Kew Palace, the home of King George III, will be marking the 250th anniversary year of his coronation with an exhibition of rarely-seen Georgian royal caricatures, united for the first time with personal objects belonging to the victims of their ‘humour’. These include numerous satirical portrayals of George III himself, along with several shockingly unflattering depictions of Georgian royal weddings.
This selection of prints from the golden age of Georgian caricature, on display when the palace re-opens to the public on 2nd April 2011, includes numerous works by the famous political satirist James Gillray. The exhibition offers a fascinating insight into how the portrayal of George III and his family in the popular press developed throughout his reign, the longest of any male British monarch.
Within the exhibition are two prints depicting royal weddings of the period:
• James Gillray’s ‘The Bridal Night’, published in May 1797, depicts the marriage of Charlotte Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of George III, to Frederick Duke of Wurttemberg. Dubbed the "Bellygerant" and described by Napoleon, “that God had put him on earth to see how far skin could stretch…”, Gillray depicts Frederick as quite unfeasibly fat, and cheekily represents the wedding night with a cherub sat atop an elephant.
• Charles Williams’ ‘Throwing the Stocking’, published in April 1816, shows Princess Charlotte, the daughter of George IV, on her wedding night in her bed, throwing her stocking to the four old maid aunts (the daughters of George III). Her husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, is impatiently peeping round the door. The caricature contrasts her marriage of ‘love’ with her aunts, kept unmarried first by their father, then by their mother to buffer her from their father in his 'madness'. Kew Palace became renowned for being home to these sisters, unmarried against their will.
Susanne Groom, Curator of Collections at Historic Royal Palaces and responsible for creating the exhibition, said:
“It is fantastic to have such a rare collection of royal caricatures on display at Kew Palace, home of King George III who featured in so many of them. It has been wonderful to unite the caricatures with personal objects connected to those being pilloried in them.
Many of the caricatures may seem shocking by today's standards. Prints of the weddings of the overweight, aging daughters of George III to their ludicrously corpulent German husbands provided amusement for the general public when they appeared in the print shop windows. Yet the love match wedding of George VI’s 20 year old daughter, Princess Charlotte, aroused the nation's warmest wishes.”
The prints have been kindly loaned to Kew Palace for the exhibition by their owner, Lord Baker of Dorking. Images of the prints described here are available for media use to accompany this story.