This portrait and the one of the Marquis de Lafayette (below) are reverse paintings: applied in reverse on the back of a piece of glass. Harrodsburg Historical Society minutes show that in October 1938 these portraits of Queen Caroline of England and General Lafayette were willed to the Society by Miss Margaret Scott Polk, a former resident of Harrodsburg. A small sign that had been on display with them states that they are over 150 years old. The sign was not dated, so the actual age of the portraits is unknown.
There were two Queen Carolines of England, but as the later one was a contemporary of the Marquis de Lafayette, she is perhaps most likely the subject of this portrait. Caroline of Ansbach, queen consort of George II, was born in 1683 and died in 1737. Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick was born May 17, 1768. She married her cousin, the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, on April 8, 1795, but soon after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte on January 7, 1796, they separated. Excluded from court after her husband became regent (1811), she went abroad in August 1814. She was accused of adulterous living many times through the years, but was popular with the people of Britain, who felt her loose-living husband was in the wrong. On her husband's accession to the throne in 1829, she returned to England to claim her rights as queen, but the king and government denied her any rights. She was refused admittance to Westminster Abbey at the coronation, became ill a few days later, and died August 7, 1821. (Text by Ann Howells, 1978; edited by Linda Freeman & Nancy Hill, 2020)
This famous Frenchman was a soldier, statesman, and hero of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. He was born in Auvergne on September 6, 1757 of an ancient and noble family. Losing his parents early, he was a wealthy man when, at 16, he married and joined a circle of young court gentlemen at Versailles. Finding court life uncongenial, he purchased a captain's commission in the dragoons, hoping to win distinction as a soldier. In December 1776 he secured from Silas Deane, the American agent in Paris, a commission as Major General in the Continental Army. Aided by influential persons, despite the disapproval of his father-in-law and King Louis XVI, he departed for Philadelphia and arrived on July 27, 1777. He played a vital part in the American Revolution. His triumphant tour, on his second visit to the United States in 1824, has passed into legend. And speaking of legend, it is said that Lafayette played a game of billiards with Dickie Figg - and lost - at the Wingfield Tavern, which is where the Mercer County Bank stood.
Were these portraits painted as a pair, as they seem to be? Why Lafayette a nd Queen Caroline? Did they know each other, or did someone just decide they'd be two interesting subjects? We can only speculate since so little information was left to us. (Text by Ann Howells, 1978; edited by Linda Freeman & Nancy Hill, 2020)