The 17th-Century Hampton Court Beauties

Depicting the most glamorous ladies from the court of King William III and Queen Mary II, the Hampton Court Beauties are a series of portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller, commissioned by the Queen herself.

They adorn the state rooms of King William III at Hampton Court Palace.

… the principal Ladies attending upon her Majesty, or who were frequently in her retinue; and this was the more beautiful sight, because the originals were all in being, and often to be compar’d with their pictures.Daniel Defoe

Queen Mary II was a fashion trendsetter and a collector of fine china, particularly blue and white porcelain. Her household account book of 1694 lists 31 mantuas and gowns, taffeta, velvet and satin fabrics, satin shoes with gold and silver lace, gloves, furs, fringes, ribbons, and fans.

Queen Mary II by William Wissing
Queen Mary II by William Wissing

The late 17th century was a decadent, sensual era when great beauty could be an instrument of ambition, a passage to pleasure, and a ride to riches.

Handsome rewards lay ahead for royal mistresses like Nell Gwyn, the long-time mistress of King Charles II of England and Scotland. Her son by the King was made the Duke of St Albans and married into the established aristocracy.

Capturing beauty in portraiture became a preoccupation of portrait artists who developed their own techniques to heighten natural beauty. Dutch artist William Wissing had a particular way of bringing a fashionable blush to a lady’s cheeks. He would take her by the hand and dance her about the room until the exercise gave the desired complexion.

Vote for your favorite beauty from the court of Queen Mary.

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