Green Hare History

The Faces of Britain: looking at history through iconic portraits

Queen Anne and her son, William duke of Gloucester

Princess Anne and her son, William duke of Gloucester

Sir Godfrey Kneller


I’ve always found this painting particularly poignant. It depicts Princess Anne (later queen) with her five-year-old son, William Duke of Gloucester. He has such an angelic face and the portrait shows real affection between mother and child.

William was Anne’s seventh child and the only one of her eighteen children to live beyond two-years-old. Most of her pregnancies were either miscarried or the baby only lived for a few hours. Three children survived, William, Mary and Anne Sophia, but the two girls died within days of each other in 1687 from Smallpox. William was second in line to the throne after his mother.

Six years after this painting was made William became ill at his 11th birthday party and died six days later on 30 July 1700. The king, William III, recorded that “It is so great a loss to me as well as to all England, that it pierces my heart.” Anne, who had stayed by his bedside throughout, was devastated.

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