Acquisition – Portrait of Major General Charles Cathcart, 8th Baron Cathcart, (1686-1740) when Colonel of 7th Horse (later 6th Dragoon Guards) traditionally attributed to Jonathan Richardson (the elder) (1667-1745).

By November 13, 2017 Acquisitions No Comments
Major General Charles Cathcart , 8th Baron Cathcart (1686-1740).

In October 2017, the Museum acquired the portrait of Major General Lord Cathcart. We are grateful for the support of the Art Fund, the Museums Association Beecroft Bequest and the National Fund for Acquisitions (administered by National Museums Scotland). It is only thanks to the support of these heritage-supporting bodies that the Museum was able to acquire the nationally important portrait of Major General Cathcart.

Lord Cathcart was a distinguished officer of the Scots Greys and Colonel of 7th Horse (later 6th Dragoon Guards) who served some 38 years in the army. Cathcart fought the French in the War of Spanish Succession (1702-14) and the Jacobites at the Battle of Sherrifmuir (13 November 1715). At Sherrifmuir, Cathcart led the 2nd (or Royal North British) Dragoons (popularly known as the ‘Scots Greys’) in several charges which pushed back the Jacobite left wing and ensured the tactical victory of the Government forces.

The portrait of Lord Cathcart by Jonathan Richardson (the elder) painted 1733-c.1735 depicts the sitter when colonel of 7th Horse (later 6th Dragoon Guards), a position he held from 1733 until his death in 1740. The 6th Dragoon Guards is one of three antecedent regiments of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, whose history the Museum interprets.

To the sitter’s right in the background of the portrait is depicted an infantry battalion apparently practising ‘platoon fire’, whilst a mounted officer and sergeants gathered in a semi-circle, halberds in hand, observe and direct. This scene is probably a reference to Lord Cathcart’s time as colonel of the 9th Foot (1717—28) and 31st Foot (1728 – 31); Cathcart had a reputation for being attentive to drill.

An infantry battalion practising ‘platoon fire’, this scene is probably a reference to Lord Cathcart’s time as colonel of the 9th Foot (1717—28) and 31st Foot (1728 - 31).
An infantry battalion practising ‘platoon fire’, this scene is probably a reference to Lord Cathcart’s time as colonel of the 9th Foot (1717—28) and 31st Foot (1728 - 31).

Cathcart joined the army at the age of eighteen in 1702. Two years later, he was commanding a company of Colonel Macartney’s Regiment on the Dutch/French border during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-14). A year later, he transferred to the Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons (popularly known as the ‘Scots Greys’, the history of which the Museum also represents). In 1706, Cathcart was given command of a troop of the Regiment and the following year became brigade-major to the Earl of Stair; Cathcart was involved in most of the general actions of the war. In 1709, Cathcart was promoted major in the Scots Greys and shortly afterwards became the Regiment’s lieutenant-colonel.

At the Battle of Sheriffmuir (13 November 1715), during the Jacobite rebellion of that year, Cathcart led his Regiment in several charges against the Jacobite left wing; these charges resulted in the rout of a large element of the left of the Jacobite army and were instrumental in the victory of the Government forces. Thus, the Scots Greys and Cathcart were a vital part of the victory, at which 14 Jacobite standards were captured; it is said that the ‘Reformation Standard’ was captured by the Greys.

In civilian life, Lord Cathcart was a prominent member of Society, occupying influential positions at Court and in Parliament. On the accession of King George I, in 1714, Cathcart was appointed one of the Grooms of His Majesty’s Bedchamber; he was later appointed Lord of the Bedchamber to King George II. Lord Cathcart was chosen as one of the representative peers for Scotland at several Parliaments and was governor of Duncannon Fort and Londonderry. From 1725 to 1729 he was receiver-general for Scotland. In 1732, upon the death of his father, Alan Cathcart, 7th Baron Cathcart, he inherited the peerage.

The culmination of Lord Cathcart’s military career came in 1740, when he was appointed commander-in-chief of His Majesty’s forces in America and selected to command a British force intended to attack Spanish processions in the Americas. However, during the voyage from Britain to the West Indies, Lord Cathcart became ill with dysentery and died on board ship on 20 December 1740. Cathcart was buried on the beach in Prince Rupert’s Bay, Dominica, where a monument was erected in his honour.

In summary, Major General Cathcart was a figure of national importance in the history of both Scotland and Great Britain. He was a distinguished regimental officer of the Scots Greys and Colonel of the 7th Horse and served some 38 years in the army.



Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 123,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by the The Hepworth Wakefield in 2017) and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at

National Fund for Acquisitions (administered by National Museums Scotland)

The National Fund for Acquisitions, administered with Scottish Government funding by National Museums Scotland, contributes towards the acquisition of objects for the collections of museums, galleries, libraries and archives throughout Scotland. During financial year 2016/17, the NFA made 64 payments totalling £131,525 to 31 organisations, supporting acquisitions with a total purchase value of  nearly £373,000.

Find out more about the work of the National Fund for Acquisitions on our webpage:

National Fund for Acquisitions

Museums Association Beecroft Bequest

Grants for acquisition of pre-19th century works.

Under the terms of the will of the late Walter G. Beecroft the residue of his estate was bequeathed to the Museums Association to form the Beecroft Bequest.

Grants of up to £10,000 are available for the acquisition of pre-19th century pictures and works of art by old masters or worthy school pictures of old masters.

For further information please see