THE HON. ROGER ROLLO (1777-1847)
THE HON. ROGER ROLLO (1777-1847)
THE EGLINTON TOURNAMENT
signed & extensively inscribed on backboard
oil & gouache on panel
19.5 x 23.5cm / 7 3/4 x 9 1/4in
The Honourable Roger Rollo, second son of James, 7th Lord Rollo, was an officer in the artillery and later in life the Customs Collector for the port of Ayr in Scotland. He is known to have been an amateur artist, as the Scottish self-taught portraitist John Kelso Hunter recorded in his memoirs:
"In my early start as an artist, when I was in Irvine, I was invited... to see his father, the Honourable Roger Rollo. I called on the old gentleman, was well received by him...I was informed by him that he was an artist, and he showed me his paintings, which I was bound to see beauties in, as he showed a warm and generous heart." (1)
The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland holds An Album of Caricature Sketches of Ayrshire Notables (Acc. No. PG 3270), and the aristocratic Rollo clearly enjoyed creating gently humorous depictions of the local great and the good of his day.
The present work shows the most significant social event to take place in Ayrshire of the 19th century - the Eglinton Tournament. The two day festivities were an indulgent celebration of pageantry and chivalry, the apogee of Victorian taste for the Gothic and Medieval. The event, the main spectacle of which was the jousting re-enactment, was organised by the Earl of Eglinton and held at Eglinton Castle.
The Earl organised the event in part because of the governmental economising that had affected Queen Victoria's recent coronation. He sought, according to speculation, to make up for the diminished pomp and ceremony of the events in London. Following significant anticipation across England - the Queen herself made note of discussing it with Lord Melbourne, on two separate occasions - more than 150 prospective knights met at Samuel Pratt's, the antique arms & armour dealer, to discuss the potential costs of entering into the tournament. Despite the high prices of (as Pratt offered them) period armours, around 40 of the candidates were willing to proceed, which eventually whittled down to 13 knights.
Various members of the aristocracy took on other roles for the Tournament: Lord Eglinton as Lord of the Tournament; the Marquess of Londonderry as King of the Tournament; Lord Saltoun as Judge of Peace; Sir Charles Lamb as the Knight Marshall; Lady Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, as the Queen of Beauty; and finally Louis Napoleon, future Emperor of France, as the Knight Visitor. Among those who participated as knights were the Earl of Shaftesbury, the Marquess's of Londonderry and Waterford and the Earls of Casillis and Craven.
The knights engaged in some preliminary public training in London to promote the event, and shortly afterwards over 100,000 spectators arrived at Eglinton. Newspapers and journals from across the land attended, especially as the event had drawn intense public criticism from the Whigs for its extravagance at an economically depressed time. Although the first two days of the tournament were somewhat dampened by torrential rains, the ceremonies were deemed mostly successful and the final day brought better conditions, with the event receiving a largely appreciative reception.
The martial games concluded with a banquet for 400 of the most important dignitaries, and a ball for 2,000 of the great and good in attendance (2). It was to inspire parts of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, led to similar reenactments in London and was a seminal moment in both the aesthetic and public consciousness of Victorian Britain.
The present work is an important and rare historical record as a portrait of both Napoleon III and Lord Eglinton himself: Rollo states in his inscription that they are to be seen in the bottom right corner, the former with a moustache and the latter to his side. Rollo is known to have attended the tournament and been numbered among the most important attendees,"that appeared on the pavilion erected for the Queen of Beauty" (3).
(1) John Kelso Hunter - Autobiography: Retrospective of an Artist's Life - Glasgow, 1868 - Chapter 29
(2) Sir Ian Anstruther, Bt. - The Knight and the Umbrella: An Account of the Eglinton Tournament of 1839 - London, 1963
(3) An Account of the Tournament at Eglinton: Revised and Corrected by Several of the Knights - Edinburgh, 1839 - pp.8-9
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