Sir William Beechey was a successful portrait painter with unparalleled royal patronage. His intended legal career was cut short by a chance meeting with students of the Royal Academy Schools and in 1772 Beechey entered the schools himself. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776. After five years in Norwich, he moved back to London in 1787 where he stepped into the vacuum left by Gainsborough’s death and Reynolds’ retirement. He gained a reputation for straight-forward, unpretentious and careful portraiture and in 1793 he was appointed painter to Queen Charlotte. Not long afterwards he was made a member of the Royal Academy – on King George’s request, it was rumoured – but he fell from royal favour in 1806. He continued to exhibit at the Academy until the year before his death.