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The Art of Monarchy

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

Johan Joseph Zoffany (Frankfurt 1733-London 1810)

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with her Two Eldest Sons 1764

RCIN 400146

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In this domestic, dressing-room scene, Queen Charlotte sits at her toilette table in Buckingham House, overlooking the garden, and entertains her two eldest sons. Buckingham House had been acquired by George III just a few years before as a semi-private residence away from the business of the court, which at that time was based at St James’s Palace. Contemporary accounts of George III and Queen Charlotte’s daily routines allow us to reconstruct the scene.

In September 1764 Lady Charlotte Finch (1725-1813), the Princes’ governess, ordered ‘a Telemachus Dress for the Prince of Wales and a Turk’s for Prince Frederick’; it is assumed that this is what they wear in this painting. This attire may be associated with a famous educational text of the period, the Telemachus of 1699 by Francois Fénelon, which describes the son of Ulysses travelling round the Mediterranean (like his father) with his advisor, Mentor, and seeing examples of good and bad government. It may be that the contrast of Turkish and classical costume is just fancy dress: the eighteenth-century equivalent of cowboys and Indians. Certainly there is a humour in the way that Prince George holds the dog like a warrior with his charger. The empty chair at the left side of the painting, with drum and standard, is surely intended to suggest the person and manly inspiration of the absent King.