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Friday 4 May 2012

Princess Elizabeth - the artist

Princess Elizabeth
from La Belle Assemblée (1806)
Elizabeth the designer

Princess Elizabeth, the third daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, was a notable designer and artist.

She painted a trellis on the ceiling of the Picnic Room in Queen Charlotte's Cottage at Kew.

The painted trellis on the ceiling of the Picnic Room
in Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Kew
Elizabeth designed the hermitage at Frogmore - a small round building with a thatched roof situated in the south west corner of the garden. She also painted the Princess Royal’s closet at Frogmore in imitation of rich japan.

She was responsible for the decorations at the lavish entertainment given by Queen Charlotte at Frogmore in August 1799 to celebrate the recovery of the Princess Amelia.

Oulton describes them in his Memoirs of the Late Queen Charlotte:
“The pillars were covered with bay leaves and artificial flowers, wreaths of flowers decorating the intermediated spaces at the top; the chandeliers suspended from the ceiling were in the shape of a bee hive: at the upper end of them formed the tassel; between each row of lamps were interwoven ears of corn, blue bells, violets, lilies of the valley.”
The Birth and Triumph of Cupid

Birth from The Birth and Triumph of Love (1796)
In 1795, a series of twenty-four prints was published under the name of Lady Dashwood from drawings by Princess Elizabeth entitled “The Birth and Triumph of Cupid”. In La Belle Assemblée, the set of engravings was alternatively called “The Progress of Cupid”. They were engraved by PW Tomkins, the court engraver, who had studied under Bartolozzi, and were published at the King’s expense. La Belle Assemblée describes the pictures as “allegorical representations of the power of love”.

The Birth and Triumph of Love

Triumph from The Birth and Triumph of Love (1796)
The prints inspired Sir James Bland Burges to write an epic poem in the style of Spenser. Sir James was the undersecretary of state for foreign affairs until 1795 when he was made a baronet and became Knight Marshal of the King’s household. He took the name Lamb in 1821 in order to receive an inheritance. The plates were republished with the poem under the title “The Birth and Triumph of Love” in 1796 and met with considerable acclaim.

Opening lines from The Birth and Triumph of Love
by Sir James Bland Lamb
The complete set of 24 prints is available here - Regency History on Facebook

The Power and Progress of Genius

A second series of twenty-four sketches was issued in 1806 called “The Power and Progress of Genius”. La Belle Assemblée records that “Her Royal Highness has likewise distributed among her most favoured circle another publication and tribute to the fine arts just finished. It is entitled ‘The Progress of Genius’ and exhibits, under allegorical images, the different acts of that intellectual power.”

A vignette of the hermitage

A review in Noctes Ambrosianæ talks of a work of Pyne consisting of a hundred plates which are facsimiles of coloured drawings by various artists of different rooms in the various royal palaces – a History of Royal Residences. He notes that “it may not be uninteresting to know, that the vignette, representing the hermitage, in the garden at Frogmore, is copied from a plate etched by the Princess Elizabeth herself”. Robert Shelton Mackenzie wrote that the Princess “drew and etched, as well as if she had been an artist”.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée, various (1806, London)
Hall, Mrs Matthew, The Royal Princesses of England (1871, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, 1973)
Lamb, Sir James Bland, The Birth and Triumph of Love (1823, London)
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819, London)
Wilson, John, with memoirs and notes by Robert Shelton Mackenzie, Noctes Ambrosianæ 1819-1824 (1867, New York)


  1. were can you see the original prints of cupid by princess elizabeth

    1. I do not know where the original drawings are or even if they have survived, but copies of the prints are listed in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum and the Royal Collection, though they may not be on display.