David Morier, Review of the Norfolk Militia

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Review of the Norfolk Militia
The Small Dining Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73.5 cm, Overall width: 137.2 cm
David Morier (c.1705-1770)
Catalogue Number


This painting depicts a review of the West Norfolk militia led by George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724–1807) as colonel. The revival of the militia was owed to a patriotic dissatisfaction with the Hanoverian dynasty and the recent deployment of German mercenaries to defend England against a possible French invasion. During the Seven Years War (1756–63) the militia acted as a second line of defence and freed up regular troops to serve overseas. At this time, the Norfolk militia was divided into two battalions. Alongside Townshend’s Western regiment, Armine Woodhouse, the other MP for Norfolk, led the Eastern regiment. By the end of the 1750s, the Norfolk militia was considered one of the most efficient battalions in the country and it was the first to be ordered outside its own county boundaries. The popularity of the militia is suggested in the painting by the groups of figures admiring the soldiers in their formation.

The castle on the horizon suggests that the site of the review may have been the fields next to Castle Rising, a medieval ruin lying less than twenty miles west of Raynham. The figure in the foreground wearing military dress with his arms outstretched is likely to be Townshend; the other figures can be identified only tentatively but one can assume that George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford who was lord lieutenant of Norfolk and colonel of the Norfolk militia from 1759, and William Windham II, who helped Townshend form the Norfolk militia and co-authored a disciplinary tract for the militia with Townshend, would be included.

David Morier (c.1705–1770) was a Swiss painter who came to England in 1743 and started working in 1747 for William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–1765) who was commander-in-chief of the Army. He later became ‘Limner’ to the Duke and received an annual salary of £100. Morier is known primarily for his small military portraits, many of which are in the Royal Collection.

by Emily Knight

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