A Portrait of Henry, 10th Earl and 1st Marquess of Exeter (1754-1804), with his wife, Sarah and their daughter Lady Sophia Cecil, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (1769-1830).

Oil on canvas, 228.6cm by 143.5cm.

After a failed first marriage, Henry moved to Shropshire, where he assumed the name John Jones and the role of a painter.

He lodged with a farming family named Hoggins, and soon fell in love with their beautiful daughter Sarah.

They were married in 1790 and three years later, on the death of his uncle Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter, Henry inherited the title as 10th Earl and moved his wife to Burghley.

Sadly, Sarah died four years later at the age of only twenty-three, shortly after the birth of her third child.

She is sometimes referred to as the Cottage Countess; their romance recorded in the poem, ‘The Lord of Burleigh’, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Lady Sophia (1793-1823) herself became a talented artist whose wonderful drawings of the rooms and exteriors of Burghley are a valuable record of the House and its contents in the early years of the 19th Century.

Sir Thomas Lawrence was a child prodigy who supported his family from the age of ten, by selling pastel portraits.

He later established a reputation as a portrait painter in oils and secured his first Royal commission at the age of twenty-one.

He was to become the most fashionable portrait painter of his time in Europe.


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