Oxford University in ‘woke’ row as portrait of duke with black boy is taken down

A portrait of an 18th-century duke that was on show at Oxford’s Oriel College has been removed amid claims it was feared students would be offended by the depiction of a black servant in the background.

The painting of Henry Somerset, the 5th Duke of Beaufort, normally hangs in the Senior Library of the College, which counts Sir Walter Raleigh and Alexander Todd as alumni.

The duke was a direct descendant of King Henry IV of England and graduated from Oriel in 1763. He died in 1803.

In the portrait he wears ermine robes, a powdered wig and stockings and breeches, while in the background a small black boy holds his coronet.

The portrait has been moved out of the college to Badminton House, the ancestral home where the 12th Duke currently resides, the Daily Mail reports.

A college source told the newspaper: “It’s of a black page boy or servant. That’s why it had to be banished – in case it offended a student.

“It’s a fine way to treat one of Oriel’s great benefactors, the first to endow scholarships for poor scholars since the Middle Ages.”

The college says the portrait has been loaned to Badminton House as a temporary measure while there is work ongoing at the college. The portrait will be returned to the Senior Library once those refurbishments are completed, according to reports.

The Beaufort Estate was not available for comment. Oriel College is closed for Easter break and did not comment on the story.

Latest news
Related news