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The Temple of Vesta. Lady Maria Waldegrave, Lady Horatio Waldegrave and Miss Keppel their cousin


Artist: John Downman

Signed and dated 1786, lower left, set in the original rectangular gilded frame

Lady Maria, on the left, married firstly in 1759, James Waldegrave (1715-1763) 2rd Earl of Waldegrave and head of the bedchamber to George II.. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and grand daughter of Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister. In 1766 she married Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester. Her marriage to the Duke without the knowledge of King George III led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act 1772. which required all the descendants of George II to seek the sovereign's approval before marriage. It was only in September 1772, five months after the passage of the Act, that the King became aware of Prince William's marriage to Maria. As the Act's provisions could not be applied retroactively, Maria and the Duke's marriage was considered valid. Due, however, to the anger of her brother-in-law at the marriage, she was never received at court.

Lady (Anna) Horatia, shown in the centre was the third daughter of James and Maria. She married Lord Hugh Seymour. She is an ancestress of Diana, Princess of Wales, and 5th great-grandmother of The Duke of Cambridge. At Lord Seymour's death in 1779, she was perhaps secretly engaged to be married to Robert Bertie, 4th Duke of Ancaster (1756–1779), as she is said by her uncle Horace Walpole and others to have put on mourning for the dissolute young Duke.

Miss Keppel, on the right hand side in this portrait, was the daughter of the Bishop of Exeter. She married the Hon. George Fitzroy, the eldest son of Lord Southampton

In Roman mythology, Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth. Worshiped in every Roman household, Vesta served as a symbol of home and family as well as the guardian of the sacred fire in her temples. As keeper of this flame—a source of life and immortality— the goddess played a prominent role in Roman culture.
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