Charles Jervas, The Right Honourable Henry Pelham (1694–1754)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
The Right Honourable Henry Pelham (1694–1754)
The Stone Parlour
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 125 cm, Overall width: 97.5 cm
Charles Jervas (1675-1739)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed bottom left: ‘The Right Honble Henry Pelham’


Henry Pelham was born on 29 September 1694, the eighth child of Thomas, first Baron Pelham of Laughton and his second wife Grace, daughter of Gilbert Holles, 3rd Earl of Clare. His half-sister Elizabeth by his father’s first wife Elizabeth Jones married Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. In October 1726 Pelham married Lady Katherine Manners. Their affectionate marriage was marred by the death of both sons in November 1739 from a throat infection, swiftly followed by the death of their daughter Lucy. Pelham’s close relationship with his elder brother Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, was a significant influence throughout his life.

Pelham served as MP for Seaford from 1717 and for the county of Sussex from 1722 until his death in 1754. His family connections and support for Robert Walpole ensured a swift rise to political prominence and from the early 1720s to his death he held increasingly important positions in government. He was appointed chancellor in 1743 and chief minister from 1746. Efficient, measured and conciliatory, Pelham’s most lasting achievement was his restructuring of the national debt. This facilitated victory in the Seven Years War and enabled a much-needed period of stability for the country. 

Most portraits of Pelham date from his later years in the guise of chancellor; this is a rare early portrait from his youth. It dates from the early–mid-1720s when Pelham first rose to political prominence as a member of Walpole’s Treasury Board and from 1724 as secretary at war. Charles Jervas (c.1675–1739) worked extensively for the Pelham and Townshend families. He owed his appointment as principal painter to George I in 1723 to the support of Newcastle, Walpole and Townshend, and the 2nd Viscount Townshend also commissioned a copy of his own portrait to present to Pelham.

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. 226, no. 15 (‘RIGHT HON. HENRY PELHAM’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 23

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