Bears pencil inscription verso Prince George of Cambridge / by Octavius Oakley / about 1840-45

Watercolour with bodycolour & pencil

38 x 26cm



Private Collection, U.K.



John Roget records that Oakley painted a portrait of both Prince George and his sister the Princess Augusta of Cambridge [1], later Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (not to be confused with the pair's mother, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge). Unfortunately we do not know the exact date of the sitting; however, we know that the Prince was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Garter (whose sash and badge he sports here) on 15th August 1835, he returned to Hanover for 1836 for military tutoring, and was back in Britain having become a Colonel-Brevet in the British Army in 1837. Oakley meanwhile spent 1835 in New York with relatives, his wife having died shortly prior to the journey, before he moved first to London the following year and then Leamington. 


The closest portrait of the Prince, in terms of date, is a miniature by William Essex derived from George Richmond's 1842 'sketch' of him when he was aged twenty-three. This shows the Prince beginning to lose the full head of hair we see here, and with more developed facial hair. It seems sensible therefore to place the present work somewhere between 1835 and 1842. This is borne out by the reference to "Prince George and Princess Augusta of Cambridge" from Roget's History: Princess Augusta married her cousin Frederick William of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1843, thereafter returning less frequently and doing so as a Grand Duchess rather than a Princess. 



Prince George was the only son of Adolphus Frederick, youngest son of King George III after whom he was named. George’s upbringing (largely in Hanover) was eventful, first overcoming scarlet fever (by supposedly being forced to drink a whole glass of Steinberger wine) and then enduring death threats by his disturbed tutor, who was later declared insane. The Prince was born in Hanover but from 1830 lived in England with William IV and Queen Adelaide. In 1836, he returned to his parents in Hanover to begin his military training, with his tutor replaced by a military governor, who began laying the foundations for what would be a celebrated career for the Prince in the army. From 1856 until his retirement in 1895 George held the most senior rank within the British Army after the Monarch, as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. He was extremely popular with both the rank-and-file and officers and had a decorated career as a soldier. 


Many of the Prince's orders and decorations were sold by Morton and Eden in association with Sotheby's, in 2018, with the Prince's Garter Badge sold for £168,750 on that occasion. 




[1] J.L. Roget, A History of the Old Water-Colour Society, Vol. II, London (1891), p.279

OCTAVIUS OAKLEY, R.W.S. (1800-1867)