John Finlayson after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester.
13¾ x 19¾ inches
Born out of wedlock but beautiful, Maria Walpole's life was to be one of sensation and scandal. She was most fortunate to have the patronage of her uncle, Sir Horace Walpole, who had great ambitions for he and thought her the finest catch in England: "You may imagine how charming she is when her only fault, if one must find one, is that her face is rather too round". A successful first marriage to the Earl Waldgrave (20 years her senior!) brought her 3 ravishing daughters and social standing but it was her second, secret, marriage in 1766 to George III's brother, William the Duke of Gloucester, that propelled her onto the front pages. The king refused to believe the rumours that his brother had wed an illegitimate commoner, sent the duke packing abroad and was only forced to reconcile with the couple when their first child was born in 1773. Frustratingly for Maria further scandal was about to rock the boat when her lady in waiting, Lady Almeria Carpenter, took the duke to her bed. They established a menage a trois and Maria compensated for the duke's infidelity with vigorous religious fervour. Here we see her retrospectively in widow's weeds soon after Waldegrave's death contemplating what lies ahead.£1500