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Family and friends

George formed a large and impressive collection of portraits. This included many depictions of his parents and fourteen siblings, and of his Stuart ancestors whose descendants pursued a rival claim to the British throne. George was particularly fascinated by Charles I, himself a great collector, and Charles II, who restored the monarchy in 1660 after the English Revolution.

The miniaturist Richard Cosway, a close friend and artistic adviser during the 1780s and 1790s, painted miniatures of George’s sisters and friends. Cosway’s elegant portraits were used as tokens of affection between George and his favourite mistress, Maria Fitzherbert. By contrast, George’s marriage to Princess Caroline of Brunswick was extremely unhappy, and there are few portraits of her in the Royal Collection.

As Prince of Wales, George gathered his own informal court, frequented by society beauties and politicians who opposed his father’s Tory government. His drinking and womanising became the focus of satirical prints, which provide a contrast to the formal, respectful portraits that George so enjoyed. But George also organised serious entertainments at his London residence, among them chamber music concerts, fêtes and at least one celebrity fencing display.