The eldest son of Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford, the sitter served as Lord of the Treasury (1759-65) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1767-82), before being appointed Prime Minister in 1770. He led Britain though most of the American War of Independence and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1772. Lord North only succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Guilford in 1790.
North had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni when he was in Rome in 1753, and later by Nathaniel Dance, in Chancellor's gown with the sash of the Garter, between 1773 and 1774. The present portrait was executed in 1761, before North had been made a Knight of the Garter and before he succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Guilford. The star and sash of the Garter, as well as the coat of arms are later additions, which may explain why the Garter star is depicted incorrectly, with a red, rather than a blue motto ground.