Palaces & Buildings

Drawings from the “madness” of George III discovered

<![CDATA[The British Library’s Topographical Collection of King George III recently discovered a priceless drawing sketched by King George III himself. George III reigned from 1760-1820 and the Topographical Collection, culled from The King’s library, contains approximately 50,000 maps, plans and views both hand-drawn and printed. The collection is predominately of locations in the British Empire and Great Britain, but does contain locations around the world.
George III, Sketch of a palace floor plan, 1785-9. British Library Maps 7.TAB.17  Courtesy of The British Library

The never-before-seen map was found tucked away between the pages of a text concerning the Palaces of Hanover in Germany. The diagram was written in pencil, and then over again in ink, on the back of an order of service from St George’s Chapel in Windsor dated 10 July, assumed to be in 1785.
Peter Barber, head of map collections at the British Library, stated that the diagram is “not an ordered plan” and has decided that it was drawn during a period when The King’s mind was particularly disturbed.  Not only was the drawing found inside a text detailing the plans of the Palaces of Hanover, but it was found close to a very similar diagram published in the volume. Mr. Barber wonders if King George had at one point considered abdicating the throne and retiring to the palace in Hanover and had begun to sketch renovations he would have wanted, tucking his diagram inside the text.  Instead of feeling unwanted by the British people, his popularity soared in Great Britain as he held the empire together amidst the constant threat of French invasion, and it seems he forever forgot his fleeting plan to renovate a Hanover Palace, leaving his obsessive scribbles tucked away.
J.H. Schmidt, from 'Five Plans of the Royal Palace in Hanover', 1763. British Library Maps 7.TAB.17.  Courtesy of the British Library

J.H. Schmidt, from ‘Five Plans of the Royal Palace in Hanover’, 1763. British Library Maps 7.TAB.17.
© The British Library Board

According to Mr. Barber, “You see certain things which are at the very least odd and actually rather disturbing.”
The plan shows a central courtyard that has no visual way of accessing, surrounded by at least four monumental staircases, which Mr. Barber states are “perhaps a little excessive, even for a Baroque monarch”. Along the same lines, some rooms have doors and some do not, meaning there is no way from traveling from one room to the next.
The document is believed to be drawn by George III based not only on the handwriting, but the similarity the drawing bears to other architectural plans drawn by The King. Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust, highlights the style of the document, “It’s enthusiastic, it’s slightly obsessive in places. And the obsessiveness does suggest that it was probably the work of George III around 1788 or 1789 when he was recovering from his illness.”
The Topographical Collection at the British Library contains many other key artifacts from the reign of George III, including highly sensitive and secret documents detailing the fortifications of English settlements around the world. These documents were never intended to be in the permanent possession of the King and if they had been discovered, it would have spelled immediate danger for the Empire.
Despite the historical significance of the collection, it remains largely unknown and the British Library is currently working to raise £1m to catalogue the collection on-line for the first time.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of the British Library; read the British Library’s article here]]>