Exhibitions | The Glorious Georges

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 24, 2014


George I, followed by the future George II and Queen Caroline.
Photo by Miles Willis from a shoot at Hampton Court,
© Miles Willis 2014

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Press release (20 February 2014) from Historic Royal Palaces:

The Glorious Georges
Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, 17 April — 30 November 2014

Throughout 2014, Historic Royal Palaces will bring the Georgian court and its intriguing cast of royal characters to life, in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian accession to the British throne. These three unlikely monarchs, George I, his son George II, and great-grandson George III, presided over a remarkable era of British history which transformed society and saw the emergence of much that remains ‘quintessentially British’ today. At the very heart of this flourishing nation, within the walls of magnificent royal palaces, sat the Court. Elegant, yet decadent and riven with intrigue and scandal, it captured the imagination of the 18th-century British public and the printing press, making celebrities of the Georgian monarchs and their courtiers.

Visitors to Hampton Court, Kensington and Kew Palaces will be able to step back 300 years, and experience the sights, sounds and even smells of the Georgian age, to celebrate these often overlooked Kings and Queens, and the fascinating era in which they lived. The 18th century court has also inspired an exciting programme of events. Visitors of all ages can explore the music, the fashions and the food and even the fireworks of the Georgian court throughout 2014.

At Hampton Court Palace, meet King George I, who arrived in London in 1714 with a limited grasp on the English language, and a complicated family history. Join his court as tensions brew between the King and his son, the Prince of Wales, forcing courtiers to choose sides. A stunning re-presentation of the Queen’s State Apartments will explore who the Hanoverians were, how they came to rule Britain and how their extraordinary bitter family rows played out in public.

1352–Georgian_6-Sheet_Ken-Palace_Overground_296.25x437The story continues at Kensington Palace, where the glittering court of George II and Queen Caroline burst onto the scene in 1727. Their arrival heralded a new era of culture, music and fashion at the British court. The stories of court will brought to life against the backdrop of William Kent’s beautifully restored King’s State Apartments. In 2014, visitors to these fabulous spaces can explore a feast for the senses, featuring Georgian music, court gossip, and lavish fashion, the displays at Kensington will explore the intellectual pursuits of Queen Caroline and her circle. Visitors will be able to meet the Queen in person, in a morning ‘levee’, as she is dressed by her rival, the King’s mistress, Henrietta Howard.

Finally, at Kew Palace, the little known younger years of King George III (later infamous for his bouts of ‘madness’) will be uncovered in a dazzling new display for 2014. A series of fascinating objects will illuminate his education at Kew Palace and highlight many of the interests and influences which shaped a young King who went on to be the first Hanoverian monarch to truly glorify in his Britishness.

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, said: “These Georgian kings, with all their extraordinary family rivalries, and complex, intriguing courts, have become something of a footnote in British history, often over-shadowed by more glamourous predecessors, and by the tumultuous period of history in which they lived. The Glorious Georges season at Historic Royal Palaces in 2014 is about putting them back on the map. Immersed in the world of the Georgian court, within the walls of their Palaces, visitors will discover that the Hanoverian dynasty presided over a dramatic century in style, preserving the monarchy, and eventually transforming themselves into a very British royal family.”

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Note from the Editor

IMG_1799In the midst of HRP’s robust marketing, descriptions of the installations and actual objects on display are sometimes overshadowed. Based on my visit earlier this month in connection with the Enlightened Princesses conference, I’m glad to recommend a visit for the summer festivities (I’m also glad to report that the conference was immensely stimulating thanks to terrific talks and, as a bonus, fabulous music from Arcangelo).

Each time I’m at Hampton Court, the palace makes a little more sense even as I’m confused by new things. My basic framework of juxtaposing the grand Tudor country-house-turned-palace with the never-quite-finished building campaign of William and Mary is now complicated by a fuller appreciation of the Georgian layer. It’s particularly interesting to see the future George II and Caroline sharing the Queen’s Apartments during the reign of George I (who, of course, didn’t need the quarters for his own queen whom he divorced and imprisoned back in Hanover). Access to the servants’ and courtiers’ staircase came as a small, deeply satisfying revelation for me. And included in the dining room is an installation of folded linen by Catalonian artist Joan Sallas, who last year produced an installation for Waddesdon Manor, detailed in the video below. For the Hampton Court work, think less heraldry and more animals to be eaten (rabbit, shellfish, fowl, &c.) strewn across the table. Absolutely stunning.

-Craig Hanson


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