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Collecting Old Master Paintings

Charles II was undoubtedly aware of the importance of paintings as visual symbols of magnificence. During his 25-year reign, Charles II amassed an important collection of over 1,000 pictures.

After the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Royal Collection had been sold by the Parliamentarians in what became known as the Commonwealth Sales. Conscious of the powerful message that would be conveyed by the recovery of the collection, in May of 1660 Charles II issued a proclamation ordering the immediate return of goods formerly belonging to Charles I. A significant number of pictures were recovered.

Before Charles II's return however, the recovery of the royal collection was not guaranteed. Anticipating the worst, Charles approached William Frizell, a picture dealer in Breda, from whom he purchased 72 pictures which arrived in 1662.

Another important group of pictures entered the royal collection in November of 1660, when Charles II was presented with an extraordinary gift of paintings, sculpture and furniture by the States of Holland and West Friesland. The generosity of the so-called ‘Dutch Gift’ was an overt demonstration of support for the newly-restored king and recognised the close connections between the Dutch and British royal courts.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.