The Georgian Era, known so because of the reign of four King Georges in succession, was one of the most significant eras in British royal history. Although the first king arrived from Germany and spoke almost no English, the Glorious Georges, as they are known, soon gained support from the people, and are popularly known even today.
This year, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of King George I’s ascension to the throne in 1714, Historic Royal Palaces across the country are opening their doors to the public to celebrate the event, with fascinating pieces of royal history that have never been seen before.
Having been born and raised in Hanover, George I ascended to the British throne in 1714 upon the passing of Queen Anne. At Hampton Court Palace, where George I lived after arriving in England, visitors will have a chance to view the magnificent State Apartments and Private Apartments of The Queen, and meet The King’s courtiers, who tell fascinating tales about life during the early Georgian Era, including the rivalry between The King and his son, the future King George II, which forced them to choose sides.
It so happens that, while living in Hanover, George I married Sophia Dorothea, but scandal soon broke when she had an affair. Upon hearing the news, George I’s father had the lover murdered, and his daughter-in-law imprisoned in a German castle. She never lived at Hampton Court Palace as a result, and her son, George II was banned from ever seeing his mother again… This was the point of contention between father and son that caused lifelong in-fighting at court.
Furthermore, George I did not make the move to Great Britain alone: He brought along two mystery women whom courtiers soon nicknamed ‘The Elephant and the Maypole’, the first being his his illegitimate half sister, and the other, his lifelong mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg.
Also open to the public this year are the newly discovered Royal Chocolate Kitchens, where The King’s personal chocolatier, Thomas Tosier, would prepare a special chocolate drink for the Royal Family.
Not surprisingly, George II, preferred to stay away at Kensington Palace, and was the last reigning monarch to reside there. On display at the spectacular King’s State Apartments are relics from the court of King George II and his wife, Queen Caroline. The exhibition offers viewers an insight into the fashions, manners, cultures and British style during the reign of George II, as well as some court gossip about The Queen and her rival Henrietta Howard, a ‘woman of the bedchamber’ who was also The King’s mistress.
The third Hanoverian ruler, unlike his ancestors, spent his life at Kew Palace. Built in 1631, the Palace initially belonged to the secretary of George II before his son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, leased it to live in along with his family. The future King George III spent much of his childhood at Kew Palace, where he had his own science lab, and could listen to renowned musicians as they composed for his father, who played the cello. The young Prince was passionate about the arts, science and music, and artifacts reflecting his interests and inspiration are still around today. These are to be made available to the public in the Library.
While Kew Palace is most commonly associated with the madness of George III, it was also the place where he spent time with his family and entertained guests. Reopening to the public on March 29th, the Royal Kitchens will conduct demonstrations to give royal enthusiasts an idea about the food that was prepared for, and served to, kings. There will also be a Georgian garden party on the 16th and 17th of August, complete with food, music and costumes from the 18th century.
Additionally, the lives of the early Georgians are showcased in a display of the arts and culture from the era, at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. Click here to find out more details.