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Karl Johann Königsmark (1659–1686)

P.9352-RGerman-born Karl Johann Königsmark (Köningsmark) was a member of the Swedish nobility. His brothers and sisters moved in high circles. One of his brothers was the lover of the wife of George, Elector of Hanover (later King George I), and one of his sisters was mistress to King Augustus II of Poland. Königsmark served in the army in France and Italy and later came to Britain with the intention of serving in King Charles II's army. Outside military circles, Königsmark developed a reputation as a seducer of women, and was also renowned for his great skill at cards. In Britain he became known as an accessory to the murder of a man called Thomas Thynne (P.9839-R). Thynne (1647/8–1682) was the estate owner of Longleat in Wiltshire. He represented this county in Parliament for twelve years from 1670. His wealth and extravagance gained him the nickname 'Tom o'Ten Thousand'.

Königsmark and Thynne came into contact through their relationships with a woman called Lady Elizabeth Ogle (1667–1722), heiress to the vast inheritance of the earls of Northumberland. At the age of thirteen Elizabeth had wed Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle, who died before their first anniversary. The widowed Elizabeth retained the title Lady Ogle. Königsmark wooed Elizabeth, but her guardians thought the Count an unsuitable match, given what he would come to own as Elizabeth's husband. Instead, in 1681, her hand in marriage was given to Thynne. Immediately after the ceremony, however, Elizabeth fled to the Netherlands, and Königsmark saw a chance to press for an annulment of the marriage. The Count issued challenges to fight a duel with Thynne through his steward, Christopher Vratz, a German Captain. These were declined, but Thynne is supposed to have sent people to kill the Count. An attack apparently took place during which Vratz was injured. Later, during the trials, both Vratz and Königsmark were seen to have had a motive to kill Thynne: Vratz for seeking revenge for the attack, and Königsmark because he wanted Thynne's wife for himself.

Before leaving for Britain, Vratz employed a Swedish Lieutenant called John Stern to accompany him and act as his second in a duel with Königsmark. They arrived in early February 1682, and on 12 February, Vratz, Stern and Königmark's servant, Charles George Borosky, set out to track down Thynne. They seized an opportunity in the evening as Thynne's carriage was travelling down Pall Mall. Vratz pulled the carriage over and Borosky shot their target with a blunderbuss. Thynne died from his wounds the next morning.

Legal proceedings happened quickly because there was some worry that the killing had been politically motivated. Thynne was closely allied with James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate (Protestant) son of Charles II, who had in fact been in the carriage with Thynne that evening. Rumours of a Popish plot circulated. Vratz was arrested on 13 February, and he disclosed the whereabouts of the other two men. All three were taken before King Charles II, when the real motives behind Thynne's murder were revealed. Königsmark was arrested on 19 February at the point of fleeing the country. He joined the other three in Newgate prison. At the murder trial at the Old Bailey, Königsmark bribed the jury and was acquitted while the others were condemned to death. On 10 March 1682, Vratz, Stern and Borosky were hanged on the spot the murder had occurred. Thynne had been buried in Westminster abbey the day before. The design for his tomb had included lettering that laid blame for his murder on Königsmark, but this was not permitted in the final structure. It was, however, carved with a scene portraying the ambush.

The date of Königsmark's death is stated as 26 August 1686, but the cause of his death is not known. He was either killed in combat while fighting in Greece under the command of his uncle Count Otto Wilhelm Königsmark (1639-88), or he died from injuries or illness. His body was taken back to his family home in Sweden.

Robert White was the first British printmaker to publish his own plates, marking a significant break with the print production during the first half of the century. British engravers were now increasingly able reach their own audiences through newspaper advertisements. White would often engrave after his own designs. This engraving does not give the name of a painter. White had clearly found a market for 'celebrities' of the day, such as Königsmark. The plate was engraved in the same year as the murder and trial. White also engraved a portrait of Thynne after his death (P.9344-R), although interestingly it is smaller than the portrait of the Count. The inscription on Königsmark's portrait upholds the verdict of acquittal:

"The Right Hon.ble Charles John Lord Koningsmarke, / Earle of Stegholme & Westerweeke, Lord of Retenbourg & Newhaven &c. / Who was tried & acquitted from being an Accessory to ye. Barbarous murther of Tho: Thyne Esq.r ye. 21th.Feb.1682 / To blast thy Name or to condem thy Cause. / This argues malice, that arraigned the Lawes. / True Justice on Suspicion is not built. / And bare Surmizes prove no actuall guilt. / Thy well known Courage could no ayd demand, / Not didst thou need a mercenary hand / Lett this thy injur'd Reputation right, / He dares not murther, who can dare to fight."

Museum Number P.9352-R