Maria Verelst, The Honourable William Townshend (1702–1738)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
The Honourable William Townshend (1702–1738)
The Red Saloon
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 103 cm, Overall width: 135 cm
Maria Verelst (1680-1744)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed lower right: ‘Wm 4th Son to Charles Ld/ Viscount Townshend’


William Townshend was the third son of Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and his first wife Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Pelham, 1st Lord Pelham of Laughton, Sussex. Born on 9 June 1702, he served as MP for Great Yarmouth in 1723–38. On 29 May 1725 he married Henrietta, daughter of Lord William Powlett (or Paulet), with whom he had three surviving children. He died on 28 January 1738, a few months before his father. 

Townshend was appointed aide-de-camp to the king with the rank of colonel in 1724, captain lieutenant of the 3rd Dragoon Guards in 1727 and usher of the Exchequer from 1730. Shortly after the arrival of Frederick, Prince of Wales in England in December 1728, William Townshend was made a groom of the Bedchamber to the Prince. He was soon a firm favourite and in 1733 Townshend’s vote against the excise bill was taken to be a reflection of the prince’s view. This position did not endear him to George II, who described Townshend as ‘The most impertinent puppy in the Prince’s whole family’.1

The pose and clothing of this portrait of William Townshend as a young man may have been intended to echo the portrait of 2nd Viscount Townshend by Godfrey Kneller in Garter robes, now in the NPG (NPG 3623). It was originally a standard 50 x 40-inch half-length and was later cropped at the top and extended left. More recently, it has been framed as a set with portraits of his siblings Thomas (RN47) and Elizabeth (RN6, also by Maria Verelst), which were similarly altered to a landscape format, probably in the twentieth century.

Maria Verelst (1680–1744) painted several portraits of Townshend women and children between c.1710 and c.1715 (see also RN6, RN64, RN75 and RN86). Verelst was from a family of Dutch painters working in London; she was the niece and pupil of Simon Pietersz Verelst who was well-known as a specialist flower painter. Maria Verelst used a standard repertoire of poses, dresses and backdrops, indicating that she ran a professional studio practice, still a rarity for female artists at this time.

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. 231, no. 34 (‘HON. WILLIAM TOWNSHEND’)


  1. Hervey, 1848, vol. 2, p. 120.


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