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Sir John Cope (1690-1760)

William Aikman (Forfar 1682 – London 1731)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1729 - 1732

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

2378 x 1460 mm

Order this image

Collection

Blickling Hall, Norfolk (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Blickling Hall, Norfolk, East of England, National Trust

NT 355481

Caption

Sir John [Jonathan] Cope, in spite of his reputation as a ‘little, dressy, finical man’ enjoyed a prosperous army career, with a series of rapid promotions. However, his four decades of distinguished service were marred by the disastrous Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. On 20 September his army met with that of Charles Edward Stuart (the Young Pretender). The battle was said to have lasted only fifteen minutes, during which time the Jacobites routed the hapless Hanoverian force. Cope’s redcoats bolted with scarcely a show of resistance, despite his rallying cry: “For Shame Gentlemen; don’t let us be beat by such a set of Banditti.” Plagued by gout, Cope never again held a field command. He died in London on 28 July 1760 and was survived by his second wife, ElizabethWaple. He had married, as his first wife, Jane Duncombe, sister of Anthony Duncombe, later 1st Baron Feversham.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Sir John Cope (1690-1760) by William Aikman (Forfar 1682 – London 1731), 1729/32. A full-length portrait, right hand in beige glove and holding other glove, leaning with right elbow on wall, wearing red coat with gold braid and frogging, high boots, brown tunic and breeches, sword hilt in left hand. Full grey wig. Tricorn hat on wall at left. Before a landscape with military scene of lines of troops at rhs. Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Horse Grenadier Guards at this period. MP for Liskeard in 1727-34 and a political crony of Hobart. Previously Identified in 1955 inventory as John, First Duke of Marlborough.

Full description

Cope was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cope (b.1645), who was disinherited due to his choice of wife. His son was therefore forced to make his own way in the world, which he responded to with some success. He progressed through the ranks of the army, and by October 1710 he had secured a captaincy in the 3rd foot guards, which carried the rank of lieutenant-colonel. By the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713, Cope was brevet colonel of Wynne’s foot, outranking many officers with longer service. In 1722 he entered parliament as MP for Queensborough, and later represented Liskeard, and Orford. During these years of peace his army career continued to prosper. In June 1737 he secured the colonelcy of the regiment that subsequently became the 9th Dragoons, and was colonel of the 7th Dragoons from 1741 until his death. He was promoted to brigadier-general in 1735, and his appointment to major-general came in 1739. By 1743, after Britain intervened in the War of Austrian Succession, Cope ranked as lieutenant-general. He participated in the defeat of the French at Dettingen, and in the subsequent mood of euphoria, he was created a knight of the Bath. Upon the outbreak of the 1745 uprising, Cope commanded in Scotland, and he was persuaded to advance against Charles Edward Stuart without delay. On 20 September the two armies made contact near Prestonpans, the resulting battle of which was said to have lasted only fifteen minutes, during which time the Jacobites routed the hapless Hanoverian force. Cope’s redcoats bolted with scarcely a show of resistance, despite his rallying cry: “For Shame Gentlemen; don’t let us be beat by such a set of Banditti.” Cope became the scapegoat for the government’s dismal showing during the opening phase of the ‘Forty Five. However, when a court of inquiry was held, Cope was found to be blameless. Horace Walpole observed in a letter to Sir Horace Mann (14 October 1746) that, “Cope is come off most gloriously, his courage ascertained, and even his conduct, which everyone had given up, justified.” Yet it was Cope’s supposed incompetence that passed into legend, and inspired the rousing Jacobite song ‘Hey, Johnnie Cope! are ye waukin yet?” Plagued by gout, Cope never again held a field command. He died in London on 28 July 1760 and was survived by his second wife, Elizabeth Waple. He had married, as his first wife, Jane Duncombe, sister of Anthony Duncombe, later 1st Baron Feversham. (Based on Stephen Brumwell's entry in the ODNB)

Provenance

Bequeathed with the hall and contents by Philip,11th Marquess of Lothian (1882-1940)

Credit line

Blickling Hall, The Lothian Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

William Aikman (Forfar 1682 – London 1731)

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