1753 - 1839
Portrait of an officer of the 67th Foot (South Hampshire) Regiment

Oil on canvas
Image size: 30 x 25 inches
Original frame

Sir William Beechey RA (12 December 1753 – 28 January 1839) was a leading English portraitist during the golden age of British painting.

Beechey was born at Burford, Oxfordshire, on 12 December 1753, the son of William Beechey, a solicitor, and his wife Hannah Read. Both parents died when he was still quite young, and he and his siblings were brought up by his uncle Samuel, a solicitor who lived in nearby Chipping Norton. The uncle was determined that the young Beechey should likewise follow a career in the law, and at an appropriate age he was entered as a clerk with a conveyancer near Stow-on-the-Wold. But as The Monthly Mirror later recorded in July 1798, he was “Early foredoomed his [uncle’s] soul to cross/ And paint a picture where he should engross.”

Beechey was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1772, where he is thought to have studied under Johan Zoffany. He first exhibited at the Academy in 1776. His earliest surviving portraits are small-scale full-length and conversation pieces which are reminiscent of Zoffany. In 1782, he moved to Norwich, where he gained several commissions, including a portrait of Sir John Wodehouse and a series of civic portraits for St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich. By 1787, he had returned to London, and in 1789, he exhibited a celebrated portrait of John Douglas, Bishop of Carlisle (now in Lambeth Palace). Beechey’s career during this period is marked by a succession of adept and restrained portraits in the tradition of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Beechey’s style perfectly suited the conventional taste of the royal family, and in 1793, he was commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte and subsequently named as her official portrait painter. That same year, he was elected as an associate member of the Royal Academy. Following his royal appointment, the number of royal commissions he undertook increased markedly, and in 1797 he exhibited six royal portraits. In 1798, he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy and painted George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops for that year’s academy’s exhibition. This enormous composition depicts King George III, the Prince of Wales and staff officers on horseback at an imagined cavalry review in Hyde Park. The king was reported to be delighted with the painting and rewarded Beechey with a knighthood Joseph Farington’s Diaries give many accounts of Beechey’s relations with the royal family during this period, including his temporary fall from favour in 1804, which Farington attributes to the vagaries of George III’s mental condition.
Beechey’s portraits of the turn of the century are considered to be his most colourful and lively. They are closer to the flamboyant and free techniques employed by his younger rivals, John Hoppner and Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Royal patronage resumed in around 1813, when Beechey was appointed portrait painter to Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, and culminated with his appointment in 1830 as principal portrait painter to King William IV. In 1836, Beechey retired to Hampstead and on 9-11 June that year, the contents of his studio along with his collection were sold at Christie’s.

Although capable of impetuousness and irascibility, Beechey was known for his generosity to students. In particular, he took a close interest in the career of the young John Constable.

The 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1756. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot to form the Hampshire Regiment (later the Royal Hampshire Regiment) in 1881.
The belt plate clearly bears the number 67 within an oval ‘spray’ of two laurel branches and the edge of the plate is dog-toothed with the points of the teeth pointing inwards.  The upper button on the waistcoat clearly depicts  67 and the second button appears to bear 67.  The upper of the 3 coat buttons on the wearer’s right side also have a 67.

The regiment returned to the West Indies in 1795 and helped put down a rebellion in Saint-Domingue in 1796. It moved to Jamaica in 1798 and then with numbers depleted by disease returned to England in 1801. In July 1803 a second battalion was raised. The 1st battalion embarked for India in April 1805 and took part in the closing stages of the Siege of Ryghur in May 1818 and most of the Siege of Asirgarh in March 1819 during the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

Meanwhile, the 2nd battalion embarked for Portugal in November 1810 for service in the Peninsular War and fought at the Battle of Barrosa in March 1811 and the Siege of Tarragona in June 1813 before taking part in operations on the East coast of Spain in the closing stages of the War. The battalions were amalgamated again in May 1817.