The Hatchment: 16.25” x 13”
The Whole in Frame: 22.75” x 19.5”
Beautifully depicted by a Dutch hatchment painter, the oil on oak panel, showing the St George inescutcheon of the Imperial Russian arms and the field of the Oranje-Nassau shield of the Dutch, survives from the third quarter of the nineteenth century presented in a good composition and ebonized moulded frame.
The condition of the panel is completely unrestored and untouched so there is no restoration with no serious flaking to the paint and no splits, chips or cracks to the wood. The panel has become darkened with age so the colours are toned down and there is old crazing. The good quality frame is worn with some losses to the composition. The work could be cleaned if so desired.
We have had The College of Arms, the official heraldic authority for the UK and much of the Commonwealth carry out research on the armorial. The comments were as follows:
‘The arms are Dutch and represent Willem Frederik George Lodewijk van Oranje-Nassau, King Willem II of Netherlands (died 17 March 1849) and his Queen, Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia (died 1 March 1865). The field of the Oranje-Nassau shield (on the left of the design) should be more of a blue but this has evidently darkened to a blue/black.
Although it is fair to say that funeral hatchments are conventionally diagonal-square in format, there is a tradition in Britain and the Low Countries of presenting Royal mourning achievements on rectangular boards or fabrics. There are numerous examples in England dating from the late Georgian and early Victorian periods, and many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century examples in Belgium commemorating members of the Imperial family. They are items of public mourning rather than being associated with the funeral itself, for which the lozenge format remains the norm in both regions. It is nevertheless appropriate to class them all as hatchments or rouwborden.’
‘The achievement may date from the Queen’s death in 1865. However, Dutch hatchment painters did not follow the British convention of marking a surviving spouse with a white background, so it could equally well commemorate King Willem (1849).’
To the reverse of the picture we find two further strands of information, one being an inventory label for James Bourlet & Sons, high-class frame-makers, “By Appointment”. They were at 17 Nassau Street from 1864 to 1974, but occupied no 18 only from 1895 and Mortimer Street from 1899. Unfortunately the records of these inventory labels were destroyed in a fire so we cannot find out more about when this piece was framed and who by even though we can see the number of 49098 clearly.
The second matter of interest verso is a chalk inscription for ‘e M McAlpine’ which could well be the former owner. The frame is not contemporary, but clearly someone treasured this rouwbord enough to get it the very best of care. An amusing coincidence that it was done in Nassau Street, commemorating King Willem’s predecessor William of Orange!
This hatchment was essentially prepared as a tribute to Willem II and/or Queen Anna at his/her death, for display in a public place such as a town church or hall. There are other examples of this type of work on both sides of the Channel.
King William II had a string of relationships with both men and women. The homosexual relationships that William II had as crown prince and as king were reported by journalist Eillert Meeter. The king surrounded himself with male servants whom he could not dismiss because of his ‘abominable motive’ for hiring them in the first place. He entered the British Army, and in 1811, as aide-de-camp to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, took part in several campaigns of the Peninsular War. He was made Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army on 11 June 1811 and Colonel on 21 October that year. On 8 September 1812 he was made an Aide-de-Camp to the Prince Regent and on 14 December 1813 promoted to Major-General. His courage and good nature made him very popular with the British, who nicknamed him “Slender Billy.” He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince. On 21 February 1816 at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, William married Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands.
On 17 February 1817 in Brussels, his first son Willem Alexander was born, the future King William III.
Because he lived in Brussels, he became affiliated with the Southern industrials. In 1819, he was blackmailed over what Minister of Justice Van Maanen termed in a letter his “shameful and unnatural lusts”: presumably bisexuality. He may also have had a relationship with a dandy by the name of Pereira.
The marriage of the pair had been suggested by her brother the Tsar Alexander I in 1815, as a symbol of the alliance created after the Congress of Vienna. As it had been decided that no member of the Romanov family should be forced to marry against their will, William was invited to Russia before the wedding so that Anna could get to know him and consent to marry him, which she did. At the time of their marriage, it was agreed that Prince Willem’s children should be raised as Protestants, although Anna herself remained Russian Orthodox. Alexander Pushkin celebrated the marriage in a special poem entitled To the Prince of Orange. The couple remained in Russia for one year.
Anna Pavlovna was shocked over the differences between Russia and her new home country, especially when it came to the class system and the separation between the classes, which was much less strict in the Netherlands, where the distance between royalty and the public was not as great as in Russia, and she had difficulties adjusting herself to this. The couple lived in Brussels until the Belgian revolution forced them to leave in 1830. Anna liked Brussels much more than the North, as it reminded her more of her native country. She founded a school where poor women and girls were educated in sewing (1832), and a hospital for soldiers wounded in the Belgian revolution (1830).
The marriage was stormy. From the beginning, Anna considered herself superior in rank to William. In 1829, several pieces of her jewellery were stolen, and she suspected her spouse of stealing them, as he was at the time in debt and mixing with people she considered to be questionable. The adultery of her spouse created conflicts between them. They lived separated until 1843. Anna did, however, act as a mediator between her husband and her father-in-law and tried to ease the tension between them during political conflicts. Otherwise, she was not politically active, despite her strong political convictions. As a person, she was described as intelligent, sensitive, loyal to her family and with a violent temperament. During her time in Holland, she studied the Dutch language, history and culture, and founded more than fifty orphanages.
On 7 October 1840, on the abdication of her father-in-law, William I of the Netherlands, she became queen consort of the Netherlands. She became the 343rd Dame of the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 1 February 1842.
As a queen, Anna is described as dignified, arrogant and distant towards the public. She did in fact learn to speak better Dutch than her often French-speaking spouse, but she upheld a strict etiquette and never became very popular as queen. She valued pomp, etiquette and formal ceremonies and rituals. Anna Pavlovna corresponded with her mother and brothers in Russia and treasured the memory of her birth country: she founded a Russian boys’ choir, where the members were to be dressed in traditional Russian costume, and it has been said of her that she remained a Russian Grand Duchess more than she ever became Queen of the Netherlands.
As a queen dowager, she left the royal palace, retired from court life and lived a discreet life. She did not get along with her daughter-in-law and had plans to return to Russia after a conflict with her son, King William III, in 1855, but in the end, she did not.
The firm identification with a continental head of state makes this decorative hatchment a desirable and relatively important piece of regal historic interest.