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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

The Three Eldest Children of Charles I Nov 1635-Mar 1636

RCIN 404403

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Two versions of this portrait exist. In the first, now in Turin, the future Charles II wears a skirted gown like his younger brother James. Here the young Charles has been breeched and wears a strikingly grown-up suit of gold silk satin. Breeching for boys was a significant rite of passage, indicating the transition from the world of the nursery to the masculine world of their fathers, where they socialised with other adults and were taught the pursuits of a gentleman. Princess Mary’s leading strings can be seen over her left-hand shoulder. These would support a child learning to walk and restrain them from danger – their removal another symbol of the transition from childhood to youth.