Mary “Perdita” Robinson (1756-1800)
The Prince’s Mistress
Mrs Robinson Thomas Gainsborough 1782 Wallace Collection, London
Based partly on her own spirited memoirs, this is the story of the beautiful Mary Robinson; poet, actress and fashion icon who attracts the attention of the 17-year-old future George IV while playing PERDITA in Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE. Having made her his mistress, the young prince persuades her to give up her profession only to dump her six months later; leaving her with little choice but to embark on the career of a high-class courtesan.
Famed for her spectacular outfits, and for her liaisons with the prince and others, Mary will be portrayed by Romney, Gainsborough, Hoppner and by Reynolds; who portrays her twice, complaining that his first attempt has been, “quite undone by her excessive beauty”. Later Mary, who has written poetry from childhood, turns to literature and to politics. She becomes known as a romantic poet and friend of Coleridge, a witty and perceptive novelist, an admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft and a radical columnist who gives herself the pseudonym of TABITHA BRAMBLE.
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1783 Wallace Collection, London