When the Madness of King George was being filmed, and urban legend emerged that suggested it had been changed from the original title of The Madness of George III because the Americans would wonder what happened to parts one and two.
While just an urban legend, and not at all factual, it contains rather more truth than we care to admit, as even we Brits sometimes wonder what happened to George’s I and II.
We all know old mad King George III, but who were the other two monarchs?
That is a question that a new exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery seeks to answer.
In fact, they weren’t supposed to be British Monarchs at all, and it was only the regular problems faced by Queen Anne in producing an heir to the throne that sent politicians desperately scurrying for a suitable replacement.
Protestant being the most important quality, and with most of the royal families being devoutly Catholic, it took a while to land upon the unlikely figure of Sophia of Hanover, who despite being about 50-something in line to the Throne was the top of the list of candidates.
She rather, unfortunately, died just before Queen Anne, and the title fell to her son, the new King George I of Great Britain.
Not that he seemed that interested in the title. He took a while to get to England from Hanover, and throughout his reign, he never learnt to speak English at all.
This disdain for the English seemed odd and at the time probably perilous, as the Jacobite claim to the throne was still strong, and had support within both Parliament and the general public.
A drawing in the exhibition shows the crowning of the Monarch by the people, as vested in the figure of Britannia, and law and Parliament in the figure of Liberty, who is trampling the Pope underfoot as a reminder of the Monarch’s mandatory allegiance to the Protestant faith.
As Monarch, the first King George did do one thing sensibly though, he didn’t engage in massive spending to bring the English palace up to European standards. He stayed at St James’ Palace and largely left it alone.
A view of central London, from the balcony of the then Buckingham House, fills one wall of the exhibition and should thrill most map geeks. As should some of the other maps and drawings of royal palaces.
Another room is given over to military collections, especially devoted to the Battles of Dettingen and of Culloden.
This is a rather eclectic display, which mirrors the Gallery’s situation that it never borrows anything and everything on display has to come from the Royal Collection. So here are some Hogarth prints of Georgian era excesses.
This has been largely a display of monochrome and watercolour, so into an explosion of colour in the next few rooms, with huge paintings, and some suitable furniture.
Do note the two little side rooms with little side displays of cameos and books.
And of course the main room filled with yet more art, some of which will look familiar.
As a display it is not one that will teach you a lot about the two personages of the Monarch’s themselves, but it gives a good flavour of the art and style of the era. A heady mix of maps, drawings and paintings.
A few bits that are easy to overlook, is a side room next to the reception desk, mocked up to look like a Georgian coffee shop, and the main staircase is lined with busts of notable figures from science and religion.
The exhibition is open until the 12th October 2014, and entry is £9.75, As I have noted before, wait a while before going to the exhibition, as your ticket is valid for repeat visits for a year, and you can then get to see the next two exhibitions for the price of of the one you just visited.