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Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey

Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey


After Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680)

c. 1661-1666

Oil on canvas

76 cm x 64 cm

In a later ebonized and moulded frame 86 cm x 75.5 cm

Higher res images available on request

This portrait commemorates the high point in the fortunes of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey, 15th Lord Willoughby of Eresby (1608-1666), when at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 he was richly rewarded for his Royalist loyalty during the Civil Wars. In his youth, Bertie served Charles I as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and in the turbulent years of the Civil wars he was to become one of the King’s most faithful supporters. Fighting alongside his father, Bertie commanded the Life Guards at the Battle of Edge Hill in 1642; when his father was mortally wounded, Bertie attempted to rescue him, and then surrendered himself so that he could remain by his father’s side until he died a few hours later. Bertie was held captive in Warwick Castle until July 1643, when he was released in an exchange of prisoners. He headed straight to Oxford to rejoin the King, and fought several more battles until he was wounded at the Battle of Naseby on 14th June, 1654.


Bertie was also one of the King’s councillors, advising him to reach a settlement with Parliament. But when negotiations failed, Bertie remained loyal to the end, attending the Charles I at his trial in Westminster Hall. After the King’s execution on 30 January 1649, Bertie was one of four peers who accompanied his body from Whitehall to its burial in the Chapel of St George at Windsor. Bertie’s estates were sequestered and he was forced to pay heavy fines to recover them. He wisely kept a low profile for the remainder of the Commonwealth years, since he remained under surveillance. His public troubles were matched by sorrows in his personal life. Bertie’s first wife, Martha, had died in 1641, and his second wife, Bridget, died in 1657 as the age of only twenty-nine.


On the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the tide of Montagu Bertie’s fortunes finally turned. The young Charles II was keen to reward those nobles who had remained loyal to his father. Charles entered London in triumph on 29 May 1660, and two days later appointed Bertie as one of his Privy Councillors. The following month he was made Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire. But it was in April 1661, the month of the coronation, that Bertie’s star shone brightest. On 1 April he was made a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the most coveted of the chivalric orders, limited to only twenty-four living members. At the King’s coronation on 23 April 1661, Bertie served in the hereditary position of Lord Great Chamberlain. It was his role to dress the King, and to serve him water before and after the banquet. Charles II invested Bertie with the insignia of his office, a white staff, which he proudly displays in the portrait. He wears the Garter Star sewn to the left shoulder of his cloak, and across his body is the blue Garter sash, and hanging from it the ‘lesser George’ badge. Bertie died on 25 July 1666 and was buried at the family seat of Grimsthorpe, Lincolnshire.


This portrait is one of several commissioned by Bertie to commemorate his new status.[1] It is almost certainly a copy after an original portrait Sir Peter Lely, one that was probably slightly larger in size. Principal Painter to the Crown, Lely was in high demand at the Restoration Court. He painted several of the other Garter Knights who were installed on the same day as Bertie, and the composition of his portrait of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, is very close to this portrait of Bertie (National Portrait Gallery, London NPG 681). [2] Lely also painted several of Bertie’s children. As a young man, Montagu Bertie had been painted by Van Dyck, and he would surely have wanted the Restoration Court’s most esteemed painter to immortalise his success. The present portrait is not by Lely, but a copy after him. It was common practice to commission copies of portraits as gifts for family and friends. Lely kept a busy studio with many assistants who could quickly turn out copies, but London also abounded with independent copyists, which is probably the origin of this portrait.


Bertie's portrait is not quite like those of his fellow nobles, however. Lely’s male sitters tend to appear grave and solemn, whereas Bertie has an unmistakable hint of a smile in his twinkling eyes, taut cheeks, and curled up corners of his mouth. It seems he could not quite suppress his satisfaction at the turn of events. After the tribulations of the Civil Wars and the lean Commonwealth years, the Royalists’ star had risen again. All’s well that ends well.




[1] Montagu Bertie was also painted in full Garter robes. Christie’s, 14 September 2016.

[2] A three-quarter length version of Wriothesley’s portrait was formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Bedford.|-Studio-of-Sir-Peter-Lely.

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