attributed to William Beechey (1753-1839)
Catalogue Number


The portrait depicts Lord Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend (1785–1853), second son of George Townshend, 2nd Marquess Townshend (1753–1811) and Charlotte née Elleker (d. 1802), daughter of Eaton Mainwaring Elleker of Risby Park, Yorkshire. On 24 March 1812, Charles married his cousin Charlotte, daughter of General William Loftus of Stiffkey, Norfolk. Having initially failed to retain the Townshend parliamentary family seat at Tamworth, he eventually won it back after Sir Robert Peel stepped down. A steady Whig supporter, he retained his seat until his retirement in 1834. Charles died on 5 November 1853 aged sixty-eight and was buried in the family chapel at Raynham. His widow erected a neo-classical monument in his honour and, when she died on 21 March 1866, she was buried in the same grave. 

Stylistically, RN20 can be dated to about 1805–10, putting the sitter in his early twenties. It has been attributed in the past to George Duncan Beechey (1798–1852) but, given his age, the attribution is untenable. Furthermore, the sitter’s face is sensitively rendered with fluid brushstrokes and delicate highlights found in works by his father, the renowned artist Sir William Beechey, notably his dashing military and naval portraits, such as Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton (Wellington Collection, Apsley House, WM.1485–1948).

Lord Charles Vere Townshend served as a major in the Norfolk Rangers (1808) and later became captain of the Norfolk Yeoman Cavalry (1831). The pre-1800 uniform of the Norfolk Rangers included a green coat so Townshend presumably wears a new uniform that came into effect in the early nineteenth century. However, no record of the Rangers’ uniform at this time has come to light. The Norfolk Rangers was raised in response to the American Revolutionary War in 1782 by Charles’s father, George Townshend, Lord Ferrers of Chartley and later 2nd Marquess Townshend. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Rangers consisted of three regiments that were eventually disbanded in 1828. In 1831 it was revived as the Norfolk Yeoman Cavalry, maintaining its role as a home defence force until its disbandment in 1849. 

Sir William Beechey (1753–1839) initially trained as a lawyer before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1772. He is thought to have trained with Zoffany and his earliest portraits emulate the kind of conversation pieces for which that artist was best known. Beechey exhibited at the Royal Academy throughout his career, beginning in 1776, a few years after he commenced his artistic training. He lived in Norwich for five years in the 1780s but was back in London by 1787. Not long afterwards, he was named portrait painter to Queen Charlotte and was later knighted for his vast group portrait George III reviewing the Dragoons. He was more restrained in his style than his contemporaries John Hoppner and Sir Thomas Lawrence but he continued to be popular with the royal family, becoming portrait painter to William Frederick, 2nd Duke of Gloucester and later William IV.

by Emily Knight


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, pp. 227–28, no. 20, illus. opp. p. 228 (‘LORD CHARLES TOWNSHEND’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 25

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