Discover the monarch behind the much-peddled myth as Historic Royal Palaces explores the real story of King George III
Opens 3 April 2020
2020 marks the bicentenary of the death of George III, the monarch most strongly associated with Kew. It was here that the young George spent much of his childhood, learning the art of kingship under the tutelage of some of the most celebrated theologians, architects and musicians of the day. In adulthood, he supported the development of the botanic gardens we know today, and this peaceful riverside royal estate became a beloved summer home for his ever-expanding family. In later life, it was also at Kew that George was treated for periods of mental and physical ill health, resulting in his life and achievements being almost entirely eclipsed by the story of his still poorly understood ‘madness’.
To celebrate the achievements of this remarkable king - and explore his often cruel treatment at the hands of his doctors at Kew – a new display for 2020 will consider the real man behind the much-peddled myth.
Bringing together objects which reveal his diverse interests, from his world-famous library to his fascination with the natural world, the exhibition aims to challenge what we think we know about this complex and brilliant man. Among the items on display will be notes made by George’s doctors and instructions for the king’s care written by his daughter, Princess Mary. These will be contrasted with examples of the exquisite artworks he acquired for the Royal Collection and even a concert programme in his own hand, revealing his lesser-known passion for the arts.
Today, two centuries on from George’s death, male mental health is still something of a taboo subject. King George III ended his life in secluded isolation at Windsor – but attitudes are changing, and increasingly conversations about male mental health are taking place in the open, with men being encouraged to share their experiences and stories. To provide a forum for discussion of contemporary views on mental ill health, Historic Royal Palaces has partnered with community groups local to Kew on a project to interpret a selection of the items on display, reflecting on how what we know about George’s ill health speaks to men’s lived experiences in twenty first century London.
With one in four people in the UK affected by mental illness during their lifetime, Historic Royal Palaces hopes that this exploration of this extraordinary king will contribute to a national conversation around male mental health.
Nestled alongside Kew Palace in the iconic setting of the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Royal Kitchens and picturesque Queen Charlotte’s Cottage also reopen to visitors in spring. Together, they allow visitors to experience the joys and sorrows of King George III and his family, told through an engaging soundscape and displays of fascinating personal artefacts.
From 3 April, the Great Pagoda will offer visitors to Kew Gardens one of the best bird’s eye views of London. Standing at nearly 50m high and with a whopping 253 steps, the Pagoda was once famously adorned with eighty brightly coloured wooden dragons, which were lovingly restored as part of the Historic Royal Palaces conservation project. Visitors can learn more about the Pagoda’s architect Sir William Chambers, and discover how the building was used by George III and the royal family in the 18th century.
For information and images please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office on 020 3166 6307 or [email protected]
Notes to editors
Kew Palace and Royal Kitchens
Open from 3 April 2020
Included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
The Great Pagoda
Open from 3 April 2020. Free for Historic Royal Palaces members.
Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
Open from 4 April 2020
Included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk