br c 1724. Sire Line Godolphin
The romantic story of
the discovery of the Godolphin Arabian pulling a cart in France was
based on a fictitious account written by Eugene Sue and published in La
Presse in 1838. The Coke Barb was one of nine horses sent as a gift
to King Louis XV of France from the Bey of Tunis, and imported
in 1730 by Mr. Coke.
Edward Coke, who had
attended Luneville Academy with Francis, the Duke of Lorraine, inherited
his stud at Longford Hall, in Derbyshire, in 1727. Coke's
brother-in-law, Sir Marmaduke Wyvill had acquired his Belgrade Turk from
the Duke of Lorraine. Prior notes that Coke, who was also familiar with
Mr. Curwen's imported French Barbs, could well afford any horse he
fancied, and "not one accustomed to the drudgery of drawing a
cart." [Royal Studs:132]
At Coke's death on
1733, his racehorses and broodmares were bequeathed to Lord Godolphin,
and his stallions to Mr. Roger Williams [Royal Studs:133]. Later acquired by Lord
Godolphin, the Arabian entered stud near Newmarket.
Francis Leonard (1678-1766), 2nd Earl
of Godolphin, Gogmagog,
Cambridgeshire, was the second English owner of the Godolphin Arabian.
Apparently an accomplished horseman the image on the right illustrates
his expertise in the manège.
Francis married Henrietta Churchill (later Duchess of Marlborough), the
daughter of his father's good friend John Churchill (1650-1722), 1st
Duke of Marlborough.
exists over his breeding, and the General Stud Book notes, in 1827, that
his portrait suggests he was a Barb, although no mention of this
was made in 1791. As Prior points out, the three people who knew the
horse best, his two owners, Mr. Coke and Lord Godolphin, along with the
veterinary surgeon William Osmer, always called him an Arabian [Early
Records:132]. Lord Godolphin also owned the Brown Western Barb and a
Grey Barb, wherein some confusion may have taken root.
The General Stud Book
also says that "There is an original Portrait of this horse in Lord
Cholmondeley's collection at Houghton; on comparing which with Mr
Stubbs's print of him, it will be seen that the disproportionately small
limbs, as represented in the latter, do not accord with the
painting." [GSB1:392] It will be noticed that the Stubbs
versions are the only ones in which the horse is presented with the
unattractive, and to some, overly large, crest which was also the
subject of much criticism and controversy.
portrait, by David Morier, is the only one known to have been done from
life and is in the collection of the Marquis of Cholmondeley, Houghton
Hall, Norfolk. At the bottom of the portrait is written: "The
Original Picture taken at the Hills by D. Murrier. Painter to H:R:H. the
Duke of Cumberland".
The George Stubbs
portrait, an original painting in the William Woodward Collection, was
probably copied from the Morier.
Standing 14 hands,
one and a half inches, without his shoes, he was a brown bay, with a
white off hind foot and with a little white on the inside corner of his
near hind foot. [Royal Studs, 163]
William Osmer, who
had met the horse, said of him, "Whoever has seen him must remember
that his shoulders were deeper and lay farther into his back than any
horse yet seen; behind his shoulders there was but a small space; before
the muscles of his loin rose excessively high, broad, and expanded,
which were inserted into his quarters with greater strength and power
than any horse ever yet seen of his dimensions. It is not to be wondered
at that the excellence of this horse's shape was not in early times
manifest to some men, considering the plainness of his head and ears,
the position of his fore-legs, and his stunted growth, occasioned by
want of food in the country where he was bred." Since Mr. Osmer was
acquainted with the horse it is worth noting that he never referred to
him as a Barb.
Gentleman of the Horse to King George III, described him as
plain-headed, with the roots of ears being wide apart and the ears
themselves having a noticeable outward droop. His crest was high, his
shoulders heavy and he was slightly over at the knees. His plain head
and large ears are well illustrated by Morier, though perhaps his lop
ears are best presented in the Marshall portrait. It would seem that his
descendant, Melbourne (br c 1834), twice a
Champion Sire, came by his lop ears honestly.
In a dissertation on
horses, published as part of the Supplement to the General Stud Book in
1800, Colonel Gilbert Ironside, who must have been thought an authority
on the subject, observes: "There was somewhat of wonderful virtue
and efficacy in the blood of a horse existing in England between forty
and fifty years ago, called the Godolphin Arabian although it not be
perfectly ascertained that he was of Arabian extraction, but from
whatever source it issued, it was his high-mettled blood which
communicated to the English horses that vigour and energy of spirits
which distinguishes their intrinsic goodness, and renders them, next to
the Arabs, far superior to any race. For the English, constantly
crossing their own with the breed of every other country, produce a
kind, though by no means as beautiful as the Arab, yet always surpassing
him in strength, and generally in swiftness. The Godolphin blood,
crossed with the offspring of the Barbs, are said to produce the best
English racers and hunters." [History of the Racing Calendar and
He is eulogised on
the frame of the Morier portrait: "Esteem'd one of the best Foreign
Horses ever brought into England. Appearing so both from the Country he
came from & from the Performance of his Posterity. They being
Excellent both as Racers and Stallions & Hitting with most other
Pedigrees, and mending ye Imperfections of their shape. And is allowed
to have refresh'd the English Blood more than any Foreign Horse yet
imported." His overwhelming success as a sire is also noted in the
General Stud Book, which says: "It is remarkable that there is not
a superior horse now on the turf, without a cross of the Godolphin
Arabian, neither has there been for many years past." [GSB1:392]
From the mare Roxana
he got Lath (b c 1732), thought to be the best racehorse since Flying
Childers. His son Regulus was broodmare
sire of Eclipse. However, his most important
contribution was his son Cade, full brother of
Lath, who sired Matchem, progenitor of the Matchem
He was Champion Sire
in 1738, 1745 and 1747. In turn, he sired three Champion Sires, Blank
(b c 1740), Cade (b c 1724), and Regulus
(b c 1739). He also sired Matchless* (b c 1754) and
(b f 1745).
Whyte observed that
"the great proportion of both colts and fillies, produced by this
celebrated horse were of a bay colour like himself" [History of the
British Turf 1:88], and Robertson later stated that he "never
sired a chestnut, but had dun and grey offspring out of dun and grey
mares" [Lonsdale Libraryxxvii:86]. We found three offspring
supposed to be chestnut, however these could have been errors in
pedigree or record keeping. The Godolphin Arabian appears to have been a
He was in the stud
for about twenty years and died on Christmas Day in 1753, at Gogmagog in
Cambridgeshire. According to the General Stud Book, "he is buried
in a covered passage, leading to the stable, with a flat stone over him,
without any inscription."
After a portrait by
Ben Marshall, who was said to have had some sketches of the Godolphin
Arabian that had been done from life. Marshall is credited with a
"Portrait of an Arabian, 1796" [British Sporting Artists:176].
The Faber Print, 1753,
after Morier, a copy of which made its way to Tulip Hill, Westriver,
Maryland, the home of Samuel Galloway.
The Henry Roberts
portrait, reproduced in the Sportsman's Pocket Companion, 1750c,
after a drawing by James Roberts. This portrait was chosen by Theodore
Andrea Cook to illustrate his book A History of the English Turf
and is said to be from the engraving by Roberts at Cumberland Lodge.
The J. N. Sartorius
portrait in the collection of Lord Rosebery at The Durdans.
The George Stubbs
portrait, an original painting, formerly at Studley Royal, Yorkshire, in
the Robert L. Gerry collection.
"Library" portrait, by John Wootton, 1731, in the collection
of Ernest E. Hutton. It's not clear if this portrait has been positively
identified as the Godolphin Arabian. Early references to the portrait in
the library at Gog Magog indicate the presence of a cat.