In 1714, after the death of Queen Anne, George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, ascended the throne of England as King George I, the first monarch of the House of Hanover. His ascension marked the beginning of the Georgian Era, a hundred and twenty-three year long period during which Britain was the world’s most liberal, commercial and modern society. The period was marked by dramatic changes in political and cultural aspects of Britain, including revolutions and developments in architecture and the arts. The Georgian Era was brought to an end by the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837, which ushered in the subsequent Victoria Era.
Now, 300 years since George I was proclaimed King of Great Britain and Ireland, comes the royal exhibition The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760. It will be held in the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, and mainly concerns the life and times of the first two King Georges. The exhibition is set to feature over 300 works in the Royal Collection from royal residences across the UK, including a number of portraits of prominent members of the royal family, including King George I, and marble busts of King George II and his consort, Queen Caroline.
The Gallery will also be host to various events. Royal enthusiasts will be able to participate in a Royal Collection book club, as well as creative courses on how to make portrait miniatures. Other events include a lecture about the era, featuring English historian, Lucy Worsley, a music programme and a study about the art patronages of Kings George I and George II and their families.
Perhaps the most important piece of Georgian history on display is a letter written by Frederick, Prince of Wales, to his son, the future King George III, giving him advice on how to be King.
The eldest son of King George II and Queen Caroline, Frederick became estranged from his parents at the age of seven, when they moved to England, leaving him in the care of his great-uncle in Hanover. However, Frederick too arrived in England after his father’s ascension, and was created Prince of Wales. Tragically, Frederick died at the age of 44, predeceasing his father. After George II’s death, Frederick’s son succeeded him as King George III.
Shortly before his death, Frederick wrote a letter to his eldest son, advising him to “Avoid war; don’t trust flatterers, courtiers and ministers; and most importantly ‘retrieve the glory of the Throne’.”
“The sooner you have an opportunity to lower the interest, for God’s sake, do it… if you can be without war, let not your ambition draw you into it… Flatterers, Courtiers or Ministers, are easy to be got, but a true Friend is difficult to be found… Let your steadiness retrieve the glory of the throne.”
Frederick credits his grandfather, George I, for his ideas, rather than his father. Through the letter, written ‘out of love’ and with the ‘tenderest paternal affection’, the future monarch’s father also urges him to reduce the national debt, ease the tax burden and behave as ‘an Englishman born and bred’.
As if predicting his early demise, Frederick writes “I shall have no regret to have never worn the Crown, if you do but fill it worthily.”
The exhibition is open to the public from the 11th of April to the 12th of October. The historical series, The First Georgians: The German Kings who Made Britain will air on BBC Four in late April.
Photo Credit: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014