circle of Louis Gabriel Blanchet, Henry Benedict Stuart, later Cardinal York (1725–1807)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Henry Benedict Stuart, later Cardinal York (1725–1807)
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 61 cm
circle of Louis Gabriel Blanchet (1705-1772)
Catalogue Number


The portrait has been identified traditionally as Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), elder son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. However, comparisons with a recently discovered portrait of Charles Edward from the same period and another portrait of his younger brother, Henry Benedict Stuart, indicate that MM48 is a portrait of the latter. The artist is unknown, although he probably worked in the circle of the French painter Louis Gabriel Blanchet, whose practice was based in Rome.

One factor which may have led to the identification of the subject of the present portrait as Charles Edward Stuart is the martial aspect of the subject, who wears an elaborately gilded suit of armour over which is draped the blue sash of the Order of the Garter. Significantly, another portrait until recently also considered to be of Charles Edward, but now revealed as Henry Benedict, depicts the subject wearing armour and the sash of the Order of the Garter: a pastel portrait, it is by the French artist Maurice Quentin de la Tour (fig. 1) and was apparently made in France shortly after Charles Edward’s attempt to seize the English throne. In addition to these two portraits of Henry Benedict in armour there is at least one other, by the Italian artist Giorgio Domenico Duprà, which was commissioned in Paris by Charles Edward in 1744 (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, PGL 1607). That portrait had a matching pendant of Charles Edward, which is now untraced.

c.1746–7. Pastel on paper, 61 × 51 cm. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (PG 2954).

Figure 1.
Maurice Quentin de la Tour, Prince Henry Benedict Clement Stuart, c.1746–7. Pastel on paper, 61 × 51 cm. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (PG 2954).

Digital image courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh / Photo: Antonia Reeve (CC-BY-NC3)

During the lead up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Henry Benedict was keen to follow the example of his brother and play his part in the military campaign. Unfortunately, as with Charles Edward, things did not go to plan. Having arrived in France in October 1745, Henry Benedict joined the French invasion fleet led by Marshal Saxe, intent on crossing the Channel, although, wrecked by storms, it never got further than the French coast. Henry Benedict subsequently accompanied Saxe to Flanders and was present at the siege of Antwerp in May to June 1746. Following a brief sojourn near Paris, where he was reunited briefly with Charles Edward, Henry Benedict returned to Rome in April 1747, enrolling in the College of Cardinals a few months later.

by Martin Postle

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