Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds We’re in what we now call the Royal Kitchens. But this was actually the kitchen that serviced what was known as the White House, and George III’s country estate. George III very consciously tried to portray himself as a family man, as opposed to a flamboyant man. In a sense, this is reflected in how he dined. George II was well-known for being quite fond of dining in public, being shown to be able to provide glamorous meals in view of the public. George III really didn’t like all of that. He liked retreating to the countryside with his family and eating together. We have recently acquired over 100 political satires of George III.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds These are fantastic because they chart the entire reign of George III, and really see how he was viewed by members of the public. One of the themes that occurs again and again in these satires is George III being frugal. He is seen eating eggs and salad rather than cakes and meat. This was quite unusual. Monarchs across Europe were generally rather fond of showing their extravagance. George III really wanted to present an image of domesticity. We do know that, while George III was at Kew, he came into the kitchens. When we did the restoration, we found a tin bath from precisely this date. And then we corroborated this by the fact that we know that he chose to bathe here.
Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds He was a humble man. He realised that his servants were struggling to bring him across lots and lots of hot water all the way over to the White House, so he decided to bathe here to save them the hassle and the labour of looking after him as a sick man. In a way, you could say that this almost backfired his general attempts at being frugal, because he’s often accused of being miserly. There are sort of quite famous print satires by people like George Cruikshank and Gillray. But my favourite is actually a cartoon called ‘The Anti-Saccharrites’, where there’s all of George III’s daughters looking very miserable because they’re not getting sugar in their tea anymore.
Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds This is actually a play on the anti-saccharrite movement. This movement banned sugar as a protest against slavery. We know that George III was not anti-slavery as such. He saw it as a way of protecting British business interests. Actually what’s being lambasted is his general frugal atmosphere, and actually including the daughters is a way of saying that he was kind of keeping his daughters to himself within his household, and not letting them be very free at all, even controlling, to an extent, what they eat.
The frugal king
Watch Polly Putnam, Collections Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, explain how George III’s modest behaviour was very different to other Georgian monarchs.
Polly will be answering your questions between 13.00 - 14.00 (GMT) on Wednesday 16 May on this Step. If you would like Polly to respond to one of your questions, please post them in the comment section below before then. Don’t worry if you miss the session for any reason – you can see Polly’s replies in her comment feed looking at her profile page.
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