Unknown Portrait of young Richard Admiral Lord Howe

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    Julie F

      The attached portrait of Richard Admiral Lord Howe (1726-1799) is in the private collection of the present Earl Howe. It is the ‘youngest’ known portrait of Richard Howe, and it has been reproduced for the first time in my book “The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women behind Britain’s Wars for America” (Liveright, 2021). The artist was Gainsborough, but the date, 1758, is a guess. The family tradition is that it was a gift to Richard’s bride, Mary Hartopp, whom he married in 1758. However, that is by no means certain, and one way to help date it would be to deduce Richard’s rank from the uniform then relate it to his known career.

      Can anyone help with the rank of the uniform depicted here?

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      Peter Leech

        This is the first Post Captains uniform which was introduced in 1748 and replaced in 1767, so it’s between those dates. You could get if he was above or below 3 years seniority from the details on the waistcoat, but obviously the waistcoat is hidden in this portrait and off the top of my head I don’t think there was any difference between under and over three years seniority at this point on the coat.

        A quick look at three decks for his service history suggests that he was promoted captain in 1746, and promoted to admiral in 1770, so unfortunately that actually only narrows it down by not being between 1746-1748, and not being 1767-1770. (https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_crewman&id=2125)

        Robert B

          Just curious, what makes this recognizable as a post captain’s uniform rather than a master and commander’s or first lieutenant’s uniform?

          Sam Willis

            From Ric Smith on Facebook:

            Ric Smith
            In 1748 Lord Anson introduced the dress code and the embroidered Blue dress coat with White facings came in and was maintained for about 20 years. When a working rig came in.
            Epaulettes did not come in until the 1790’s
            So my guess would be that the photo above would fit in the period 1748 – 1767.

            Julie F

              Thanks Peter Leech. Howe was a commodore by June 1758. Would the uniform be the same as that of a Post Captain?

              Robert B

                Yes, the uniform would not change until promotion to Admiral. Commodore was a special grade for captains in charge of multiple vessels.

                Julie F

                  Thanks. I think based on your information that there is no reason to question the Howe family tradition that this was a wedding portrait gifted to his bride in 1758.

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