Avoid war; don't trust flatterers, courtiers and ministers; and most importantly 'retrieve the glory of the Throne'. Just some of the advice given to the future George III by his father Frederick, Prince of Wales in a previously unseen letter.
The letter is one of many items that shed new light on the lives of the Georgian royal family in the forthcoming exhibition The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714 - 1760 at The Queen's Gallery
, Buckingham Palace (11 April 12 October 2014).
Marking the 300th anniversary of the start of the Georgian era, the exhibition is the first to look at the period following the accession of the German ruler George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover to the British throne as George I, the country's first constitutional monarch. Through over 300 works from the Royal Collection, it explores the reigns of both George 1 and his son George II, examining the role of this new dynasty in the transformation of political, intellectual and cultural life in Britain.
The reigns of both Georges were fraught with familial strife. George I's wife Sophia never set foot in Britain, as she was exiled for committing adultery. In 1717 George I expelled his son, the future George II, from St Jamess Palace. Some 20 years later, George II's own son, Frederick, Prince of Wales was similarly banished.
As George II's eldest son, Frederick was first in line to the throne, but died prematurely, aged only 44. In 1749 Frederick wrote a letter to his own son (later George III), advising him on how to be a good king. Written 'out of love' and sent with 'the tenderest paternal affection', it urges the future monarch to reduce the national debt, ease the tax burden and to behave as 'an Englishman born and bred'. Frederick died only two years later, so never took the crown; with eerie prescience he writes to his son, 'I shall have no regret never to have wore the Crown, if you do but fill it worthily'.
The letter, which has never before been on public display, reveals that Frederick would have made a thoughtful and considerate monarch. His sound advice includes: '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. The roots of his antipathy towards his parents can be traced back to the time when, at just seven years of age, he was left behind in Hanover. Separated from Frederick for 13 years, George II clearly favoured his second son, William, Duke of Cumberland.
Once in London, Frederick presented himself as a fashionable man about town, entertaining freely and informally a typical supper party offered a menu of larks, pigeons, partridges, truffles, veal, turkey, lamb, turbot, salmon, teal, blackbird, asparagus, broccoli, sweetbreads, coffee cream and jelly. Frederick's mother, Queen Caroline, despised her son's relaxed manner: popularity always makes me sick, she is reported to have said, but Fretzs popularity makes me vomit'.
In 1737 Frederick fell out spectacularly with his parents after arranging for his first daughter to be born in St James's Palace, rather than at Hampton Court as his father had decreed. Frederick and his family were publicly forced to leave St James's Palace to cheering crowds.
Father and son were uneasily reconciled in 1742, although the relationship never fully healed.
However, when Frederick died, George II joined in the mourning for his son and declared six months of official mourning at court.
Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures and curator of The First Georgians exhibition, said, 'Surprisingly, for a family with two separate lands to rule and many divisions amongst themselves as to how it should be done, the reigns of George I and George II were very successful, firmly setting the monarchy on an unbroken line of succession to the present day. During the reigns of the first two Georges, Britain became the world's most liberal, commercially successful, vibrant and cosmopolitan society. This is a remarkable legacy.'
The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 17141760 is at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 11 April 12 October 2014.