Professor Vincent Carretta, University of Maryland, was an Omohundro Institute Georgian Papers Fellow who spent last November researching at the Royal Archives.
I was delighted to have been chosen the Inaugural Senior Fellows from Omohundro Institute to participate in the George III Papers Project, which is co-sponsored by the Institute and King’s College, University of London. For the past thirty years or so I’d fantasized about what the Royal Archives, Royal Library, and Print Room at Windsor Castle contain that might be relevant to any of my research projects.
I’ve spent the last two decades editing the works of, as well as writing about, English-speaking authors of African descent before 1800. Many of them claimed, or were said to have had, some connection to the Georgian Court, whether in person or by correspondence. The Omohundro fellowship gave me the chance to dig in the holdings at Windsor Castle to try to discover evidence of those connections. My earlier work on those authors enabled me to appreciate the significance of any relevant material that was hitherto undiscovered.
Ideally, the relationship between a researcher and an archive is symbiotic: each benefits from the encounter with the other. I luckily had that experience at Windsor Castle. One example of such good fortune was the copy in the Royal Library of Quobna Ottobah Cugoano’s abolitionist book, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, published in London in 1787. I knew from a holograph letter by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, alias John Stuart, in the Gloucestershire Record Office that Cugoano had given a copy of his book to the Prince of Wales, the future Prince Regent, and later George IV. And there it was!
The Royal Library now has my transcriptions of all of Cugoano’s known surviving manuscript letters, one of which is addressed to King George III. I also explained why I thought that Cugoano probably presented a copy of his book to the Prince in person in 1787: as the servant of Richard Cosway, who had been appointed the Prince’s Primarious Pictor (Principal Painter) in 1785, Cugoano had frequent access to the Prince. And I was able to add some information to the Print Room by identifying Cugoano as the black servant in Cosway’s rare etching in its collection of Mr and Mrs Cosway at their Pall Mall House after painting of 1784
I’m very grateful to the Omohundro Institute for having given me the opportunity to spend time in the holdings at Windsor Castle, which I think was mutually beneficial.
This post and others also appear on oursibling GPP site at the Omohundro Institute.
James Ambuske, University of Virginia, was the inaugural Omohundro Institute Georgian Papers Fellows and spent last September researching at the Royal Archives.
In 1768, the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush toured the House of Lords during a visit to London. He persuaded his guide to allow him to sit upon George III’s throne, an experience that deeply moved him. I lay no claim to Rush’s brilliance, but I did share in his sense of awe each morning as I climbed the stone steps leading into the Round Tower at Windsor Castle, sat down at a simple wooden desk, and read through the papers of America’s last king.
My dissertation explores how Scottish emigration to the colonies in the era of the American Revolution shaped perceptions of the British Empire’s purpose amidst a transatlantic constitutional crisis. Much of my research centers on how American proprietors, Scottish landlords, promoters of emigration, and the King’s ministers contested the broader imperial implications of this phenomenon. George III’s position, although often hinted at in the correspondence of government officials, consistently eluded me. Serving as the Omohundro Institute’s inaugural Georgian Papers Project Graduate Fellow, in conjunction with the Royal Archives and King’s College of London, gave me the opportunity to rummage gently through George III’s personal letters and private thoughts about British America.
I found some of the answers that I sought and discovered material in the archive, the Royal Library, and the Print Room that raised new questions about the American War for Independence. Within the King’s calendared correspondence, for example, there exist copies of nearly 100 unpublished enclosures detailing the ministry’s mobilization and intelligence gathering efforts in the summer of 1775. The letters illuminate the government’s struggle to send Major General Thomas Gage sufficient cash and provisions, and augment British forces with Hanoverian troops, in order to crush the rebellion swiftly. Their presence in the collection point to George III’s intense interest in this process and the role he played in prosecuting the war.
The most rewarding finds were the materials that humanized the regal portraits of Georgian women and men. The tender affection that Queen Charlotte and George III felt for one another pervades their correspondence, as does her great intellect and the self-doubt that they both expressed as parents. Should you have need for a “gout cordial,” require “soap for the hounds,” or have guests expecting “giblet soup” and “ginger bread nutts” for dinner, then you will find these recipes and more among the Georgian Papers. We’ll be skipping the Christmas ham this year in favor of “Green Pea Soup without Meat or Water.”
But the chance to collaborate with the Royal Archivists made my tenure in Windsor especially meaningful. We discussed the future direction of Georgian studies and strategized about capturing digital metadata during many conversations in the reading room or over a pint of ale. This sense of partnership encouraged me to create a simple calendar of the above-mentioned enclosures for the archivists that I hope will benefit the project as well as future scholars.
I am grateful to the Omohundro Institute for the opportunity to study in Windsor Castle.
This post and others also appear on oursibling GPP site at the Omohundro Institute.
Peter Barber is a Visiting Professor in association with the Georgian Papers Programme, King’s College London.
George III’s geographical collections, now split between the British Library and the Royal Library in Windsor, with small fragments elsewhere, have been almost entirely overlooked by his many biographers. Yet we know that this large collection of about 50,000 maps, charts and views – many originally loose, others in volumes – was something he was passionate about: more so perhaps than his better known collections, where he left acquisitions to ‘experts’.
There are items in his geographical collection – ranging from state papers to personal material that only he could have secured. We also know that he chose to place the maps and views in the room immediately next to his bedroom in the Queen’s House (the predecessor of Buckingham Palace) and that he personally consulted it . The collection was part private hobby, part an element of the royal gloire : extensive self-assembled ‘atlases’ of this kind had been fashionable in royal, aristocratic and antiquarian circles since at least the 1680s. Each of these ’atlases’ had their individual characteristics, and George’s was no exception.
George adopted the structure of the collection from his uncle, William, Duke of Cumberland, whose maps he inherited.
Like Cumberland, he was interested in military affairs and like his uncle used his position as Commander-in-Chief to acquire military maps of all sorts: fortification, encampment and battle plans with plans for barracks and the sort of topographical maps that were essential for military purposes.
He also acquired material in areas that personally interested him but which were also useful for government such as canals, communications, agriculture, industry.
Side-by-side with this went his personal enthusiasms. The collection is filled with architectural plans – including one of the largest collections of plans and elevations by Nicholas Hawksmoor –
and drawings of British (Gothic) antiquity, not surprisingly from the man who was himself an architect manqué (there are plans by him in the collection) and who had a now-vanished Gothick palace constructed in Kew Gardens.
The ‘Geographical Atlas’ served several purposes. One of the most important was as an aid to government, and particularly, in line with his views on the role of an enlightened monarch in a constitutional state, as a source of information independent from that provided by his ministers. Secondly, it was a source of information about the world at large. Its foci reflected the values of his age, as well as the availability of printed and manuscript material. Over and above the British Isles which constitute about 40% of the collection, there is much (in descending order) Italian, French, Netherlandish and German material – the latter largely accounted for my the maps and views of his Hanoverian lands.
We know only the broad lines of how he acquired this collection. Much, including the largest antiquarian atlas in the world dating from 1660,
was inherited from his ancestors and predecessors going back to 1660. As with his library, the items George acquired were paid for from his Privy Purse account – and they are missing between 1772 to 1811: the very years when he was most active in building up the collection. This has meant that researchers have had to rely on a close study of the items themselves to discover provenance for this core period. There is the occasional autograph dedication to the King, and in other cases contemporary diaries or letters can help. There is one surviving receipt. There are sometimes endorsements indicating specific sales and lots (though sometimes these refer to sales prior to the King’s actual acquisition of the material, a good example being the Hawksmoor material, where the endorsements refer to the 1737 auction that took place on the architect’s death).
George III’s papers could help to fill some of the many gaps in the records and unlock some of the remaining puzzles. Material hitherto regarded as insignificant and ephemeral may prove to be goldmines. To have them accessible on one’s own laptop when one is in easy reach of related material will be an amazing boon. They may help to modify old stereotypes such as the canard accepted without question until recently by those unaware of the Geographical Collections that George was intellectually uninterested and lacked interest in or curiosity about the world beyond Windsor and Weymouth.