Maria Bicknell was a daughter of the Solicitor to the Admiralty. Her grandfather was the rector of East Bergholt, where Constable first met her in 1800. The two fell in love in 1809 but, partly because of the rector’s opposition, did not marry until 1816. Constable painted Maria’s portrait in July 1816, about three months before their marriage. In August Constable wrote to Maria from Suffolk: ‘I would not be without your portrait for the world the sight of it soon calms my spirit under all trouble’. Twelve years later Maria died from tuberculosis, leaving seven young children to Constable’s care.
Following a seven year secret courtship and twelve years of marriage, to John Constable (1816-1828), Maria was continually pregnant. She gave birth to seven children and had one miscarriage, all of which put an enormous strain on her health. She died of tuberculosis age 41 a few months after giving birth to her seventh child.
Maria Bicknell was born into a wealthy family – her father Charles was a London lawyer who fathered seven children by two wives.
Charles Bicknell was solicitor to the Prince Regent and the admiralty. He hoped Maria would inherit a substantial sum of money from her grandfather, Rev. Dr Durrand Rhudde.
Rev. Dr Durrand Rhudde was Maria’s wealthy grandfather who had once been one of 36 “Chaplains-in-Ordinary” an advisory body which reported to the Chaplain who had direct access to King George III, but went one to become rector of East Bergholt Church. He had inherited all his money from his sister who married a rich man, died childless and left everything to him and his daughter (Maria’s mother).
Maria Elizabeth Bicknell was Maria’s mother and Charles Bicknell’s second wife, she gave birth to five children, (Maria being the eldest) and died in May 1815.