The Georgians had a big hand in shaping the way we live today. The explosion of print culture brought a flurry of new magazines and books, whilst the new royal family brought fresh styles and fashions to England: new ways of dining, bathing, gardening and decorating their homes.
1) Celebrity Culture
The Georgian era saw a boom in print culture and the emergence of many new magazines and newspapers. The latest news and gossip was highly sought after by reporters and editors to inform and amuse their readers. Fortunately, the upper echelons of British society were also enjoying a period of growing public entertainment – and so the celebrity was born. Actresses, sportsmen, society ladies and politicians filled the pages of new this media with their victories, failures, fashion choices and scandalous activities.
2) Union Flag
The Acts of Union in 1800 saw the fusion of Great Britain and Ireland and the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1801 the Union Flag was altered to include Ireland’s St Patrick’s Cross. This remains the official flag of the United Kingdom to this day.
3) National anthems/nationalist songs
Often associated with the military, especially the Navy, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ is one of the most well-known nationalist songs in England. However its origins are not as Anglo-centric as they appear. Frederick, Prince of Wales, commissioned the song in 1740, in part to celebrate the birth of his daughter Princess Augusta, but also to show that he was more English than his German father, King George II (even though he was born in Germany too).
4) Dining in Courses
‘Service à la russe’, the French term for ‘service in the Russian style’, became extremely popular amongst the upper classes during the reign of George III. Previously all of the dishes were brought to the table at once, but in the new style, dishes were served in three separate courses. This remains the way that we serve food today.
5) 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street became the ‘locale of British Prime Ministers’ in 1735. George II presented the house to Sir Robert Walpole, who was the first Prime Minister under the title of First Lord of the Treasury. Walpole didn’t want the house as a personal gift and so asked the King to make it the official residence for future First Lords.
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6) Having a Bath
Caroline of Ansbach, the wife of George, Prince of Wales, was a lively, intellectual and forward thinking woman. One of her most unusual habits was bathing with soap in a tub of warm water, a practice that was widely thought to be dangerous to health at this time. As medical opinions changed over the eighteenth century, bathing slowly became more fashionable and an important part of everyday life.
7) Coffee Houses
Coffee, imported from the Ottoman empire, first became a popular and affordable drink during the eighteenth century. To meet the demand for this exotic product, coffee houses opened up in cities across England. As well as providing a place to buy a dish of coffee, they were also an important place to socialise and conduct business, much as they are today.
The Georgian period also saw the rise of the naturalistic ‘English landscape garden’, a new style in gardening pioneered by Capability Brown, Charles Bridgeman and William Kent. They worked on the gardens of aristocratic families and royalty, including Kensington, Hampton Court and St James’s Palaces.
The modern novel is generally agreed to have emerged in the 18th century. Pioneering writers such as Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, produced novels about the real world rather than fantasy or myth. One important Georgian female novelist was Fanny Burney who was one of Queen Charlotte’s personal servants.
10) Interior Design
William Kent, the architect and designer of choice in the 1730s and 1740s, introduced a new concept to interior design In England. Rather than focussing on individual objects, Kent provided his clients with whole rooms decorated and furnished to match. This aesthetic unity can be seen in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace.
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The Glorious Georges at the palaces
We are marking the 300 year anniversary of George I's accession to the British throne with The Glorious Georges, a season of events and entertainments across three palaces, exploring the lives of the Hanoverian monarchs. Visitors will become immersed in sensory experiences, evoking the sights, sounds and even smells of the Georgian age. Throughout the year, to complement our new displays, a rich programme of events for all ages will revive the music, fashion and food of the time.
Watch The Glorious Georges film