General Monck Receiving Charles II on the Beaches of Dover

This scene shows the historic moment when the English monarchy regained power in 1660. Take a deeper dive into the work.

General Monck Receiving Charles II on the Beaches of Dover (1782) by Benjamin WestMilwaukee Art Museum

With this painting, Benjamin West chose a subject that would appeal to his noble patrons and communicate his support of the newly reinstated monarchy.

West, considered the first successful, professional artist to come out of the American colonies, had immigrated to England, where he was an official painter to the court.

He had a friendly rivalry with fellow American artist John Singleton Copley, who also immigrated to England during the eighteenth century.

Charles II
Here we see King Charles II stepping back onto the English shore for the first time since having been exiled by the military dictator Oliver Cromwell, following the English Civil War (1642–49).

After a political crisis that led to Cromwell’s death, Charles II was invited back to England in 1660. This grand canvas is an example of the eighteenth-century interest in showing events from more recent history rather than of older, classical scenes.

General Monck
Kneeling before Charles II is loyalist hero General George Monck, the man responsible for the restoration of the English monarchy, and Charles II to his throne, without any bloodshed.

Respectful bow
As Charles II grasps Monck’s hand, he bends forward slightly, a gentle gesture that bestows his favor and appreciation upon the loyal general.

Cliffs of Dover
The famous White Cliffs of Dover are visible in the left background, giving viewers a sense of place. The Cliffs of Dover form the coastline separating England and France and are a longtime symbol of homecoming for the English.

General’s group
The general’s entourage looks on in awe and wonder, thrilled to see the monarch reinstated.

A celebration
Supporters of Charles II raise their hats in triumph and celebrate his return to English soil.

Color palette
The major theme of this painting is unity: bringing the true monarch back to England. We can see this not just in the narrative, but also in the color palette. West used a repetition of blues, reds, and yellows to give the painting a sense of harmony.

Credits: Story

Benjamin West
(American, 1738–1820)
General Monck Receiving Charles II on the Beaches of Dover, 1782
Oil on canvas
60 × 85 in. (152.4 × 215.9 cm)
Layton Art Collection Inc., Purchase
Photographer credit: John R. Glembin

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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