The Circus

The Circus

Pp. 380-383

                                                  EPILOGUE CONTINUED

In the years before Gainsborough died he was recognized as the official portrait painter at Court and occasionally King George and Queen Charlotte called on the family at their London home to view his paintings exhibited there.

Gainsborough now moved in exalted circles as a favourite of theKing and Court.  There is, however, little to indicate that his wife was comfortable in her life at the grand address in Pall Mall.   Art historian Professor W Vaughan, writing in 2002, could not find any evidence that Margaret participated in the life of the fashionable world inhabited by her husband.

There were, perhaps, two major reasons for this:  Margaret was proud of her ancestral bloodline, but as an illegitimate female married to a working artist she would not necessarily be accepted in society.  Her daughters, as mentioned earlier, could never have been recognized as "ladies" by their Georgian contemporaries.  In addition she had another problem: Margaret Gainsborough had to act as chaperone to her two ageing daughters, one a spinster and the other married but separated and sadly descending into madness while Margaret junior was becoming noticeably more eccentric as she aged.  Life for their mother, now in her fifties, was challenging.

Gainsborough became ill and died in 1788.   After his death a growth in his neck was discovered to be cancerous, obstructing vital passages, and was declared incurable.

In his Will the artist dealt unusually harshly with his nephew, Dupont Gainsborough, reports David Tyler, leaving the impression that the relationship had been less than harmonious although Dupont had lived with the family from infancy.  Dupont was diffident and modest, but stubborn.  He continued to live with Margaret and her daughters after Gainsborough's death until the lease of the house in Pall Mall expired in 1793.  Margaret and her daughters moved to live at 63 Sloane Square, a corner house on the south side of Hans Street, and at this point Dupon left  them to live elsewhere in London.  He died in 1797 aged 42.

Margaret remained in the house in Sloane Square until she died there, aged seventy.  Her death was announced in The Times on 22 December 1798.  She was laid to rest beside her husband and  his nephew Dupont, next toG ainsborough's old friend Kirby (Thomas had expressed his wish to be buried beside him) in a tomb on the south side of the Chapel of St Anne at Kew Green, in the Burying Ground.