Sir Oswald Birley, MC, RA

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Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Hugh Francis Birley and Elizabeth McQuorquodale
Husband of Rhoda Vava Mary Lecky Birley
Father of Maxine McKendry and Marcus Lecky Oswald Hornby Birley

Occupation: artist; was decorated with the award of Military Cross (M.C.).
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir Oswald Birley, MC, RA

Oswald Birley, Sir George Stanley (Governor of Fort St-George). Government Museum Chennai, India Sir Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley, MC, RA (31 March 1880 – 6 May 1952) was an English portrait painter in the early part of the 20th century.


Birley was born in New Zealand while his parents were on a world tour. He was born into an old Lancashire family. Upon returning to England, he was educated at Harrow School, London and Trinity College, Cambridge.

He served in France in World War I, first with the Royal Fusiliers, later transferring to the Intelligence Corps, obtaining the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross in 1919. During World War II he served with the rank of Major in the Home Guard.

A favourite of the Royal Family, he was well known for his portraits of King George V, Queen Mary, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and the present monarch Queen Elizabeth II.

He painted several highly regarded portraits of his friend Sir Winston Churchill (to whom he also gave lessons).

Other subjects were many war-time leaders such as Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery, as well as Admiral Mountbatten and Air Marshal Trenchard. He also painted the wealthy American financiers Andrew Mellon and J.P.Morgan, the psychiatrist Sir James Crichton-Browne and Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.

He was knighted in 1949.

Birley family

He was the great-grandson of Hugh Hornby Birley, who led the troops at the Peterloo Massacre.

He married the Irish beauty Rhoda Vava Mary Lecky Pike in 1921. The couple had a son, Mark Birley, and a daughter, Maxime, who later became a fashion model and design muse as Maxime de la Falaise. His grandchildren, and his son's offspring, include Robin Birley and India Jane Birley. Other descendants include the fashion designer and muse Loulou de la Falaise and her daughter, fashion model Lucie de la Falaise.


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Sir Oswald Birley, MC, RA's Timeline

June 25, 1922
Age 42
West Dean, West Sussex, England
May 30, 1930
Age 50
Age 72