How to be a king: letter of advice sent to George III to go on display for first time

Avoid war, don’t trust flatterers, and ease the tax burden: that is the advice given to the future George III by his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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Avoid war, don’t trust flatterers, and ease the tax burden: that is the advice given to the future George III by his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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In a previously unseen letter, due to go on show at Buckingham Palace, Frederick urged his son to behave as “an Englishman born and bred”.

Written in 1749, the letter reads: “The sooner you have an opportunity to lower the interest, for God’s sake, do it… if you can be without war, let not your ambition draw you into it… Flatterers, Courtiers or Ministers, are easy to be got, but a true Friend is difficult to be found… Let your steadiness retrieve the glory of the throne.”

The letter was written “out of love”, and sent with “the tenderest paternal affection”, said Frederick.

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As George II’s eldest son, Frederick was first in line to the throne, but died aged 44, two years after penning the letter. With eerie foresight, he wrote to his son: “I shall have no regret never to have wore the Crown, if you do but fill it worthily.”

The future George III became heir to the throne on the death of his father in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760.

The letter, which has never before been on public display, will go on show at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, as part of the exhibition The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714–1760.

Marking the 300th anniversary of the start of the Georgian era, the exhibition is the first to look at the period following the accession of the German ruler, George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, to the British throne as George I – the country’s first constitutional monarch.

Through more than 300 works from the Royal Collection, the exhibition will explore the reigns of both George I and his son, George II, as well as the role of this new dynasty in the transformation of political, intellectual and cultural life in Britain.

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Curator, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, said: “Surprisingly, for a family with two separate lands to rule and many divisions amongst themselves as to how it should be done, the reigns of George I and George II were very successful, firmly setting the monarchy on an unbroken line of succession to the present day.

“During the reigns of the first two Georges, Britain became the world’s most liberal, commercially successful, vibrant and cosmopolitan society. This is a remarkable legacy.”

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The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714–1760 will be at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from 11 April to 12 October. To find out more, click here.