Over the past year, technicians, academics and cataloguers have painstakingly digitised the first 33,000 of the Georgian Papers which are held in the Royal Archive and Royal Library at Windsor Castle. And that’s just the start.

The Georgian Papers collection spans 350,000 papers in total.

So it’s not surprising that the process of digitising thousands of letters, papers, log books and diaries has unearthed a wealth of incredible stories.

To date the papers which have been digitised include:

  • The essays of King George III, which offer insight into his intellectual life
  • Queen Charlotte’s intimate and personal diaries
  • The papers of several courtiers on subjects such as the Royal children and their education
  • Bills and receipts from George IV’s Privy Purse to demonstrate the value of the collection
  • Menu ledgers reveal the food served within the Royal Household
  • Inventories from the Royal Library

And within these items there are many interesting stories and insights which members of the public, historians and academic can enjoy uncovering themselves. Here are just a few…

How to be a King - dated 1748/1749

A letter written to the future George III by his father Frederick, Prince of Wales, provides a personal and fascinating insight into their relationship.

Instructions on how to be a king

Frederick instructs his 10-year-old son in “kingly conduct” with regards to economy, war and Hanover.

It also provides more touching advice.

“I know that you will have always the greatest respect for your good Mother… and all you can do, consistently with Your own Interest, for Your Brothers and Sisters, you certainly will do,” it read.

You must not reckon Yourself only their Brother, but I hope you’ll be a kind Father to Them.

Children

Queen Charlotte, King George III’s wife, regularly wrote to Lady Charlotte Finch, the governess to the Royal children.

Academics investigating the Georgian Papers as part of the digitisation programme made an extraordinary discovery in one such letter.

Queen Charlotte had written to Lady Finch around the time of the death of her little son Alfred, aged just two years old when he passed away in 1782.

He was their 14th child and up until that point they had never lost a child, which was incredibly lucky considering infant mortality rates in the Georgian times.

Attached to the letter, in a little paper pocket, historians found a perfectly preserved lock of Alfred’s blonde hair, which Queen’s Charlotte has kept and sent to Lady Finch.

Lock of Prince Alfreds hair

It remains as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the sad reality for many 18th Century parents.

Food

Amazingly, there is a collection of 24 volumes of books which detail meals served to the Royal Family from 1815 to 1837.

This includes the menu served at the banquet for the coronation of George IV on July 19, 1821 in Westminster Hall.

All foods were listed for the 300 guests who attended the meal. And crucially, guests were not served individually - they helped themselves to the feast.

Each dish on the menu was assigned a number to help with its location on the table, in order to ensure the layout was aesthetically pleasing and logistically it ran smoothly.    

We now know from the papers that the new King was served chicken minced meat in white sauce with French truffles and sausages of white rabbit in pastry for his first course.

The next chapter

However, there is still more to do. Over the next four years the ambition is to digitise all 350,000 of those pages an enormous but significant task.  

These pages will include the following, and much more.

  • Material relating to King George I, George II and William IV to cover the first to the last Hanovarian King.
  • Mensil books which are inventories and accounts for the supply of food into the Royal Household.
  • Material of relevance including the archive of the King George III Observatory at Kew and the Foreign and Commonwealth Library.
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With more than 300,000 more pages to go, who knows what the public and academics might uncover next.

Find out more about the Georgian Papers Programme and explore the papers for yourself on the Royal Collection Trust website.