William Byrd III
William Byrd III (1728–1777), the wealthy heir of Westover plantation in Virginia, stands for an oil portrait by eighteenth-century artist John Hesselius. This painting is believed to have been "hang[ing] in the passage" at Westover, as noted in his widow's 1813 will. Though not educated in England, Byrd spent a year there as a young man in 1747, during which time he acquired a gambling habit. He had a particular fondness for high stakes horse racing, and he became an enthusiastic horse breeder in Virginia. The artist includes a horse in the background of the portrait. Byrd squandered the family inheritance, in large part because of his gambling debts; by 1769 he was bankrupt and had to sell off his assets. A loyalist during the Revolutionary War, he fled to England, where he committed suicide in 1777.