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Howards of The Past - Lady Mary Howard
Chris Ridgway
By Dr Chris Ridgway  //  Thu 16th April 2020
Curatorial, History, Collection
Many members of the Howard Family have made it into the history books for many different reasons; military heroes, suffrage campaigners, politicians, the list goes on. When digging a little deeper, you discover other family members who were lesser known but who's lives were equally as intriguing - Lady Mary Howard is one such family member.
Lady Mary Howard was the daughter of the 6th Earl and Countess of Carlisle of Castle Howard. In this portrait of 1828 she looks the model of a perfect child, standing demurely in the landscape, wearing an elegant white dress with a fashionable blue waist ribbon, and matching shoes. Her stylish, broad-brimmed hat covers dark curls, in her left hand she holds a small poesy of pink roses, while her other hand grasps a golden sash that trails from her neck down her back.

The portrait was commissioned from the Yorkshire artist John Jackson, born in Lastingham on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors in 1778. Jackson was a prolific portraitist who was elected to the Royal Academy in 1817; he worked at Castle Howard for a number of years copying pictures in the collection and painting portraits of the Howard family. He charged 140 guineas for this painting of Mary.

 

 

Mary was the youngest of the 6th Countess’ twelve children, and was aged about five at the time of the portrait. Her mother had been born Georgiana Cavendish, daughter of the famous 5th Duchess of Devonshire of Chatsworth, and her marriage to George Howard in 1801 united these two great northern houses. Georgiana was both proud and anxious about her daughter, and a year after the portrait was completed she began a journal about Mary.

The first entry on 19 October 1829 offers a very different picture to the sweet child in the painting. Georgiana was troubled by Mary’s disobedience with her governess and her quarrels with her maid: ‘She ought to struggle hard against these faults’ she warned. The first day ended encouragingly but on day two Mary refused to get out of bed, performed poorly in her reading lesson, and was rude in her answers. Over the following days her behaviour alternated between good and bad: on some days Georgiana was pleased with her improved manners, on others she was dismayed by her peevish and brusque behaviour.