Lady Godolphin

Jeremiah Steele, 1804


When this engaging portrait was painted in 1804, Elizabeth Charlotte was 24 years old and, having made a good marriage, was already the mother of three children. She was the third of sixteen children born to the 1st Lord Auckland and his long-suffering wife Eleanor Elliot – what a busy household that must have been! Still legally considered a minor at the age of 20 but with her father’s permission, she married Francis Godolphin Osborne, later to become Lord Godolphin, in March 1800.

Francis and Charlotte had four sons and a daughter. The Godolphin Osbornes were wealthy, their money mostly coming from their estates and property across England, Scotland and Wales. They also had a lucrative stake in Cornish tin mines. In his role as an elected MP, Francis was a reformer supporting relief for the poor and the abolition of slavery. The family’s main home was the wonderfully named Gog Magog Hall near Cambridge. When the first national Census was taken in 1841, it was here that 60-year-old Lady Godolphin was residing (though her husband was elsewhere) with eleven staff in attendance; the gamekeeper and his family lived next door at the lodge.

When Lady Godolphin died after a short illness in April 1847 at the age of 67, her remains were interred in the family mausoleum at their Yorkshire estate with a stone commemorating her ‘spotless life’. Her husband died just three years later.

The sitter is captured in semi-profile but curiously with her back turned by Jeremiah Steel(e). During 1804, when this portrait was painted, Steele had joined the thriving community of artists taking advantage of the steady influx of well-to-do visitors drawn to Bath Spa by the area’s renowned health-sustaining waters. It is thought that Steele was taught by Andrew Robertson.

The portrait is signed on the reverse ‘Painted by J. Steel / 1804’ and again on the backing card ‘Miss Charlotte Eden / Painted by J. Steele / 1804’. The latter inscription may be by a different hand as the sitter’s maiden name is used even though she was by this time married. The portrait is housed in what is probably the original papier-mâché frame with a decorative surround, an acorn hanger and a few of the usual nibbles to the bottom edge.

APHA Registered

Item Ref. 7516

Size: framed, 166 x 148mm (6½ x 5¾")