The weight of family tradition

 

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70) as a young man, attributed to Thomas Hudson (1701–79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 2900098. ©Cheffins

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70) as a young man, attributed to Thomas Hudson (1701–79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 2900098. ©Cheffins

We have just purchased this portrait at auction at Cheffins in Cambridge. Attributed to the painter Thomas Hudson, it depicts Charles Yorke (1722-70), second son of the 1st Earl of Hardwicke and father of the 3rd Earl. The portrait has now joined the other Yorke family portraits, a number of which are also by Hudson, at Wimpole Hall.

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70), at the time he became Solicitor-General in 1756, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207788. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of the Right Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70), at the time he became Solicitor-General in 1756, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207788. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Charles Yorke might be seen as a paradigm of the pressures of family expectation. A good potted biography of him can be found on the History of Parliament website. From an early age he was expected to do well in the law profession. His mother’s uncle, Lord Somers, had been Lord Chancellor, and his father had held the same post for nearly twenty years.

Portrait of Sir Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Sir Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Charles was indeed clever, was called to the bar and became a Member of Parliament. But he seems to have been indecisive and over-analytical, and those traits became more pronounced as his career progressed.

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Yorke (1725–60), Lady Anson, sister of Charles Yorke, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Shugborough Hall, inv. no. 1271067. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Yorke (1725–60), Lady Anson, sister of Charles Yorke, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Shugborough Hall, inv. no. 1271067. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In Parliament he was constantly veering between the Government and the opposition and couldn’t make up his mind when offered posts. Nevertheless he did become Solicitor-General in 1756 and Attorney-General in 1762 and again in 1765.

Portrait of Catherine Freman (1736/7-59), who married Charles Yorke in 1755, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207789. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Catherine Freman (1736/7-59), who married Charles Yorke in 1755, by Thomas Hudson (1701-79), at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207789. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

When in January 1770 the Duke of Grafton finally did offer Yorke the Lord Chancellorship he felt caught out between his ambition and family tradition, the apparent instability of the Grafton administration, and his ties to friends and relations (including his brother) who were associated with the opposition. He ultimately accepted the post but the stress had so affected him that he died just three days later.

 

6 Responses to “The weight of family tradition”

  1. tdfas Says:

    Could I add to your Yorke€™ €˜files€™?

    My PhD research is based in the portrait collections at Antony House, Cornwall, ancestral seat of the Carew family. When the direct line failed in 1772, the estate passed to a cousin, Reginald Pole, whose son, Reginald Pole-Carew, married Jemima Yorke, in 1784. The marriage of Reginald Pole-Carew and Jemima produced 5 children but their only son, Joseph Pole-Carew, died in 1852 leaving no issue. This portrait of Jemima by Romney hangs at Antony: Jemima Yorke (1763-€“1804), Mrs Reginald Pole-Carew.

    Jeni Andrews-Fraser
    University of Plymouth

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Jeni, how interesting. So looking at an extended Yorke family tree (http://armingford.net/wimpole/yorke_family.htm), it appears Jemima Yorke was the daughter of the Hon. John Yorke (1728-1801) who was a younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Hardwicke (as well as of the Charles Yorke mentioned above). Presumably she was named after her aunt Lady Jemima Campbell, the wife of the 2nd Earl and Marchioness Grey in her own right.

    There are also a number of Thomas Hudson portraits at Antony – it appears he got his commissions through these extended family networks.

  3. penelopebianchi Says:

    “indecisive and over-analytical” a fatal combination if ever there was one!

    Things I watch for “as a decorator”! RED FLAGS!!!

    Great post!!!

  4. Michael Ashby Says:

    Jeni: It would be great to talk about your research – I’m working on Georgian Bishops; Palaces and have been doing a lot of research on the Yorke family through Ely’s Bishop James Yorke (bishop: 1781-1808).

    I’ve not followed up on this yet, but his will bequeaths a number of portraits that I expect ended up in Antony House that once hung in the Episcopal Palace at Ely House, Dover Street. Perhaps you could send me an email at mra41@cam.ac.uk and I’ll send on more detail.

    All the best,
    Mike Ashby
    University of Cambridge

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Penelope, yes it’s a case of ‘analysis paralysis’, as TV home makeover personality Sarah Beeny once dubbed it 🙂

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Michael, I hope you and Jeni can get to discuss your research. And do let me know when your research is published, as it would be of interest to our curators both with regard to Wimpole and to Antony.

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