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Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (1637-71) c. 1662

Oil on canvas | 125.7 x 103.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405641

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Anne Hyde, the daughter of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Charles II's Chancellor, was the first wife of the Duke of York, later James II. She met the duke in 1656 when maid of honour to his sister, Princess Mary of Orange, and married him in 1660, after becoming pregnant. The marriage was opposed by both the duke's mother, the Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria, who viewed Anne as a commoner, and the duchess's father, who feared accusations of rampant ambition in marrying his daughter to royalty. Once married, the duchess was seen as both haughty and intelligent, and a woman who mostly kept control of her husband. The duke and duchess had eight children together, but only two daughters survived to adulthood, the future queens Mary II and Anne, who were raised as Protestants like their mother.

The duchess sat to Lely on several occasions; Pepys records seeing in Lely's studio in 1662, 'the Duchesse of Yorke her whole body, sitting in state in a chair, in white Sattin'. Here the duchess is shown in a copper-coloured gown, with her right hand fingering her flowing tresses of hair. There are two other very similar portraits of Anne in the Royal Collection (RCINs 405508, 404080), but this is the highest in quality, showing particular delicacy in the painting of the silk dress. It may be the version recorded in James II's collection as hanging in the King's Closet at Windsor.

Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power, London, 2017.