Lady Diana Beauclerk portrait acquired for Lydiard House

Category: 18th century women’s history

The Friends of Lydiard Park have acquired a recently discovered portrait of Lady Diana Beauclerk, former mistress of Lydiard Park and noted artist, to hang in the State Rooms of Lydiard House. The portrait, attributed to George Perfect Harding (1779/80-1853), is a copy of a much admired painting of Diana by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1765).

Sarah Finch-Crisp, Chair of The Friends of Lydiard Park and Museum Manager Frances Yeo with the portrait of Lady Diana Beauclerk, 30th August 2022

Born Diana Spencer in 1734, Lady Di as she was known, married Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, the extravagant and ill-tempered owner of Lydiard Park. Lady Diana’s marriage to Bolingbroke was notoriously abusive and ended in divorce through a highly publicised Act of Parliament. This was swiftly  followed by her marriage to her lover, Topham Beauclerk, the darling of fashionable intelligentsia.

A talented artist from childhood, Lady Diana drew on the sights and experiences of life at Lydiard for her drawings and paintings. She became one of the few aristocratic women of the day to support herself with her income from painting and was also one of the first women to design for Josiah Wedgwood. See more on The Lydiard Archives.

The painting will go on permanent display in the beautiful blue boudoir at Lydiard House from Wednesday 31st August.

Chair of the Friends of Lydiard Park, Sarah Finch Crisp said:

“The picture is a perfect fit for Lydiard. It shows Lady Diana while she was still married to Frederick St.John and posing as a classical artist, with a pencil in her right hand and an album of drawings in her left.  When we first saw it earlier this year it needed some repair and a thorough clean but trustees decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss and agreed to purchase it and undertake the necessary conservation treatment. We are grateful to Anthony Mould, Fine Art Dealer, for his assistance in acquiring the painting and to the late Miss Norah Hardwick, whose generous legacy made its purchase possible”

Councillor Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said:

“We are thrilled to be able to display this new portrait of Lady Diana Beauclerk and are very grateful to The Friends of Lydiard Park for their support. We are looking forward to the painting going on show at the end of August.  Lydiard House Museum contains the largest public collection of Lady Diana’s work on display in the UK and the new portrait will complement existing pieces in the Diana Room”

For those wanting to find out more, The Friends of Lydiard Park have teamed up with Lydiard House to offer four specially curated tours. On Sunday 11th September, author and historian Nicola Cornick will tell the story of Lady Diana Beauclerk in the first tour of the series. Tickets cost £15 for an adult (£10 for Friends of Lydiard Park) and include a delicious afternoon tea.  Places must be booked in advance through the Lydiard Park website.

Lydiard House is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm (last admission 3.30pm).

Admission to Lydiard House costs £5 for an adult (Free for Members of the Friends of Lydiard Park) and £2.75 for a child (Under 3s go free). Family tickets are also available. Until 4 September 2022, up to four children aged 3 to 15 years can visit for just £1 when accompanied by a full-paying adult. Under 3s go free.