Irish-born Princess of Monaco
Painted around 1785, this masterful portrait by George Engleheart depicts Frances Doyle in a white décolleté dress with blue ribbon and button trim, a double-stranded gold necklace and a black ribbon choker, her powdered hair curled and secured with a blue bandeau.
Frances’s story is a remarkable tale of adventure and social climbing. She was born in Ireland sometime between 1755 and 1760 to Edward Rainsford. Her great grandfather was Sir Marcus Rainsford, Lord Mayor of Dublin who, having inherited a substantial water supply from his father-in-law, established a brewery in Dublin. Two generations later that brewery was sold to Arthur Guinness; it continues to operate from the same site as the world-famous Guinness Brewery.
Frances was reputedly a great beauty. In 1774, whilst still a teenager, she married Welbore Ellis Doyle of Bramblestown, Kilkenny. He hailed from a military family and was at that point in his illustrious career a Lieutenant in the 55th (Irish) Regiment of Foot. This marked the start of Frances’s adventures as she accompanied her husband on his military campaigns across America, Continental Europe and finally to Ceylon. In 1781 the Doyles together with Lord Rawdon were captured by the French whilst sailing to England aboard the Cormorant. In his Revolutionary Journal entry for 27 September, Baron Ludwig von Closen referred to a rumoured affair between Frances and Lord Rawdon but added that his friend Lieut.-Col. Doyle was ‘a very easy-going fellow’ which suggests the affair may have been condoned by him. Following diplomatic negotiations, an exchange of prisoners was agreed and the Doyles finally reached English soil in 1782.
Despite the alleged affair with Rawdon, Frances and Welbore went on to have three children. Their sons, Francis Hastings, named after Lord Rawdon (b.1783) and Carlo (b.1787) both became Major Generals in the army. Born whilst the Doyles were stationed in Warsaw, Carlo was named after his godfather, Emperor Joseph II. Their third child, Charlotte Elizabeth, was born in London in 1789.
In 1796 the family moved to Ceylon, Welbore having been appointed Acting Governor. It proved ill-fated though as Welbore died after just six months of service. Frances thereupon returned to England to begin a new chapter.
Still in her thirties and presumably having retained her looks, Frances caught the eye of the exiled Count Joseph Grimaldi. He was a widower, his wife having been lost to the Guillotine. Following their marriage Joseph became Prince Joseph of Monaco thereby making Frances, Princess of Monaco. The couple did not have any children though Frances acquired three step-daughters with whom she was close. Differing dates between 1806 and 1809 are given for her death. There is also a spurious newspaper report that suggests she married yet again, this time to a Duke of the House of Bourbon. This though seems rather unlikely.
Signed with the artist’s cursive E, the portrait is presented in the original gold frame with a seed pearl surround and hanger, the reverse with foiled blue glass and an inset oval of seed pearls.
Item Ref. 7555
Size: framed, 80 x 68mm + bail
Literature: The Rainsford Family / Emily Buckland, 1932