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Julia M Clay (active c. 1871-1891)

Chelsea Pensioner William Edwards, 1st Life Guards (1806-91) Before 1891

Oil on canvas | 51.0 x 41.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404244

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  • The sitter, William Edwards, is recorded as an In-Pensioner at Chelsea Hospital from 1 November 1871, until his death on 20 June 1891, aged 85. He is shown in the distinctive red uniform of the Pensioners, with a thoughtful expression on his face. Prior to that Edwards had served in the 1st Life Guards, enlisting on 8 March 1824 and serving for 24 years 193 days, being discharged on 28 September, 1848 on disability. The Regimental Board gave him a character reference of ‘Very Good’ and he was awarded a pension of one shilling a day with a Medal and gratuity. A label on the reverse suggests the painting was included in the ‘Royal Military Exhibition’ at Chelsea Hospital in 1890, however the portrait does not appear in the official catalogue. The label further notes that Edwards was a ‘favourite orderly to Her Majesty, when Princess Victoria at Kensington Palace’. Queen Victoria’s Journal records her visit to the exhibition on 4 July, 1890…‘Breakfasted at the Cottage at Frogmore & at ¼ to 11, went to London to visit the Military Exhibition at Chelsea, on a piece of ground close to the Hospital… Passing out, I spoke to two old Pensioners, 1, a trumpet-major, who had sounded the Heavy Brigade's Charge in the Crimea, & the other, who lost his right arm in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Was very much pleased & interested with all I saw, & the whole thing is admirably arranged.’ Little is known of the artist: she is said to have exhibited 1880-81 and her address for this period given as c/o Dr Sigestwood, Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

    Presumably acquired by Queen Victoria

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    51.0 x 41.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    63.7 x 53.6 x 3.3 cm (frame, external)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    William Edwards, 1st Life Guards 1824-1848, Chelsea Pensioner 1871-1891, (1806-1891)