The Earl of Aldborough Reviewing Volunteers at Belan House, County Kildare

Artist or maker:
Wheatley, Francis (b.1747, d.1801)
1782 {later changes c1787}
c 1810 {later extensions}
Place of production:
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


The 2nd Earl of Aldborough, Edward Stratford, appears with members of his family and friends, outside his house in County Kildare, Ireland, called Belan House. This painting is one of his Francis Wheatley's finest works. Later additions to the canvas reflect changes in Edward's family.

The Earl rides his horse Pomposo to the left of the painting. He proudly shows his relatives and acquaintances the muster of voluntary troops, the Aldorough Legion, he had raised. In the carriage marked with the Earl's coronet is his mother. The ladies to the left include his nine sisters. It was customary for ladies to attend the reviews in their finest clothes and equipages. Behind the main carriage, there is a lady wearing volunteer uniform. The appearance of Belan House is accurate - Wheatley probably visited the estate and made drawings of the scenery as well as the family and friends, before returning to his studio in Dublin to paint the picture.

There is evidence that two heads were added later to the painting (the woman with the blue hat in the carriage with the coronet, and the old wigless man in the carriage at the far right). These changes reflected the changing nature of the family. Edward married again in 1787 and the Earldom passed to his estranged brother in 1801 as Edward had no children. His new wife and his estranged brother are probably the two additions.

The painting shows the three arms of the Aldborough Legion, light-horse, light infantry and grenadiers, as well as the mock-rehearsal of a battle. In 1777, Edward raised the Aldborough Legion regiment. It was one of the most well-dressed legions, reflecting Aldborough's attempts to impress politically and socially. His family motto, displayed on the coach in the centre, was 'Nothing can oppose courage and arms'. During the 1770s and 1780s, Protestant nobles sought to assert Ireland's independence as a separate kingdom under the 'imperial crown' of Great Britian. They also feared an alliance between French and Catholic Irish forces or the threat of a French invasion at the time of the American War of Independence. Many people became involved in the Volunteer Movement to recruit and train troops to defend the country. Twelve such legions were formed.

Francis Wheatley painted several similar group portraits, including Sir John Irwin reviewing troops in Phoenix Park (National Portrait Gallery, London). Wheatley entered the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1769 after having exhibited with the Society of Artists. He specialised in small-scale portraits and conversation pieces as well as theatrical and rustic scenes. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1791. In 1779 he fled to Dublin with his mistress Elizabeth, the wife of the painter Alexander Gresse. He worked in Ireland to around 1784 where he produced some of his best work. After establishing his reputation with large-scale uncommissioned works such as of the Irish House of Commons, Wheatley was commissioned to make three such large group portraits as well as smaller portraits of minor political figures and social personalities.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
1549 x 2653 (sight size)
Signature & date:
signed and dated, lower left: F. Wheatley / pxt. 1782
Virtuti nihil obstat et armis
centre, motto on carriage [trans: Nothing can oppose courage and arms]


Commissioned by Edward Stratford 2nd Earl of Aldborough (b.1736, d.1801) in 1782; probably inherited by his widow Anne Elizabeth Henniker Stratford Countess of Aldborough (d.1802); probably inherited by her nephew Lt.-Col. John Wingfield (b.1772, d.1850); probably by descent to his son John Wingfield-Stratford (b.1810, d.1881); acquired by William Vokins probably from the estate of John Wingfield-Stratford in 1881; bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) from William Vokins probably just after 1888; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Exhibition history:
Royal Academy Exhibition, 1888, London, no. 1, lent by William Vokins,

'British Art', 1934, Royal Academy, London, no. 370, lent by James A. de Rothschild
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Royal Academy of Arts; Commemorative catalogue of the exhibition of British art, Royal academy of arts, London, January-March 1934; London; Oxford University Press; 1935; no. 268
Sir Francis Watson, The Art Collections at Waddesdon Manor I: The Paintings, Apollo, 69, June 1959, 172-182; p. 175, fig. 1
Ellis Waterhouse, The English Pictures at Waddesdon Manor, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 49-56; p. 56
Ross Watson, Francis Wheatley in Ireland, Irish Georgian Society, 9, 1966, 35-49; pp. 41-43, pl. 3
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 116-119, cat. no. 47
Mary Webster; Francis Wheatley; London; The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Routledge & Kegan Paul; 1970; p. 129, no. 35, fig. 37
Mary Webster, Francis Wheatley's Review in Belan Park, Apollo, 122, 1985, 275-279; pp. 275-279, pl. 3
James Kelly; Francis Wheatley: His Irish Paintings, 1779-83; Adele Dalsimer, Visualizing Ireland: National Identity and the Pictorial Tradition, London, Faber & Faber, 1993; 145-163; pp. 156-57, fig. 31
Valerie Pakenham; The Big House in Ireland; London; Cassel; 2000; p. 164
Anne Crookshank; Ireland's Painters 1600-1940; New Haven; Yale University Press, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; 2002; pp. 22-23
Andres Furger, François de Capitani, Jürg Burlet, Susan Niederberger, Beat Niederberger; Le triomphe du luxe: La berline d'Isaac Pictet, syndic de Genève; Geneva; Musée national suisse; 2005; p. 140
Robert Fountain; Travelling Ireland: 1000 miles with Horse & Carriage; Askham; Palette Press; 2008; p. 140
Ronald Lightbown; An Architect Earl: Edward Augustus Stratford (1736-1801); Thomastown; OLL Editions; 2008; pp. 203-222, pls 46, 50.

Indexed terms

People as subject
Aldborough, Edward Stratford, 2nd Earl of (b.1736, d.1801)
Aldborough, Anne Elizabeth Henniker Stratford, Countess of (d.1802)
Aldborough, Martha O'Neale Stratford, Dowager Countess of (d.1796)
Stratford, Reverend Francis-Paul (b.c 1744, d.1820)
Powerscourt, Amelia Stratford, Viscountess (d.1831)
Pendred Saunders, Lady Martha Stratford (active c 1782)
Aldborough, John Stratford, 3rd Earl of (b.c 1742, d.1823)
Aldborough, Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, 4th Earl of (b.c 1746, d.1833)
Aldborough, Barbara Herbert Stratford, Countess of (b.1742, d.1785)
Research keywords
Nationalism & Civic Identity
African Imagery
Servant Life
Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Countryside
Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Gardens
Architecture/Buildings - Specific/Belan House, Ireland
Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Trees & Plants
Military & War/Muster of Troops
Objects/Armour & Weaponry/Firearms
Everyday Life/Entertainment/Looking at Industry
Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Uniforms
Heraldry/Heraldic Devices
Everyday Life/Gaming & Sport/Horse Riding & Racing
Work & Occupations/Domestic Service/Servant
Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Tall Hairstyle
Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Feathers
Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Water
Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Fire
Military & War/Encampment
Work & Occupations/Maritime & Military/Soldier
Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Parasols & Umbrellas
Allegory & Personifications/Fame
Work & Occupations/Maritime & Military/Colonel
History Subjects
Conversation Pieces