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Big Irish send-off for king recalled in painting

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Multitudes watched George IV depart from newly named 'Kingstown' in 1821

Multitudes watched George IV depart from newly named 'Kingstown' in 1821

Multitudes watched George IV depart from newly named 'Kingstown' in 1821

A historic painting capturing the departure of the playboy monarch King George IV from Ireland will be auctioned in Dublin next month.

The image of a vast throng of people who turned out to watch him board a ship in September 1821 to return to Britain was captured by artist William Sadler.

The name of the newly built harbour of Dunleary was changed to 'Kingstown' to mark the royal event. The borough's name was changed to Dun Laoghaire in 1920.

The king was heavily under the influence of Irish whiskey when he arrived at Howth shortly after his lavish coronation in London.

The gossip around Dublin was that the real purpose of his 18-day visit to Ireland was to spend time with his mistress, Elizabeth, Lady Conyngham.

The hard-drinking monarch spent four nights with her at Slane Castle in Co Meath where she lived with her husband Henry, whom she ensured was raised in rank from Viscount to Marquess.

The painting will be auctioned by Whyte's auctioneers among 200 Irish and international artworks at the RDS in Dublin on March 9, with a price estimate ranging from €12,000 to €18,000.

Auctioneer Ian Whyte told the Sunday Independent: "The king was famously drunk when he arrived in Ireland. It was well known he came to visit his mistress, Lady Conyngham. His visit was a big event in Ireland and the first visit of a monarch since the coming of King Billy."

The auction catalogue stated Sadler's art evoked that era in Dublin "in all its splendour and corruption" and the royal departure showed "all classes, from gentry to beggars, are assembled" in a magnificent panoramic view of the new harbour.

The spendthrift king, known to "prefer a girl and a bottle to politics and a sermon", had become an implacable opponent of restoring the rights of Catholics. Popular Irish leader Daniel O'Connell, who championed Catholic emancipation, went ahead and presented the monarch with a laurel crown as he departed.

The painting shows ranks of soldiers at the port which prevented the surging crowds of Dubliners from getting too close. A number of police carrying truncheons are in the foreground.

Sadler's paintings of Dublin were seen as humane and captured anecdotal details of street-life more than any other artist of his time.

The most valuable lot to be auctioned is expected to be a Jack B Yeats painting, Rusty Gates' with an estimate of €100,000 to €150,000.

Sunday Independent