HRH Princess Mary

William Hamlet the Elder


This elegant profile of HRH Princess Mary shows her in riding habit of a close-fitting coat with a fichu fastened in a bow at the neck rather like a man’s stock. Her curled hair is upswept and secured with a broad bandeau.

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh was born in 1776 and was the fourth daughter (and eleventh child) of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Her childhood was very sheltered and, like her sisters, she was not permitted to marry until later in life despite having fallen in love with a second cousin. Following his premature death, Mary finally married at the age of forty to another cousin, Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh. The couple had no children. Following William’s death in 1834, Mary enjoyed a long widowhood. She was a particular favourite of Queen Victoria who treated as a grandmother. She was 81 when she died in 1857 and was the last surviving child of George III’s fifteen children.

The silhouette has been delicately reverse painted on convex glass, the small curls on her forehead and the collar and buttons on her coat being achieved by scratching out with a fine needle. It is backed with plaster within the original papier-mâché frame with a crown hanger and is backed with the remnants of the artist William Hamlet the Elder’s trade label.

The silhouette is in good condition; there is a small chip to the very top edge of the glass and the frame has some loss with slight lifting to the bottom right corner as well as the usual edge chips that these frames were prone to.

William Hamlet’s country of birth remains a mystery but a recent discovery in the Bath Abbey Register has revealed that ‘William Hamlet a Negro’ was baptized on 11 November 1772. He would have been in his early twenties at the time. Hamlet got married in 1779 in Salisbury to eighteen year old Elizabeth Morgan. Elizabeth was illiterate as the register was signed by her mark only. The couple went on to have five children including twins. William Hamlet died in Bath in 1822. If his recorded age of 73 was correct, it would place his birth in 1748 or 1749.

Item Ref. 6611

Size: framed, 134 x 118mm (5¼ x 4⅝")