Is this the missing portrait of Sir John Cope?

This 1730s Portrait by William Aikman is to be found at Blickling Hall in Norfolk

Most if not all historians of the ’45 thought there was no portrait of Sir John Cope to be had. Margulies in his recent book contents himself with the famous cartoon of ‘Sir JC’ by George, 1st Marquess of Townshend, shown first below. But at Blickling Hall the National Trust has the portrait below on show and an ascription to Sir John Cope followed by a ?

So how come one might ask did a southern counties Englishman come to be hanging on the walls at Blickling Hall? Here are some theories and a red herring.

Sir John Cope was MP for Orford in Suffolk amongst his other pre-1745 activities. And he was well known to and appreciated by George II as a military man whom the King had met on the battlefield on the continent. Also of interest, one of the artist’s own great patrons was John, Duke of Argyll, a deeply committed supporter of the Union and one who could easily have known of Sir John Cope as early as 1730.

The owner at that time of Blickling Hall had just had some rather good luck in that he had become the 1st Baron Hobart of Blickling in 1728. He wanted to celebrate so he improved his Hall and commissioned William Aikman to paint several portraits of Norfolk and Suffolk dignitaries including our putative Sir John, Sir Robert Walpole of Houghton Hall and Thomas Lord Lovel of Holkham Hall. Aikman died soon after in 1731.

More intriguingly perhaps, Baron Blickling, shortly to become 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire in 1746, had a delightful sister Henrietta who married and merrily cuckolded the 9th Earl of Suffolk with none other than George II himself. She had originally met the King as ‘Bedchanger to the Princess of Wales’ but was clearly destined and ready for alternative pursuits.

Now for the very red herring. The 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire’s son, John the 2nd Earl who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1777-1780, had two daughters. The first, Harriet, first married but divorced the Earl of Belmore before marrying William Kerr Earl of Ancram who later inherited as the 6th Marquess of Lothian. And that Lothian line held the Hall until 1940 when the 11th Marquess left Blickling to the National Trust. And the Lothians are of course the family that owned Newbattle Abbey and all its lands after the Reformation including much of Prestonpans including all the Baronies of Prestoungrange and of Dolphinstoun.

The Chin, the Nose, the Neck, the Forehead … are they Cope?

We humbly ask our readers here whether they think the portrait in 1730 and the caricature 15 years later in 1745/ 1746 are of the same man? Look particularly at the chin, nose and neck … and perhaps the forehead. We think it’s probably our man. What think you?

Opinions, contradictions and extra evidence please to waukin@battleofprestonpans1745.org

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Filed under Prestoungrange, Scottish History

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