The 'Royal Sovereign', Yacht

A royal yacht is shown in starboard-broadside view, hove-to off a harbour believed to be Weymouth, with King George III and members of his family on board. It is flying the Royal Standard and the Union flag together with the fouled anchor, thus signifying the presence of the sovereign on board. It also flies the red ensign from the stern. There are several men-of-war to the left, and other shipping can be seen in the bay beyond. In the foreground the artist has shown the edge of a harbour, with several groups of people either waving to the departing yacht or occupied with various tasks. An anchor lies on the jetty. In the distance on the left, the chalk cliffs of Dorset are clearly recognizable.

It is not clear which royal visit the painting marks but Weymouth was a favourite watering place for George III. He first visited Weymouth in July 1789 hoping that sea bathing would improve his health. He visited again in July 1801, and his last visit was believed to be in 1805. The King can be seen on board the yacht raising his hat towards Weymouth, and other members of his family have also been shown standing on the deck. If the painting records the 1801 visit, the yacht is probably the 'Royal Charlotte' rather than the 'Royal Sovereign'. A related watercolour in private hands appears to show a similar scene in September 1804, but with the Aeolus where Serres here has the royal yacht.

John Thomas was the son of Dominic Serres, and although he began his career as a landscape painter, he followed the pattern of that of his father and had a similar though distinctive style. He travelled to Paris, Rome and Naples before succeeding his father as Marine Painter to George III in 1793. After becoming Marine Draughtsman to the Admiralty in 1800, he made drawings and elevations of the west coasts of France and Spain in the Mediteranean, publishing many (and British coastal views) in his book 'The Little Sea Torch' (1801). In 1805, he also published 'Liber Nauticus', a treatise on marine draughtsmanship containing engravings of his father's drawings. At the end of his life he was imprisoned for debt caused by the extravagance of his life, the self-styled Prince of Cumberland', where he created a set of large watercolours recording the event. This painting may have been a commission from the King and is signed and dated 1809.

Object Details

ID: BHC3613
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Serres, John Thomas
Vessels: Royal Sovereign (1804)
Date made: 1809
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Painting: 1370 x 1675 mm; Frame: 1652 mm x 1962 mm x 130 mm

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