As an officer of the Coldstream Guards, Lieutenant Thomas Gore was a member of one of the most illustrious regiments in the British army. Named after a river crossed by General Monck during his march South to welcome the newly-restored King of England, Charles II, back to his realm, it is to this day, the oldest regiment in continuous active service.
It was, however, in the nineteenth century that its reputation for valour and courage was most firmly established. During the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 – fought against the last stand of Napoleon Bonaparte – the Coldstream Guards were placed in charge of a farmhouse called Hougoumont. Napoleon’s plan for the battle focused on the capture of this small château and, over the course of the day, he sent vast numbers of men and resources to take it. At one point, when a group of soldiers broke into the front courtyard, it looked as though he had succeeded, but, such was the heroism of these guardsmen, that the gate was closed before any more could join them. Of those who had broken in, none survived. So ferocious was the fighting that, later in the day, Hougoumont caught fire; nevertheless, the Coldstream regiment held firm and it is to them that much of the success of the battle can be attributed.
Gore’s name does not appear, however, in the list of recipients of the Waterloo Medal, meaning that it is unlikely that he fought at the battle. Yet, the appearance of one Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gore in the muster for the 1815 suggests that he was involved in the Waterloo Campaign, otherwise known as the Hundred Days’ War. If, however, the present sitter is this same Thomas Gore, it would appear that his days following Waterloo were less illustrious. A Lieutenant Colonel of the Coldstream Guards of this name appears in an excoriating report written by the social campaigner, William Cobett. Gore was, it would appear, court-martialed for drinking with a corporal and so breaking with the strict rigidity of the British army hierarchies. Cobett’s ire is directed at the fact that, thanks to an appeal made to a high-ranking connection, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, Gore was cleared of the court martial and the low-born corporal reprimanded.
Andrew Plimer’s social circles, on the other hand, had never been so exclusivist. The son of a clockmaker, he had, with his brother Nathaniel – also a miniaturist – run away at a young age to live with a troupe of gypsies. Following two years on the road, he entered the domestic service of Richard Cosway – the most popular miniaturist of his day, whose career was then in full flight – who soon made Plimer his assistant and, recognising his talent, may even have paid for his drawing lessons. In 1785, Plimer established his independent practice, drawing many of his patrons from ranks of the gentry and well-to-do classes, of which the present sitter is a representative. Never losing his willful gypsy spirit, from 1820 the restless Plimer toured the country, continuing to practice as a miniaturist until as late as 1830.