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Cabinet containing Lord Bute’s Botanical tables 1784

Painted satinwood and gilt bronze | 35.0 x 43.3 x 21.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 37017

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  • John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-92), was George III’s mentor and chief adviser both before his accession and in the early years of his reign. He was forced to resign in 1763. Bute was active at Kew from 1747, assisting first Frederick, Prince of Wales, and then his widow Augusta, with the botanical and landscape gardens which they laid out there. He was closely involved with the gardens at Kew until Augusta’s death in 1772, at which point Joseph Banks assumed control. Bute was a serious and scholarly botanist and his Botanical tables, described as ‘in the press’ in 1761, were the result of many years’ work. Their publication in 1784, with a dedication to Queen Charlotte, marked a milestone in the Queen’s patronage of botanical studies and at the same time signalled her unequivocal support for botany as a subject suitable for feminine study. Bute’s dedication described the work as ‘composed solely for the Amusement of the Fair Sex under the Protection of your [i.e. the Queen’s] Royal Name’ and in her acceptance of the dedication, the Queen declared herself to be ‘much flattered to be thought capable of so rational, beautiful, & enticing Amusement, & shall make it my endeavour not to forfeit this good opinion by pursuing this Study steadily, as I am persuaded this Botanical Book will more than encourage me in doing it’.

    The Queen hardly needed any encouragement to pursue the subject, which had occupied her consistently at Kew and then at Windsor where the presence of Mrs Delany - the Queen’s friend, neighbour and fellow botanist - from 1785 until her death in 1788 must have provided a further incentive for this work. ‘Botanising’ was enjoyed by both the Queen and her daughters and came to be concentrated from the early 1790s at the Queen’s ‘Little Paradise’ at Frogmore where she assembled the major part of her botanical library, including the Botanical tables.

    Bute’s handsomely illustrated work, the result of more than twenty years’ study, was privately printed. Only about a dozen copies were actually produced and among the recipients were Catherine the Great, Joseph Banks and the Queen’s friend the dowager Duchess of Portland. The nine volumes of the specially bound dedication copy were housed in an elegant satinwood cabinet mounted with gilt bronze handles, painted with flowers and with the Queen’s cipher on the top. It was reserved from the sale of Queen Charlotte’s property after her death by the Prince Regent at £117.

    Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004
    Provenance

    Presented to Queen Charlotte by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute in 1784.

  • Medium and techniques

    Painted satinwood and gilt bronze

    Measurements

    35.0 x 43.3 x 21.5 cm (whole object)