The paintings and artwork that came to define the colourful reign of Charles II are to be featured in an exhibition that opens to the public on Friday.
The major event will put on display pieces collected by Charles, as he re-established his authority as monarch, and others that tell the story of his escape from Cromwell’s forces after the battle of Worcester in 1651.
On his 30th birthday, May 29, 1660, Charles made his triumphant return to London and to the thrones of England and Ireland, ending republican rule after years in exile.
Over the next 25 years, the arts would play a vital role in reinforcing Charles’ legitimacy and authority as a ruler, and creating a royal court that could re-take its place on the European stage.
On display will be an elaborate silver-gilt table salt holder, presented to Charles II for his coronation, drawings by great artists like Hans Holbein the Younger and renaissance paintings.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is painter John Michael Wright’s full length portrait of the king that is an enduring image of the monarchy restored.
The sovereign is dressed in Parliament robes over the Order of the Garter costume, wearing the Crown of State, the Sword of State and holding the new orb and sceptre made for his coronation.
Once monarch, the king ordered new royal regalia and crown jewels to replace those sold off or melted down by the Parliamentarians, and his coronation on 23 April 1661 was the most extravagant since that of Elizabeth I.
Visitors can see the dazzling display of altar plate from Westminster Abbey including a silver-gilt dish by Henry Greenway, nearly a metre in diameter, and a solid-gold chalice and gold paten, or small plate.
The exhibition Charles II: Art & Power, will be held at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from Friday until May 13, 2018.