Princess Charlotte Arriving at Harwich, September 1761

Following the accession of King George III in 1760 the choice of a bride for him fell upon Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. A squadron of yachts and men-of-war under the Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Anson, was sent to Cuxhaven on the German coast to collect her. The principal yacht, the 'Royal Caroline', was renamed 'Royal Charlotte', and sumptuously fitted out for the Princess. Westerly gales blew the returning squadron over to the Norwegian coast three times, so it was ten days before it reached Harwich.

Serres visited Harwich in September 1761 to record the arrival of the Princess and his picture shows this much delayed event in Harwich harbour, with sunlight breaking through the clouds onto the 'Royal Charlotte', as she passes Landguard Fort. In the foreground the artist has shown many onlookers including a group of sailors on the right. Beyond them a ropewalk is visible as well as the wooden lighthouse beacon in the centre of the picture. This was used by seamen as an aid to navigation into Harwich harbour, together with Pain's Tree shown to the right. Serres named one of his daughters Charlotte at about this time, when he was becoming established as England's leading marine painter.

Serres was a well-born Frenchman from Gascony who ran away to sea in merchant service rather than follow family wish that he enter the Church. He probably arrived in England as a naval prisoner of war, took up painting and settled there. His early paintings show the influence of Brooking and Monamy's interpretations of Dutch art but he rapidly achieved recognition for his more documentary visual accounts of sea actions of the Seven Years War, 1756-63. His work was even more in demand in the 1770s and 1780s, recording the naval history of the War of American Independence. In 1768 Serres was a founder member of the Royal Academy and at the end of his life its librarian. A well-respected and sociable man, he was appointed Marine Painter to George III in 1780.

Object Details

ID: BHC0405
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Serres, Dominic
Date made: 1763
People: Queen Charlotte, Consort of George III
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Frame: 1013 mm x 1465 mm x 101 mm;Overall: 28.2 kg; Painting: 812 x 1295 mm

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