Object Image
Object Image
Object Image
1/3

Roundel Portraits of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy and Edward Henry Lee

These two portraits in the Tapestry Room depict the late 17th century owners of Ditchley Park: Lady Charlotte Fitzroy and Sir Edward Henry Lee, first Earl and Countess of Lichfield. Both paintings are attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller who was an important portrait painter of their time, often at the service of the royal court.

Charlotte Fitzroy was the daughter of Charles II, King of England, and one of his mistresses, Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, both of whose portraits also hang in Ditchley Park (in the White Drawing Room). As she was acknowledged by Charles, her surname ‘Fitzroy’ is a reflection of her heritage, an Anglo-Norman word that means ‘child of the king’. She was known for being gentle, sweet and very well-liked by many who came across her. Indeed, she was very popular within the royal family, being not only Charles’ favourite daughter but also his brother, James II of England’s, favourite niece. Ditchley still holds amicable letters exchanged between Charlotte and the two kings in their archives, and a casket that was gifted to Charlotte on her wedding day from James in 1677 still sits in the Tapestry Room.

Even in her earliest years, Charles and Barbara were keen to secure their daughter Charlotte a good marriage and ensure she would live well. This drew them to Edward Lee, the son of Sir Francis Henry Lee, fourth Baronet of Quarendon, and Lady Elizabeth Pope, wife of the second Earl of Downe. He inherited Ditchley alongside his father’s other lands and titles when he was only four years old and was a man of similar age to Charlotte with suitably good future prospects. Charles was very keen on their betrothal, which is commemorated in a striking Jacob Huysman portrait that remained at Ditchley until the late 1940s: the king elevated the young Baronet to the English peerage granting Edward the title ‘Count of Lichfield’, which made him the first of four Lees at Ditchley to hold the earldom. In later life he also went on to serve as Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, as well as leading Lichfield’s regiment in the English Army until the Glorious Revolution (1688) when he was dismissed for Jacobite sympathies.

The couple effectively spent their entire lives together, as they were born only sixteen months apart and betrothed from a very young age. Indeed, their marriage took place when they were barely teenagers, at the ages of around thirteen and fourteen, and the Earl was afforded more time with Charlotte on the estate than he might have expected, following his withdrawal from court precipitated by his refusal to foreswear his allegiance to James II on the accession of William of Orange. The couple were true life partners and had eighteen children together (13 sons and 5 daughters), which was sizeable even for 17th century standards. They are fundamental to the Ditchley story as, without the royal dowry that the union of Charlotte and Edward brought to the family, the fine Palladian mansion of Ditchley Park, rated by Pevsner as the third greatest house in Oxfordshire, might never have been built by the inheriting heir, George the second Earl.

17th Century
Oil on canvas

Where you'll find this

Ditchley Park
Ditchley Park
Permanent collection