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Sir George Hayter (1792-1871)

The Christening of The Prince of Wales, 25 January 1842 Signed and dated 1842-5

Oil on canvas | 193.0 x 274.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 403501

East Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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  • The painting records the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. The ceremony took place in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Here it is recorded as from the altar, looking down towards the screen, with the sun streaming in on the Garter banners and stalls on the north side of the choir. The silver-gilt Lily Font is being used for the ceremony instead of the usual Baptismal Font.

    Although he had not yet finished his picture of the Queen’s Marriage (RCIN 407165), Hayter embarked on this third large and crowded composition, with 49 participants. In November 1842 Hayter received Prince Albert’s permission to paint the scene, a promise that he should be enabled to witness it, and encouragement to paint it life-size, as Prince Albert considered the subject was of the highest national interest and should be treated in the grandest style of art. Hayter saw the infant Prince before the ceremony, carried out a reconnaissance of the Chapel and persuaded the Bishop of London that the chairs for the party should be turned to face the altar so that he could gain a full view of their faces. Subsequently, however, the Queen and the Prince were reluctant to sit for life-size portraits and encouraged Hayter to paint a historical picture rather than a mass of portraits which, in the Prince’s view, would hinder the progress of the picture. Hayter was reluctantly convinced to paint the picture smaller than life-size, partly as a possible companion to the Marriage painting.

    The stalls, banner, screen and organ were painted by Hayter’s son Angelo. The last sittings for the portraits of the participants took place in 1845. Hayter was later told that the Queen did not wish to purchase the picture as it was too large to be placed in any of the palaces. It is clear she did not like it very much. It was finally purchased after his death at the sale of his effects in 1871 at a considerably reduced price.

    Signed and dated: Sir George Hayter / 1842 / 1845.

    The publisher Moon paid Hayter 1,000 guineas for the copyright of the picture, recorded in the artist’s diary. This painting was ultimately bought by the Lord Chamberlain’s Department and another copy painted in the same year was bought by the Queen in 1871.
    Provenance

    Acquired by Queen Victoria

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    193.0 x 274.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    229.7 x 311.0 x 15.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Christening of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII (1841-1910) at the St George's Chapel, Windsor, 25 January 1842.