Her Royal Highness The Dutchess of Gloucester
A superb mezzotint portrait of the duchess, drawn and engraved by Henry Bryer and published in London circa 1770.
Maria, the Countess Waldegrave married His Royal Highness Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester in 1766. This was her second marriage, the first having taken place when she became the second wife of the 2nd Earl Waldegrave in 1759. She was born in 1739, the second daughter of Edward Walpole. At the time of her marriage to the prince her uncle, Horace Walople, described her in a letter to his friend Thomas Mann as: “the first match in England for beauty…..She has not a fault in her face or person, and the detail is charming. A warm complexion tending to brown, fine eyes, brown hair, fine teeth, and infinite wit and vivacity”. Even her rivals were forced to concede that she was a beauty and Lady Mary Coke described her as “A most lovely woman; not of much sense, but blameless in character and conduct”. This print certainly shows her as one of the most graceful and glamorous ladies of her generation.
Henry Bryer is not thought to have produced many portraits. It is likely
that this accomplished study was produced to commemorate the Countess
of Waldegrave’s marriage into the royal family. Bryer was a pupil
of the engraver William Ryland and worked with him opposite the Royal
Exchange in Cornhill.