Van Dyck portrait returns home to Hampton Court Palace

Van Dyck portrait returns home to Hampton Court Palace

Ladies hanging up a painting


The portrait of Mary, Princess Royal will go on display from Thursday 12 February 2009

A beautiful portrait of Princess Mary (1631 - 1660), the eldest daughter of Charles I, by Anthony van Dyck, has been saved for the nation and will return to the palace where it appears to have hung in the last days of the reign of the sitter's ill-fated father. The portrait of Mary, Princess Royal, later Princess of Orange and mother of William III, has been acquired by the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces and will go on display at Hampton Court Palace from Thursday 12 February 2009.

The Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), on behalf of the government, enables items deemed to be of historical or artistic importance to be given in place of inheritance tax.

This painting, dated to around 1637, shows Princess Mary at the age of five or six, wearing a rich silver-laced gown and pearl headdress, standing before a classical column and ornate gold damask curtain.

The portrait of Mary is thought to have hung at Hampton Court whilst Charles I was under house arrest at the palace during the English Civil War. In August 1647, the King was captured and confined to the palace but accommodated in relative comfort. He was allowed his own servants, the palace furnishings were improved for him, and paintings were brought down from Whitehall for his pleasure. On the evening of 11th November 1647, however, the King tricked his jailers and escaped to a boat that was waiting to ferry him to supposed asylum on the Isle of Wight. He left behind a note to the palace’s commander, Colonel Edward Whalley, thanking him for his kindnesses and asking that this painting, "the Originall of My Eldest Daughter [which] hangs in this chamber over the board next the Chimney which you must send to my Lady Aubigny." The painting went with Lady Aubigny, an active Royalist supporter, when she fled to The Hague after the King’s execution in 1649. It is recorded in a Dutch inventory in 1654 and remained in various continental collections until it appeared on the London art market in 1967 when it was bought by Van Dyck expert Sir Oliver Millar, from whose estate it has now been accepted in lieu.

From 12 February 2009, this portrait will be displayed next to a copy of a Van Dyck portrait depicting Princess Mary’s father, Charles I, in King William III’s State Apartments at Hampton Court Palace.

MLA Chair Andrew Motion said:  “This is a very beautiful painting, and a very important part of our historical and cultural heritage; it’s wonderful to see it back in Hampton Court Palace, where it once hung, this time to be enjoyed by all. The return proves once again that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme is a vital means of enhancing collections across the country; the many notable items acquired for the nation through this scheme add enormously to the cultural experiences we can all enjoy.”

Sebastian Edwards, Head of Works of Art at Historic Royal Palaces, commented: “I am thrilled that we can welcome this enchanting painting to Hampton Court Palace after 360 years. The portrait of the young Princess Mary by the great painter Van Dyck will be given a prominent place in her son William III’s magnificent Baroque palace at Hampton Court, hung together with a portrait of her beloved father, King Charles I. We hope that this beautiful portrait of a child princess and her moving story will delight visitors to the palace both young and old.”

Culture Minister Barbara Follett said:  "This is a beautiful painting with a fascinating story and has quite rightly been returned to its former home. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme encourages gifts of cultural value and preserves aspects of our heritage for the nation. I am certain this new addition to the
collections at Hampton Court Palace will give many visitors pleasure and insight into their history."

Notes to editors:
For more information, images or interviews, please contact Ruth Howlett in the Historic Royal Palaces press office: +44 (0)20 3166 6338 or

Historic Royal Palaces
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles. 
Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past.
Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. 
Showmanship: doing everything with panache.
Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work.

registered charity number 1068852 

You may also be interested in...