A family fable – the truth is out there!

It’s an old family story that apparently there is a connection to the famous painter Sir William Beechey.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard this, but I know I was still at school. It didn’t really register – I was a kid and I was more interested in playing football! Years later I started to research my family tree and this is where the subject was raised once more.

I was speaking with my grandparents when I was handed an old type-written piece of paper with a brief history on Sir William, which peaked my interest somewhat. My nans mothers’ maiden name was Beechey and she was convinced that there was truth in this story.

I have spent years looking for that connection and now, finally, I think I may just have connected the dots. I’ve been a member of the Ancestry website since I started my research, so I search backward from Sir William Beechey as well as forwards from my own line. There are so many different branches – they had a lot of children in those days! – that it took a while to find someone that linked the two lines. Another problem is that there seem to be a lot of people with the same name, which confused things, and it took the best part of a year to sort it all out!

The link is now there. I haven’t done the final research to prove the line – that’s a job (and a blog post) for another day. But from what I know Sir William is my third cousin once removed!

For those of you who haven’t heard of Beechey here’s a short bio:

He originally trained as a lawyer but in 1774 entered the Royal Academy; had his first exhibit at the RA in 1776, continuing until 1839, one of the longest careers of any Academy exhibitor.

Beechey lived and worked in Norwich from 1782 to 1787; this is where he began painting life-size portraits. On his return to London in 1787 and established himself successfully. Beechey’s accounts survive for 1789 to part of 1791 and show him to be financially well-off; for example in 1789 a small portrait cost 5 guineas and a 30 by 25 inch painting would set you back 10 guineas

Beechey was made an Associate Member of the RA in 1793, the same year he became official portrait painter to Queen Charlotte. Many of his works are part of the Royal Collection housed at Buckingham Palace. In 1798 he painted an enormous painting, “The King Reviewing The Dragoons”. This painting earned him his selection to the RA and his knighthood.

He was appointed portrait painter to William Frederick, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, around 1813 and Principal Painter to William IV after 1830. His naval-officer sons, Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey (1808-95), and Frederick William Beechey (1796-1856) were both good artists, the former exhibiting marine works. His brother, George Beechey, was also a portrait painter.

So, you can see why I’d love to prove the line – who wouldn’t want such a prominent artist in their family history?

Here’s hoping I can finally prove the connection!

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