Margaret Cocks was the second daughter of Joseph Cocks of London (1732-1775), a barrister-at-law, who died before her second birthday. Margaret became the sole heiress to her father's estate when her older sister, Mary Russell, died in 1786. Margaret was only 13 when she inherited a fortune that contemporary sources estimated at £100,000. She was primarily raised by her father's siblings, including Sir Charles Cocks, Bt. (1725-1806) of Castleditch, who was created Lord Somers, Baron of Evesham in 1784. Her close familial ties and grief surrounding the loss of her sister are documented through a number of known paintings by Richard Cosway. A full-length portrait of Margaret painted by Cosway in 1787, which depicts her holding a portrait miniature of her sister by John Smart is now in the Huntington Collection. A portrait miniature by Cosway of Margaret from the same year is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Inventory No. P.51-1984). Two years later, Joshua Reynolds painted a double portrait of Margaret and her niece, Miss Mary Russell (1783-1806), which is held in the collection at Kenwood.
Margaret Cocks became Joseph Smith's second wife in 1798. Highly educated and sixteen years Margaret's senior, Joseph Smith held a number of important public offices, including that of Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger (J. Venn, Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College 1349-1897, Cambridge, 1897, p. 95). Margaret's generous fortune allowed the couple to maintain a residence in Hereford Street, when in London, and to purchase Shoregrove Hall from the Wyndham Family. Upon the death of her husband in 1822, Shoregrove was left in trust to the eldest of their five sons, William Charles Smith, and Margaret moved to Devonshire Place. Margaret Cocks died on June 29, 1847 and was buried at Newport Church, where she had arranged for a family vault to be constructed in 1822 (R. Asleson, et al., British Paintings at the Huntington, New Haven, 2001, pp. 72-75., no. 10)
A pair of George III Silver Wine Coolers, which were made by William Frisbee the year before the present lot and also engraved with the Smith-Cocks arms, was sold Christie's, London, 18 December 1997, lot 122. A George III Silver Tray later engraved with the Smith-Cocks arms by Benjamin Laver, London, 1784 was sold Christie's, New York, 20 October 1999, lot 263. Three further meat-dishes later engraved with the Smith-Cocks arms by Benjamin Laver, London, 1784 were sold Christie's, New York, 19 October 1981, lot 56.
Portrait of Margaret Cocks by Richard Cosway
©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London