Geeking Out Over the Georgian Papers

Because I write historical romance, I do a lot of research. It’s part of the job, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I live in an age when a lot of what I want or need to know is only a mouse click away.

This week I found a new on-line resource for researching English history during the Georgian Era. It’s a website called The Georgian Papers Programme, and it houses the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.

The project to make the Royal Archives available on the Internet was begun by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. Workers are still digitizing documents, and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2020. By that time, there will be over 350,000 pages of Georgian diaries, essays, love letters, state documents and dinner menus spanning the years 1714 to 1837.

I’ve already spent many pleasant hours browsing the collection. Much of what’s been digitized so far centers around King George III and his family.

King George III in his coronation robes

One of the treasures I found on the site is a hand-written book of menus documenting the meals served to the Prince of Wales and his guests at Carlton House.

As an example, here’s a portion of the dinner menu for the evening of Tuesday, December 1, 1812:

It’s hard to read, but the first course consists of:

Soupe Rice with Pullets
Soupe Clear

Soles for Shrimp Sauce

Turkey boild with Oyster Sause 2 pints
Ham with Scotch Cale

Mutton Pullets a la Soubrasse
Croquets of Pullet
Pullets of Capon
Fillets of Whiting with Tarragon

There’s another entire menu book devoted to the day of the Prince of Wales’ (George IV’s) Coronation.

There are drawings of almost fifty different dining tables, showing the place setting for each guest and where on the table each individual serving dish was to be placed.

It’s this level of detail that makes my inner Royalty Geek incredibly happy!

Another find was a 1781 letter from King George III to his Prime Minister Lord North that reads, in part:

My eldest son got last year into a very improper connection with an actress and woman of indifferent character. Through the friendly assistance of Ld. Malden a multitude of letters past which she has threatened to publish unless he in short bought them of her …

The letter goes on to reveal just how much the king was willing to pay that Woman of Indifferent Character to hand over those letters Prinny wrote, and he asks Lord North to help him settle the matter.

The Prince of Wales in 1798, by William Beechey; (c) Royal Academy of Arts; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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More treasures I discovered:

  • Records of spies working for King George III
  • Lovely letters written by Queen Charlotte to Lady Charlotte Finch, governess to the royal children
  • An abdication plan drafted by King George III
  • Princess Amelia’s will in which she (King George III’s youngest child) scandalized her family by leaving her possessions to Charles FitzRoy, her father’s equerry and the man she loved.

Princess Amelia

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I was even able to compare King George III’s signatures from 1787 to 1810, hinting at the progression of the disease that would eventually kill him.

King George III’s signature in 1788

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King George III’s signature in 1809

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King George III’s signature in 1810

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If you love digging into the details of royal life—especially royalty in the Georgian age—you’ll find plenty to delight you at the Georgian Papers Programme.

Here’s where you’ll find the website:

gpp.royalcollection.org.uk

Enjoy!

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When a Prince Turns 21

The Prince Regent, about 1790

The Prince Regent, about 1790

I have a friend whose daughter will turn 21 in about a month. They’re busily planning multiple parties: one for said daughter and her friends, and a second party for the family to celebrate the event together. With all the talk about pub crawls, trips to Las Vegas, and what kind of cake goes well with Champagne, I started to wonder how people during the Regency period celebrated birthdays.

To a large extent, turning 21 was just as much of a landmark event during the Regency as it is today. It was a milestone that marked an age when a person became truly independent and was old enough to make life-altering decisions. That was true, for the most part, for the Prince of Wales.

Queen Charlotte with her two eldest sons

Queen Charlotte with her two eldest sons

The future King George IV was born on August 12, 1762. To an American like me, the particulars of his birth are interesting because of the number of people involved. In those days, Queens of England gave birth to a room full of witnesses. From accounts at the time, the following people were either in Queen Charlotte’s bedchamber or in the room adjoining it with the door open between:

  • The Princess Dowager of Wales
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Duke of Devonshire
  • The Duke of Rutland
  • The Lords Hardwicke, Huntingdon, Talbot, Halifax, Bute, Masham and Cantalupe
  • All the ladies of the bedchamber
  • The maids of honor

The only doctor present did not attend the queen. Instead, he remained in the adjoining room so he could attend to any of the witnesses who felt queasy. The future king was delivered by a midwife named Mrs. Stephen.

The Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales

When the prince turned 21 in 1783, he had no official celebration. As it happened, the Prince’s mother, Queen Charlotte, had recently given birth to her fifteenth child; so while the King and the rest of the family congratulated the Prince in private (very heartily, I’m sure), there wasn’t a public commemoration.

So the Prince of Wales turned to his friends to help him celebrate, and they didn’t disappoint him. They joined together at the White Hart Tavern in Windsor. “A large turtle, of the enormous size of four hundred weight, was killed on the occasion, being a present sent to the Prince from the East Indies.” (Yes, you read that right. He killed his present and ate it. I wonder if that’s what the people of East Indies had in mind when they gave it to him?)

The White Hart, Lincoln. Perhaps this tavern is similar to the White Hart in Windsor where the Prince celebrated his birthday.

The White Hart, Lincoln. Perhaps this tavern
is similar to the one the Prince frequented.

One account of the party hints that not all the guests had the Prince’s best interests in mind. In his book The Private Life of a King, John Banvard wrote:

Deeply did every real friend of the Prince lament that of a pernicious class some had obtained an entire ascendancy over his ingenuous mind; and that, whilst they hailed his independence with hollow congratulations, they dreaded nothing so much as for his spirit to become as independent as his circumstances, and his opinions to disdain the restraint which his person had shaken off.

In other words, John Banvard believed the Prince hung out that night with a bad crowd. There were people at his party that would have a negative influence over the prince in months and years to come; but for one night, at least, the Prince of Wales drank wine, ate turtle and partied like he just turned twenty-one.

 

Welcome, Princess Charlotte!

It’s official. England’s newest princess is named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Of course, that’s the shortened version of her name. Officially, her name is registered as:

Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge.

Here’s the document that registered her birth:

New Babys Name

I love the way the “Occupation” field was completed for Will and Kate. And though it looks like the registrar completed the form (the handwriting seems to match), that’s HRH Prince William’s signature in field 14.

A new baby is always a blessed and thrilling event, but when the baby is a princess, too, it add a little extra touch of magic to the occasion.

A Princess is Born!

I was traveling yesterday but managed to keep up with news about Britain’s newest princess. She looked like a little doll in her mother’s arms.

Newborn Princess

Dad seemed pretty happy, too.

Now the big question is, what name will they give their new little princess? The odds are on Charlotte, which would go well with George . . . as the royal family demonstrated in the 18th Century.

King George III and Queen Charlotte

King George III and Queen Charlotte with six of their children. Their granddaughter was named Charlotte, too.

My vote is for the princess to be named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. It gives a nod to Prince Charles, the Queen, and Prince William’s mother and (most importantly) it has a nice ring to it.

The Glorious Georges

I wish I were going to be in London this month so I could see the Historic Royal Palaces exhibit at Hampton Court, Kew Palace and Kensington Palace. The event marks the 300 year anniversary of the Hanoverian accession to the British throne.

King George I reigned from 1714 to 1727

King George I reigned from 1714 to 1727

Each location explores the life of a different monarch. King George I is featured at Hampton Court with objects and artwork that illustrates life in his Royal Court.

King George II is featured at Kensington Palace. Visitors are invited to “explore the sumptuously restored King’s State Apartments, gamble like a courtier, enjoy Georgian music and join Queen Caroline while her ladies dress her in her finery.”

King George II reigned from 1727 to 1760

King George II reigned from 1727 to 1760

And Kew Palace features King George III’s reign which saw many social changes and the rise of British industry.

If, like me, you can’t jet off to London this month, reading about the exhibition will have to suffice. Fortunately, Historic Royal Palaces has created some entertaining additions to their website, including a short film about the exhibit, which you can view here: www.hrp.org.uk/georges

King George III reigned from 1760 to 1820

King George III reigned from 1760 to 1820

There’s a lot to see and savor on this site. You can click through all the tabs and sub-menus to find little nuggets of Georgian factoids. And here’s a link to one of my favorite pages under Hampton Court Palace: The Georgian Chocolate Kitchen. Be sure to scroll down to see the recipes at the bottom of the page and a video for making chocolate port. Yum.

London Calling

My latest find is a 1953 magazine featuring information on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II:

Magazine Cover london_calling_19530525 Edited

 

I was minding my own business, browsing through one of my favorite used book stores, when I was drawn to a stack of old National Geographic magazines. None of the NGs were very old, so I can’t account for the reason I started digging through them, but wedged into the middle of the stack was this treasure!

Dated May, 1953, the cover features an illustration of the gold state coach. Inside is the BBC broadcast schedule so people could use it to follow the procession and coronation ceremony. I love it! It’s now a little bit of English ephemera residing on my coffee table.

Glossy Olde England

Magazine-All FiveMy mail carrier is a wonderful man named Tony who has never once complained about the vast poundage of glossy magazines he has to deliver to my house every month. Most of the magazines I subscribe to are related to England and in order to keep my supply coming, I bribe Tony with Starbucks gift cards, thank you notes, and promises to keep my dogs locked up at scheduled times during the day when there’s a chance his mail truck is within a 15 mile radius of my house.

A friend once asked me which magazine about England was my favorite. I struggled to answer her question in the same way a mother struggles when someone asks which child is her favorite. After some thought and several minutes of indecision and flip-flopping, I finally narrowed my favorites down to five.

Why are they my favorites? They all have stunning photography, entertaining articles, wonderful style, and insights into English culture that are hard to come by in America. Here’s how they break down:

Magazine-English HomeThe English Home
This magazine is filled with page after page of wonderful interior and exterior shots of homes set in ideal English locations. With every photograph I think to myself, “Oh, yes, I could live here. Yes, I definitely could live here.” I love the look of today’s English country house and this magazine indulges my fantasy of living in a comfortable but perfectly decorated home that happens to give a nod to a bygone time. Here are just a few of the topics covered in the latest edition:

  • Updating a fourteenth-century manor house
  • A newly-built home decorated in late Georgian/early Victorian styles
  • An exploration of Durham in north-east England
  • How to blending patterns, texture, light and shade to create a modern romantic interior in the English style

Magazine-Discover BritainDiscover Britain
With an eclectic and imaginative mix of articles, history, and unique places to visit that are off the usual tourist track, this magazine inspires my inner traveler. I usually read this magazine with a package of red tape-flags at hand so I can keep track of the sites I “must add” to my ever-growing list of places to visit on my next trip to England. One of my favorite features: Each issue includes a list of novel places to stay in the UK, from unique inns and hotels to country estates and city townhouses. A few of the features from the last issue:

  • A tour of Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott
  • A feature on “Essential Lancashire” that includes a guide to Blackpool, the fortunes of Georgian merchant families, and walking in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkein
  • A tour of King Henry VIII’s warship Mary Rose
  • Photos of Roald Dahl’s writing hut
  • Touring an Edwardian English country garden

Every issue inspires me to discover a part of England I’ve never seen before.

Magazine-British HeritageBritish Heritage
This is another magazine that ends up decorated with multiple red tape-flags by the time I’m done reading each issue. Take the latest (November) issue for example: it has an article on the discovery of the remains of Richard III as well as a four-page, center-fold article on the history of English puddings. Yum. And did I mention there were pictures of those puddings? And can I just say that some of those aforementioned pictured puddings were covered with awesomesauce (commonly known as “custard”)? Thanks to this educational article, I’m ambitiously planning to expand my thinking beyond plum pudding for my 2013 Christmas celebration; I’m currently hunting down recipes for Cumberland Rum Nicky, Spotted Dick and Bakewell pudding. To give you an idea of this magazine’s variety, the same issue had an article on bike riding through the Derbyshire Peak District and a 6-day guided tour from the Wye Valley to Shropshire. My favorite article in this issue (aside from those four heavenly pages devoted to pudding) was a feature on the old-fashioned way tweed is still made in the Outer Hebrides.

Magazine-This EnglandThis England
The lure of this magazine is that it provides a window into the English lifestyle, past and present. It reminds me a little of Reminisce magazine because many of its articles are written from the reader’s perspective. In the current edition, there’s an article on the original WWII Land Girls, a tribute to Thackeray, and a lovely two-page feature from a fledgling gardener as she readies her cottage garden for winter for the first time. There’s also a charming article by a woman who took a trip back to the old Essex childhood home her family lived in for 70 years, a list of favorite sandwiches submitted by readers, and a fun fact page full of old English words, phrases and lingo.

By the way, what do you call a horse’s attempt to dump his rider?

a) croupade
b) estrapade
c) caracole
d) ballotade

You’ll find the correct answer at the end of this post.

I love this publication because it demonstrates quiet pride in its countrymen, honors its veterans, and unabashedly celebrates the English way of life. There’s an unbelievable amount of information and charm in every issue, along with beautiful photographs and Colin Carr’s delightful artwork.

Magazine-BritainBritain
The publishers of Britain bill it as “The Official Magazine.” It has my vote, too, for being the best guide out there on what today’s England has to offer. Every issue is a traveler’s dream, filled with tried-and-true as well as new-and-unique destinations to visit. Want to experience London’s theatre district? There’s an article for that. Wonder what the top 12 best British sites are that you absolutely must experience? There’s an article for that. Where can you eat Dickensian-style food in London? There’s an article for that, too. Add linger-over-every-image quality photographs on each page and this publication makes you want to jump on the next plane bound for Heathrow.

So now, I ask you: With such wonderful magazines coming to my mailbox, how can I possibly choose a favorite? I can’t, but I can keep plying my mail carrier with Starbucks gift cards and find creative ways to let him know I appreciate the care he takes in delivering my England magazines in pristine condition. Tony, your next latte’s on me.

Do you subscribe to magazines about England? What are your favorite magazines and why?

Answer:

b) estrapade