This portrait of the duke is based on the portrait by Samuel Cooper in the Royal Collection, which in turn shows the same features as the signed miniature by the artist in the Buccleuch Collection (dated 1667).[1] Reynolds suggests that both portraits relate to a miniature by Nicholas Dixon, also in the Buccleuch Collection.

The portrait appears to be from the same source as another image copied by Rosse from Cooper – that of James, Duke of York – shown at the exhibition ‘Samuel Cooper and his Contemporaries’, National Portrait Gallery, 1974 (no. 195). It may have the same provenance as this example, and a work previously sold by Philip Mould & Co. also in the same exhibition of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond (no. 196). Identification of Rosse’s hand can be problematic, particularly as she painted many copies, but the number of works sold by her husband in 1723 indicates that she was a prolific artist, working on...

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This portrait of the duke is based on the portrait by Samuel Cooper in the Royal Collection, which in turn shows the same features as the signed miniature by the artist in the Buccleuch Collection (dated 1667).[1] Reynolds suggests that both portraits relate to a miniature by Nicholas Dixon, also in the Buccleuch Collection.

The portrait appears to be from the same source as another image copied by Rosse from Cooper – that of James, Duke of York – shown at the exhibition ‘Samuel Cooper and his Contemporaries’, National Portrait Gallery, 1974 (no. 195). It may have the same provenance as this example, and a work previously sold by Philip Mould & Co. also in the same exhibition of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond (no. 196). Identification of Rosse’s hand can be problematic, particularly as she painted many copies, but the number of works sold by her husband in 1723 indicates that she was a prolific artist, working on a variety of scales.

Although Cooper’s sketch of the young Monmouth is (typically) both naturalistic and psychologically penetrating (it is easy to see the young teen here earning Dryden’s quote that he was ‘only born for love’), later portraits of him hint at his precocious and vain nature.[2] The miniaturist Peter Cross, a similar age to the young duke, was a perhaps a better fit as his portraitist. [3]

The oldest natural son of Charles II (1630-1685), James Scott was born to Lucy Walter (?1630-1658) at Rotterdam. Charles always acknowledged James as his son and rumour persisted that Lucy and Charles were married (the third Duke of Buccleuch having found and destroyed the marriage certificate in the 18th century). James’s early childhood was traumatic and unstable - he was kidnapped twice and moved location and family almost constantly (the name ‘Crofts’ was adopted by him from Lord Crofts, who treated him as his son). He formally changed his name to Scott as a condition of his arranged marriage in 1663 to the wealthy Scottish heiress Anna Scott, who was already Countess of Buccleuch in her own right albeit only 12 (and he only 14) at that time.

After his marriage, James was publicly acknowledged by his father was created Duke of Monmouth and Earl of Doncaster. After their marriage he and his wife were also elevated in the Scottish peerage to the dukedom of Buccleuch and earldom of Dalkeith. Monmouth’s looks were much admired by his contemporaries, but his skills as soldier and commander were equally revered. After 1665, he enjoyed a prominent military career, serving in the navy under his uncle James Duke of York, and, in 1672, commanding the army that assisted Louis XIV (1638-1715) against the Dutch. In 1678 he was appointed general of all the land forces in Britain and Cooper’s original portrait of him, on which this is based, perhaps shows him around this date.

In the end, at the event of his father’s death in 1685, it seems that Monmouth over-estimated his own royal status and simultaneously underestimated his public support. Years of waiting and frustration culminated in an almost pathetic invasion of 83 men, who landed at Lyme Regis, Dorset prepared to fight. After a predictable defeat at the battle of Sedgemoor, Monmouth was brought to his uncle who immediately ordered his nephew’s execution to take place within weeks. The executioner botched the job; it was reported that it took five strokes of the axe to sever Monmouth’s head from his body.

A note on provenance

The earliest mention of the present work is found in the sale of Rosse’s husband, the court jeweller Michael Rosse (fl.1670-1723), where it was sold as lot 194. At some point thereafter it became grouped with a portfolio of works which then came into the possession of Ellen Tower, whose lineage can be traced back to Thomas Tower of Lancashire (d.1659). It is thought that the Tower family had connections to Rosse’s father Richard Gibson, and it was to him that for many years the unsigned drawings were attributed – probably due to the fact that within the collection were also signed works by Gibson.

Ellen Tower married W.H. Harford, D.L, and their daughter, Louise Emily Harford (1864-1945), who inherited the miniature from her mother, married Henry Somerset, 9th Duke of Beaufort (1847-1924) in 1895. The miniature was then inherited by Henry Hugh Arthur FitzRoy Somerset, 10th Duke of Beaufort (1900-1984), whom lent it to the exhibition ‘Samuel Cooper and his Contemporaries’ at the National Portrait Gallery in 1974. In her book ‘Samuel Cooper: 1609-1672’, published to coincide with the exhibition, Daphne Foskett first suggested the attribution to Rosse, and crucially established that numerous other works, also in the Michael Rosse sale, were to be found amongst the Beaufort collection and thus must also have belonged to the Harford family.

[1] G. Reynolds, The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 1999, cat. 120, p. 143

[2] This tender, unfinished sketch is in the Royal Collection [RCIN 420645]

[3] Cross’s portraits of the duke are in the collection at Welbeck Abbey (see Walpole Society, 1914-15, vol IV Plate XVI, no.91, circa 1683); another exists in a private collection with the original diamond-set gold frame

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500 Years of British Art