Henry Bone R.A. (1755-1834)
As the King’s health deteriorated from 1778, it became unthinkable to the Queen that her daughters should leave the royal household and marry, preferring to keep them as her companions as she grew older...
The direct royal commission for this miniature, as a gift from Princess Elizabeth to her friend and confidant Lord St. Helens, is an indication of Henry Bone’s status as the appointed enamel painter of the Hanoverian household.
Princess Elizabeth, the third daughter and seventh child of King George III and Queen Charlotte, was born in May 1770 and, along with her sisters, led a sheltered and secluded life. The princesses’ education was relatively informal when compared to their brothers, being supervised by Governess Lady Charlotte Finch. Princess Elizabeth excelled in practical art during her education and in 1795 produced a series of pictures ‘The Birth and Triumph of Cupid’ which were engraved by Tomkins. As the King’s health deteriorated from 1778, it became unthinkable to the Queen that her daughters should leave the royal household and marry, preferring to keep them as her companions as she grew older. Queen Charlotte had a poor relationship with her daughters, she was not naturally maternal and her overbearing and controlling nature pushed her daughters to breaking-point with Princess Elizabeth writing to her brother George, Prince of Wales that ‘tho' I do not expect to be happy, believe me, I shall be content’ and Princess Augusta writing four letters to their mother begging for more freedom. Following the Prince of Wales’ accession to Prince Regent during his father’s illness, he improved the lives of his sisters by increasing their allowances and freedom and supporting their wish to be entered into society.
The recipient of this miniature, Alleyne FitzHerbert, 1st Baron St. Helens, was a British diplomat and a friend of explorer George Vancouver, who named Mount St. Helens, in what is now Washington, after him. He was Minister Plenipotentiary to
Princess Elizabeth wanted to marry and have children but this looked increasingly unlikely as she grew older. There were unsubstantiated rumours that Elizabeth had secretly married the royal page George Ramus and had given birth to a daughter, Eliza, in 1788. In 1808 an offer of marriage was made by the Duke of Orleans, later King Louis Philippe of France, but Queen Charlotte refused on the grounds of his Catholicism. Four years later at the age of 42 Elizabeth acquired her own property, the Priory in Old Windsor and six years later married Prince Frederick of Hesse-Homburg, however, it was too late for Elizabeth to bear children. Although their marriage was not a ‘love match’, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Frederick were extremely happy and, moving to Germany after their marriage, Elizabeth was free from the repressive existence inflicted on her by her mother. In 1820 Prince Frederick became Landgraf of Hesse-Homburg after his father’s death and Elizabeth became Landgravine.
Henry Bone was a leading miniaturist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Born in Truro in 1755, he was the son of a cabinet-maker and learnt to paint first on china in Plymouth whilst working for the Cookworthy factory. He apprenticed in Bristol under Richard Champion and then moved to London where he worked on designing jewellery and later began painting portrait miniatures, following the advice of John Wolcot (the satirist Peter Pindar). From 1781 he began exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy, at first using watercolour on ivory and later moving towards the technique of enamelling. In 1780 he married Elizabeth Van der Meulen and they had several children, five of which (including Henry Pierce Bone) became miniaturists. From 1800 Henry Bone was appointed enamel painter to the Prince of Wales and then subsequently to George III, George IV and William IV.
Bone is most famous for his ambitious copies of oil paintings, which he produced through visiting private collections where he would sketch in pencil a picture onto squared paper. These drawings would be the exact size of the enamel he intended to produce. He would then trace this image onto another sheet of paper coated with red chalk, under which the enamel plaque would be laid. The plaque would then be fired to fix the chalk outline and colouring could then begin; an enamel could be fired up to twelve times and could take three years to complete.
Bone’s original drawings were bound into three large volumes and include his drawings after Edridge of Princess Elizabeth; these volumes are now in the National Portrait Gallery. These drawings were annotated by his sons which will explain the inaccurate date of 1811 for a drawing created before this 1810 enamel. The later frame for this work is incorrectly inscribed and the creation date on the counter-enamel of Dec. 1810 was misunderstood as being Princess Elizabeth’s birthdate. This enamel is one of five created after drawings by Edridge, including two of Lady Melville, one of Queen Charlotte and a second portrait of Princess Elizabeth, all commissioned by the Princess between 1803 and 1815.
 L. Stephen, The Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford, 1960), p.658.
 A. Aspinall, ed., The correspondence of George, prince of Wales, 1770–1812, 8 vols. (1963–71), vol 8, p.317.
 F. Fraser, Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III, (London, 2012).
 The child has often been said to have been adopted by her uncle, Henry Ramus of the East India Company, however there is no solid evidence for this claim.