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Royal Collection – The First Georgians Art & Monarchy 1714-1760

18 April 2014 Tom Butler

Britain emerged as one of the most liberal, cultural and advanced societies in the world.

The Royal Collection is a national treasure. Literally! The works of art held at royal residences across the UK are a staggering collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and porcelain that perfectly represents the history of the British royal family over a vast expanse of time. Nothing is ever borrowed for exhibitions, only ever moved from royal residences across the country.

The latest exhibition to be held at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace is The First Georgians Art & Monarchy 1714-1760. Perfectly timed with it being the tri-centennial of George I coming to the throne, it explores his reign and that of his son, George II and is the latest in a line of exhibitions at the gallery linked to distinct reigns throughout British history.

Georg Ludwig Elector of Hanover, to give him his full title, was this country’s first constitutional monarch and was the first member in the line of royal succession right up to the present day and our current Queen, Elizabeth II.  He took the throne during a time when Britain emerged as one of the most liberal, cultural and advanced societies in the world and the affluence of the time is perfectly represented here in the exhibition.

At the time, the royal family were expected to eat in public at least once a week and the dining table of silver gilt, which includes The Neptune Centrepiece, is a stunning example of the most advanced rococo style of the day and further evidence of the decadent time in which the Georgians resided.

That social nature of the time again comes to the fore in the interactive section of the exhibition where a Georgian coffee house has been reconstructed to include a number of interactive elements. But why a coffee house? Well there were over 500 in London alone at the time and they were seen as the social hubs of the time, something that bears a striking resemblance to modern day culture.

An equally fascinating element to the exhibition is the unrest between the Hanoverians and the Jacobeans during this period. George I was fiftieth in line to the throne when chosen and as such there was a constant threat to his seat which culminated in the Battle of Culloden in 1746 when the Duke of Cumberland (George II’s son) led the King’s troops to defeat Bonnie Prince Charlie. This conflict is brilliantly depicted with the military maps on display which detail the battles and atrocities in great detail.

Further highlights of the collection included The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales painted in 1746. Frederick commissioned a huge group portrait of his six eldest children which includes Prince George, or George III as he was to become.

Alongside it sits an image that continues to resonate as one of the most important paintings of Georgian Britain, David Garrick and his Wife, Eva-Maria Veigel. In effect, they were the very first celebrity couple and as such has huge relevance as a social docuemnt (move over Posh & Becks!). At the time of the painting Garrick had already combined financial success as an actor manager with international celebrity, his wife Eva-Maria was a highly successful Viennese dancer.

So what should you expect? Nothing less than a wonderful collection of artefacts from across the collection that combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s an exhibition that only goes to highlight the incredible depth and variety the collection has at its disposal. Long may the public unveiling of such works continue.

The Royal Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760 is at The Queen's Gallery now until the 12th October. For more information and to book tickets please click here.

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