This state portrait of King Charles II (1630–1685) was painted by John Michael Wright (1617–1694) to celebrate the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy and Charles’s coronation on 23 April 1661.
Symbolism within the painting
Charles II is resplendent in full coronation regalia, including ermine-trimmed robes, crown, sceptre and orb. These powerful symbols of monarchy had been destroyed shortly after the execution of Charles’s father, King Charles I (1600–1649), and therefore had to be remade for the coronation ceremony in 1661.
The composition of the painting has many similarities to the official state portraits commissioned by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I as visual representations of their power, legitimacy and divine right to rule. Here, Charles is sat on a low throne under a canopy of state, with his legs spread wide in white stockings. These details are especially evocative of Henry VIII in the iconic painting The Family of Henry VIII (c. 1545). This powerful portrait is designed to reinforce Charles’s legitimacy by reminding all who gazed upon it that at his coronation centuries of royal ancestry were being restored to the throne.