Admiral Edward Vernon, 1684-1757

A three-quarter-length portrait to right in a brown cloth coat and black full-bottomed wig. He holds a baton in his right hand, and stands against a background of rock. On the right there is a two-decker ship with a red ensign, a commissioning pendant and a blue flag at the fore. The portrait was painted initially when Vernon was a captain and altered after he was promoted Vice-Admiral of the Blue. This entailed the substitution of a baton for a telescope as well as the addition of a blue vice-admiral's flag in 1739, before he sailed for the West Indies.

As a lieutenant he had served in Sir Cloudisley Shovell's flagship at the Battle of Malaga, 1704, and at the taking of Barcelona in the following year. In 1722 Vernon was returned to Parliament where in the 1730s he was a powerful advocate for war with Spain. When the War of Jenkin's Ear against the Spanish broke out in 1739, he undertook to capture their base at Porto Bello, Panama 'with only six ships'. This he did in a famous landing against its Iron Castle since he Spaniards had neglected preparations for its defence. A subsequent assault in Catagena, Columbia, failed through poor collaboration with the army contingent. Later he commanded the fleet in the North Sea during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Shortly afterwards he quarrelled with the Admiralty over some pamphlets of which he was the alleged author and his name was struck off the flag officers' list. Vernon is however best remembered because in 1740 he ordered his men's rum ration to be served diluted with water, for health reasons. This 'grog' - Vernon's nickname- rapidly became the standard way of serving the naval rum ration until it was abolished in 1970.

Philips was an extremely fashionable portrait painter, patronized by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his circle of friends. He established a practice at Lincoln's Inn Fields. This portrait is signed 'C.Philips pinxit'.

Object Details

ID: BHC3068
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Nelson, Navy, Nation Gallery
Creator: Philips, Charles
Date made: Begun in mid-1730s-43
Exhibition: Nelson, Navy, Nation
People: Vernon, Edward
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 35.6 kg; Painting: 1270 mm x 1015 mm;Frame: 1453 mm x 1202 mm x 100 mm

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