William Dobson (1611-46)
Charles II (1630-85), when Prince of Wales Dated 1644
Oil on canvas | RCIN 404921
This portrait was painted at Oxford, the royalist headquarters, where Dobson had established a wartime studio. The Prince of Wales was only twelve when the war broke out in 1642 and he was given command of a troop of Lifeguards formed from volunteers of noble family. He grew up fast in the atmosphere of the royalist camp and Dobson’s portrait conveys something of the boy’s authority, charm and latent ruthlessness.
In 1642, at the age of 12, the future Charles II commanded a troop in York, wearing what was described as ‘a very curious guilt armour’. This is probably the cuirassier armour he wears here, which still survives in the Tower of London. It is of an earlier date than the painting and was originally made for Charles I in 1616. There is a similar portrait, dated slightly earlier, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh which also depicts the Prince wearing the cuirass (breast-plate and back-plate). Such full armour was becoming cumbersome for modern combat and was increasingly replaced by the buff coat.
Inscribed: CP (below a crown) AE . / 14 / 1644 (His age, 14, in 1644)
ProvenanceBequeathed to HM Queen Elizabeth II by Cornelia, Countess of Craven in 1961
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