Windsor Beauties

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Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland, before 1666 Anne Digby Countess of Sunderland.jpg
Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland, before 1666
Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, 1669 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland.jpg
Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, 1669

The Windsor Beauties are a set of portrait paintings, still in the Royal Collection, by Sir Peter Lely and his workshop, produced in the early to mid-1660s, that depict ladies of the court of King Charles II, some of whom were his mistresses. [1] [2] The name stems from the original location of the collection, which was at Windsor Castle. In 2022, they were on display at Hampton Court Palace.


A set of copies was commissioned by Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland in the 17th century for his collection at Althorp House, and the complete set can still be viewed there in the Picture Gallery, a room he created to show off his adoration for art. [3]

The portraits

Henriette, Duchess of Orleans, 1662 Portrait of Henriette of England, Duchess of Orleans seated in a landscape from the studio of Sir Peter Lely.jpg
Henriette, Duchess of Orléans, 1662
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, 1662 Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, 1662 by Lely.jpg
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, 1662

The Royal Collection includes 10 portraits as part of the set. They show the women at three-quarter length in various poses. Some women wear current fashions; others are draped in loose robes intended to evoke classical antiquity.

Originally commissioned by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, the first mention of the paintings is by Samuel Pepys, describing them in his diary as being hung in "the Duke of York's room" in 1668. [4] A 1674 inventory lists them as in the ducal rooms at St. James Palace; [5] and by 1688 they had moved to the "Princess's dressing room" at Windsor Castle. Moved to the castle's state rooms during the 18th century, the Windsor Beauties were transferred to Hampton Court at some time prior to 1835. [4]

List of "Beauties"

The original set of "Beauties" painted by Lely include, depending on the source, these 12 portraits:

The portraits for the first 10 names are included at the Royal Collection website as "probably commissioned by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York."

The Duchess of York does not figure in the above list often; but since she was largely responsible for the collection, and choosing the sitters, she was also painted as part of the series. Possibly a little flattery from Lely was responsible for this.

See also

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  1. Jones, Robert W (1998). Gender and the Formation of Taste in Eighteenth-Century Britain: The Analysis of Beauty. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9780521593267 . Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. Hamilton, Adrian (16 April 2012). "Carry on, your majesty: Charles II and his court ladies". The Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  3. Spencer, Charles, Althorp: The Story of an English House.
  4. 1 2 Alexander, Julia Marciari; MacLeod, Catharine (2007). Politics, Transgression, and Representation at the Court of Charles II. Yale Center for British Art. pp. 81–82. ISBN   9780300116564.
  5. Wenzel, M. (1 November 2002). "The Windsor Beauties by Sir Peter Lely and the collection of paintings at St James's Palace, 1674". Journal of the History of Collections. 14 (2): 205–213. doi:10.1093/jhc/14.2.205. ISSN   0954-6650.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Cunningham, Peter (1865). "The Early Painters of England: Peter Lely". The Art Journal. 27 (Vol. 4, New series): 8.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Melville, Lewis (2005). The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II (Revised ed.). Ann Arbor: Victorian Heritage Press. pp. i. ISBN   1-932690-13-1.