The Pastons and their royal connections

26/03/2015

Robert Paston was a staunch royalist. He had been knighted for his support for Charles II at the Restoration, and hoped for more royal favours to come. He was made a viscount in 1673, although was not granted his longed-for earldom until 1679.

Robert's favour with the King was confirmed however when, in September 1671, Charles and Queen Katherine visited Norfolk. They stayed in Norwich with the Earl Marshall, with the Townshends at Raynham Hall, with the Hobarts at Blickling Hall, and the Pastons at Oxnead.

As one might expect, Robert spared no expense to ensure that the royal visit was one of unsurpassed luxury and grandeur, even though it only lasted for a couple of days. He re-furbished Oxnead for the occasion. We don't know how the state chambers would have looked, but we can hazard a guess. He probably decorated the King's rooms with gold-trimmed draperies as lavish as those in the painting, and furnished the banqueting table with gold and silver vessels. He might even, as a grand gesture, have bought the young African page especially to wait on the King.

Charles reportedly enjoyed his stay, and said he 'was safe in the house of his friend'. But sadly, many of the debts Robert had incurred remained unpaid well over a year later, one of Robert's creditors remarking sarcastically that he 'admired his way of paying debts'!

This painting gives us just a small glimpse into the extraordinary, vanished world the Pastons and their circle inhabited in the 1670s. We are so near our target now: 84% funded, with just three days to go. Help us make this final push, and allow generations to come to appreciate this work in its full, gilded glory.

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