The commonplace books of Lady Augusta Murray

Lady Augusta Murray’s commonplace book, c. 1785-1797, GEO/ADD/51/2 Royal Archives /© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Dr Jane Mycock explores the significance of Lady Augusta Murray’s commonplace books, one of the new tranche of Georgian papers released to the public in February 2018. Augusta married Prince Augustus Frederick, George III’s sixth son, in 1793 in defiance of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 which required that the monarch agree to all such royal marriages. Mycock shows how her troubled family life is reflected in her commonplacing practices.

For more, read the full essay here.



The 2018 Sons of the American Revolution Georgian Papers Programme annual lecture 2018

Professor Gabriel Paquette

(The Johns Hopkins University)

Spain and the American Revolution

Monday 26 March 2018, 6.30 pm

Venue: The Great Hall, Strand Campus, King’s College London

John Trumbell, ‘The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar’ (1788, oil on canvas). Cincinatti Art Museum.

Professor Paquette lectured on Spain’s role in the American Revolution. He is especially interested in the Anglo-Spanish relationship, and the outbreak of war between these two countries in 1779. George III strenuously sought to prevent long-standing rivalry with Spain from leading to war and he sought in vain to end hostilities at various points. Using the Georgian Papers and other manuscript sources, Paquette traced the evolution of Spain’s relations with Britain during the American Revolution, when the two Powers clashed from Honduras to Gibraltar. What emerged is a portrait of George III’s ‘personal diplomacy’ and British strategic priorities in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Atlantic World more generally.

You can listen to Professor Paquette’s lecture here

(The lecture itself begins at c. 11.25, following an introduction to the Programme and Professor Paquette. We apologise for the poor sound quality especially for the questions from the Q&A session at the end).

Gabriel Paquette is Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, and was the 2017 Sons of the American Revolution Georgian Papers Programme visiting professor at King’s College London. His research explores aspects of European, Latin American and international History. His first book, Enlightenment, Governance, and Reform in Spain and its Empire, 1759-1808 (Palgrave, 2008) analyzed the intellectual origins of the later eighteenth-century reforms undertaken by the Spanish Crown in the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish America; in 2013 he published Imperial Portugal in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions: The Luso-Brazilian World, c. 1770-1850 (CUP). He is now working on a synoptic history of  Western European ‘seaborne’ empires in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to his principal areas of research, Paquette has written on the history of Anglo-Iberian relations, Spanish American Independence, Marx and Hegel, Romanticism, and early nineteenth-century Liberalism.


The Sons of the American Revolution

The Sons of the American Revolution is an historical, educational and patriotic non-profit corporation whose members are direct descendants of the men and women who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774-1783. The National Society of the Sons of the Revolution is collaborating with King’s College London to sponsor visiting professorships at the College and hosted by various departments. The visiting professors work on their own research and disseminate their findings relevant to the GPP to academics, archivists and the wider public. The Georgian Papers Programme is very grateful to the Sons of the American Revolution for sponsoring this research opportunity and its ongoing support of the Programme more generally.

Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at King’s

The Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies (SPLAS) at King’s, which has hosted Professor Paquette, has historic roots in the early development of the academic study of the Hispanic and Lusophone worlds. This long tradition allows it to build in innovative ways on profound expertise in research and teaching across these languages, literatures and cultures. Modern Languages research at King’s achieved a ‘power’ ranking of 9th in the UK according the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which assesses the quality and quantity of research across the UK’s universities. This research underpins teaching in SPLAS, which is developing new collaborations across the department that reflect and develop this fundamental relationship. Its courses reflect the diversity of interests within the Department, covering four continents and ranging from modern Brazilian music to Medieval Spanish literature. The Modern Languages departments at King’s ranked 7th in the UK in the 2016 QS World University Rankings by Subject and 8th in the Guardian University guide 2018. The Department has an extremely successful and vibrant graduate student culture, embracing both a PhD programme and an MA in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies.  Its  alumni contribute to the field of Hispanic and Lusophone studies in the UK and beyond.

Georgian Papers Programme

On April 1, 2015 the Georgian Papers Programme was launched at Windsor Castle in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. A collaboration between King’s College London, founded by George IV, and the Royal Collection Trust, the Programme is digitizing, disseminating, and interpreting an extraordinarily rich collection of materials, including correspondence, maps, and royal household ledgers. The Programme involves a number of international partnerships: notably with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and The College of William and Mary, the primary American partners, and also the Library of Congress and the Washington Library at Mount Vernon.

The project involves the digitisation of all the historic manuscripts from the Georgian period, totalling more than 350,000 pages, of which only about 15% have previously been published. While the vast majority of the collection comprises papers from George III, papers from Kings George I, George II, George IV and William IV are also being made available.

It is hoped that the work will transform the understanding of Georgian Britain and its monarchy, at a time of profound cultural, political, economic and social change which created the modern nation.

Eye Surgery in the Georgian Age

Ayesha Hussain and Anna Maerker, Department of History, King’s College London

King George III by Samuel Reynolds. 1820.
Fig 1: Portraits of King George III in blindness. Samuel William Reynolds (1820), National Portrait Gallery, NPG D8002.
Fig 2: Portraits of King George III in blindness: Charles Turner (1820), National Portrait Gallery NPG D16056









In his old age, King George III suffered from blindness due to cataracts in both eyes.The affliction was movingly documented in portraits from 1820 by artists Charles Turner and Samuel William Reynolds (Figs.1-2). The King’s doctors considered the possibility of an operation to remove the cataracts, but ultimately decided against it, as they feared a failed attempt to cure his blindness might further damage the aged King’s disturbed mental state. In general, however, in this period surgeons and eye specialists called oculists had already developed effective operations to remove cataracts. Two of the most important innovators in the treatment of cataracts and other eye complains were the royal oculists Baron de Wenzel and John Taylor.

Baron de Wenzel
Fig 3: Baron de Wenzel: portrait by John Conde, 1789 (British Museum, no. 1862, 1213.22)

Baron Michael de Wenzel (or Wenzell, 1724-1790), oculist-in-ordinary to King George III from 1772 until his death in 1790, was an inspiration to many British and European eye surgeons (Fig.3). His work on the treatment of cataracts, in particular, was very influential. Surgeons in the eighteenth century had no access to modern-day anaesthetic, and so eye surgeons had to develop methods which would cause the least suffering. Wenzel was known for the fast pace and accuracy of his operations. It has been recorded that his method of cataract removal lasted less than thirty seconds, using what became to be known as the ‘Wenzel knife’ to form a crescent-like incision in the eye. The Wenzel knife was custom-made by Paul Savigny, the first cutler in England to become a specialist in making surgical instruments (Fig.4). Smaller than the usual opthalmic knives, the Wenzel knife was designed to lessen the escape of the ‘aqueous humour’ in the eye. The virtuosity of Wenzel’s surgical performances meant that sometimes members of high society would watch them for entertainment, as David Chodowiecki’s etching suggests (Fig.5).

Trade card of Paul Savigny
Fig 4: Trade card of Paul Savigny: British Museum (museum number: Heal,52.91)
Wenzel operating
Fig 5: Wenzel operating: Etching by Daniel Chodowiecki, Wellcome Images V0015913. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

Wenzel competed for royal appointments with a dynasty of eminent oculists, the Taylors. John Taylor (1703-1772), who had studied at St Thomas’s Hospital specialising in diseases of the eye, was appointed to George II as his personal oculist in 1736, after travelling for almost a decade as an itinerant eye-doctor (Fig.6).  With degrees from the universities of Basel, Liege and Cologne, and as a fellow of the College of Physicians, Taylor was a well-known oculist He self-advertised constantly, referring to himself as the ‘Chevalier.’ In his autobiography, he stated that he was ‘the most public man under the sun, being personally known not only in every town in Europe, but in every part of the globe.’ Ironically, it is said that John Taylor became blind himself, just before his death in 1772.

John Taylor
Fig 6: John Taylor: The National Library of Medicine, Digital Collections. Image ID: B024718


Both John Taylor’s son and grandson also became eye-doctors, John Taylor (1724-1787), on the death of Baron de Wenzel, was made oculist to George III. John Taylor (1757-1832) was oculist to both George III and George IV. Perhaps the most famous episode in the second John Taylor’s career was his cure of the ‘The Blind Boy of Ightham.’ The eight-year-old William Taylor had been born blind, with cataracts in both eyes. John Taylor operated on him, in front of sixteen spectators, and as soon as the first cataract was removed, the boy reported his “Wonder, at the strange Shapes, Forms, and Colours of many Things, so incomprehensible about him, that He beheld the Room full of Lights, and Moons”.

Restoring vision was important not just for the King himself, but also for his subjects. Loss of vision meant loss of livelihood for many: “The importance of this organ [the eye] and its utility to every individual need not be urged, but to the poor it is their all. Deprived of their sight, their endeavours either for their own support or that of their offspring are cut off and they are on their parishes and a misery to themselves.” A particular threat to the eyes was the condition of ophthalmy, described in 1800 by Edward Moore Noble as ‘a certain redness or inflammation of the eye, with pain.’ Sometimes, when the Ophthalmy was very severe, it would cause the anterior chamber of the eye to fill with pus and eventually caused a paralysis of the retina. As royal physicians Wathen Waller observed, “The soldiers and sailors from their being more confined together have been the greatest sufferers.” In 1802, for instance, the Egyptian Ophthalmia ravaged the Second Regiment of Argyllshire Fencibles. In response, specialist institutions were founded across Britain, especially in the South. Eye hospitals opening in Bristol were especially important as they were partly used to treat naval officers and soldiers.



Royal Archives, Windsor: Letter from Wathen-Waller to the Duke of Cumberland. Ref: 4720-1, Main Series.

William Oldys, Observations on the cure of William Taylor, the blind boy of Ightham, in Kent; who being born with cataracts in both eyes, was at eight years of age, brought to sight, on the 8th of October, 1751, by Mr. John Taylor, jun. oculist, … Also some address to the publick, for a contribution towards the foundation of an Hospital for the blind, already begun by some noble personages. [London]: Printed by E. Owen, in Hand-Court, Holborn, 1753.

James Ware, Observations on the cataract, and gutta serena: including a translation of Wenzel’s treatise on the cataract: a new chapter on the operation of largely puncturing the capsule of the crystalline humour: and many additional remarks on the gutta serena. Third edition London: Mawman, Cox; Edinburgh: Black, 1812.


Portraits of King George III in blindness: Charles Turner (1820), National Portrait Gallery NPG D16056. Samuel William Reynolds (1820), National Portrait Gallery, NPG D8002.

Ophthalmia, Wellcome Images L0033534 “Diagrams of ophthalmia, inflammation of the eye” From: John Vetch, An account of the ophthalmia which has appeared in England since the return of the British Army from Egypt. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807.

Baron de Wenzel: portrait by John Conde, 1789 (British Museum, no. 1862, 1213.22)

Wenzel operating: Etching by Daniel Chodowiecki, Wellcome Images V0015913.

Trade card of Paul Savigny: British Museum (museum number: Heal,52.91)

Wenzel knife: in Ware 1812. [Foyle Special Collections]

Operation for removing cataracts: in Ware 1812. [Foyle Special Collections]

John Taylor: The National Library of Medicine, Digital Collections. Image ID: B024718