The 3rd Earl of Burlington

Richard Boyle, Third Earl of Burlington and Fourth Earl of Cork, was born in Yorkshire in 1694 and was only ten when he inherited his father’s titles and estates

Richard Boyle, The 3rd Earl of Burlington

(1694 – 1753) Biography

Richard Boyle, Third Earl of Burlington and Fourth Earl of Cork, was born in Yorkshire in 1694 and was only ten when he inherited his father’s titles and estates.

He acquired an early love of the arts and by the age of twenty was already being praised in print for his taste in gardening and painting.  In May of 1714 he embarked on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, as was the fashion of the time, spending four months in Rome.
 
At this stage Burlington’s chief passions appear to have been music and theatre. His interest in architecture was to be stirred by the publication of two important volumes – the English translation of Palladio’s 16th century work The Four Books of Architecture and Colen Campbell’s compendium of British classical architecture Vitruvius Britannicus. In 1719 he returned to Italy and this time his visit had a definite architectural focus.

It was during this trip that he reconnected with an acquaintance from his first Italian tour, William Kent, who had been in Italy for a decade and was already influenced by the Palladian style which Burlington was drawn to. This reunion sowed the seeds for a life long friendship and patronage which was to hugely influence Burlington in his approach to architecture and landscape.

By 1720 the Third Earl had become one of England’s leading cultural arbitrators and a great patron of the arts. His salon at Chiswick in London included not only Kent, who had returned to England with him, but such luminaries as Alexander Pope, Isaac Ware, James Thompson and John Gay. 

As an aristocrat Burlington was not able to abandon his other responsibilities to pursue a full time architectural career. However his driving ambition was to steer the country away from the Baroque style and through his patronage of other artists, notably Kent, and in his own buildings, he furthered the revival of an architecture based on the styles of Palladio and Inigo Jones. The most important of Burlington's own works are the villa for his estate at Chiswick – the first and one of the finest examples of Neo-Palladian architecture in England (begun 1725) and the Assembly Room, York (1730).

Inspired by their tours of Italy and Rome, Burlington and Kent worked to translate what they had seen at Chiswick which became a hotbed of architectural and horticultural experimentation.  Chiswick’s reputation as the most important garden in English history – with a cultural impact that is still felt internationally today – is thanks to Burlington’s influence. Its grounds evolved into the carefully planned but naturalistic approach that came to signify the English Landscape movement and went on to inspire designers such as Capability Brown and Humphrey Renton and informing sites across Europe and to America, where it even helped shape New York’s Central Park. 

Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington, from NPG collection
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington, from NPG collection

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