William Sargent was both the son and grandson of a politician. He was the third son of John Sargent (1750–1831), MP for Seaford in East Sussex, and one of nine children (six boys and three girls). His grandfather, also called John Sargent (1714–1791), was a merchant and MP for the May Place estate in Kent.
Sargent’s early life was spent at the mansion of Lavington Park in Sussex. The estate had been inherited by his mother, Charlotte, from her father Richard Bettesworth, although Sargent’s father rebuilt the house in 1798 to the designs of the architect James Lewis (1750/51–1820). (A portrait of Charlotte Sargent by artist George Romney is in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.)
From 1795 to 1803 Sargent studied at Winchester College and later found employment as a clerk in the Treasury, becoming Auditor of the Civil List and eventually rising to the position of Secretary to the Treasury. He married Sophia, daughter of George Arnold (c.1748–1805), and the couple had six sons and a daughter.
Despite this portrait being by a skilled and practiced painter, the artist’s identity is unknown.
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