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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

George III, King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820)

Design for a Corinthian Temple for Kew c. 1759

RCIN 981419

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Late eighteenth-century England was the period when many of the country’s finest buildings were erected, and George III, himself, was an enthusiastic and accomplished architect. His main tutor and guide in this field was Sir William Chambers (1722–96), who, at the time this drawing was made was teaching the Prince three times a week. Chambers had been heavily involved in the redevelopment of Kew Gardens under George’s parents Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta, Princess of Wales and he was to continue to be closely involved with his former pupil after his accession as George III in 1760, serving as Architect to the King from 1761, Comptroller of the Works from 1769 and Comptroller and Surveyor General from 1782.  He held the latter post until his resignation on the grounds of ill health in 1795. The Prince’s careful draughtsmanship is well demonstrated in the construction of this drawing, which still bears the compass points and rulings used to work out the structure.

This design is one of numerous architectural drawings by George III in the Royal Collection kept in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. It is the only instance of a surviving design by the King which is related to a documented building, although the building does not appear to have been built. It was reproduced in Chambers’s 1759 publication A Treatise on Civil Architecture, of which the Prince of Wales was the lead subscriber. In this book, the design is noted as having been ‘made for Her late Royal Highness the Princess Dowager of Wales and proposed to be erected in the gardens at Kew’. It is unclear why the temple was never constructed.