Henry Belasyse (1743-1802), son of Sir Thomas and Catherine Betham Belasyse, succeeded his father in 1774 as the 2nd Earl Fauconberg of Newborough, York. Copley depicts him in the red coat of the North Riding Militia, with silver epaulets. A curtain behind him is drawn to reveal a distant landscape, and the family coat of arms is shown in the upper left corner of the canvas.
Fauconberg was Member of Parliament for Peterborough (1768-74), a Lord of the Bedchamber (1777-1802), Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire from 1777 until his death, and Colonel of a 'Regiment of Foot' called 'Fauconberg's' in 1779. He married twice: to Charlotte Lamb (d.1790), daughter of Sir Matthew Lamb, 1st Bt, and sister of Peniston, 1st Viscount Melbourne, in 1776, and then to Jane Cheshire, of Bennington, Hertfordshire, in 1791, a year after his first wife's death. He died in 1802 of a 'sudden apoplexy' and the earldom became extinct.
In a letter to her daughter Mrs Greene, dated 18 March 1802, Copley's wife commented that 'We have lost our old neighbour Lord Fauconberg - his death was awfully sudden, he went out to walk and was brought back in a hearse dead', (recorded on a label on the reverse of the picture). Copley and Lord Fauconberg both lived in George Street, Leicester Square, at the time that the portrait was painted. The portrait was probably painted in the early 1790s and was engraved by A. Fogg in 1794.