Online King George II letter sheds light on dispute with heir

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A copy of a letter written by King George II which castigates his heir for trying to conceal his wife's pregnancy is part of the latest batch of digitised Georgian documents made available online.

The dispute between the father and son seems like a plot-line from a soap opera, and the letter has a suitably dramatic ending - Frederick, Prince of Wales is thrown out of the family home, Hampton Court Palace.

George's letter is one of 17,000 documents from the early Georgian period that form the second phase of the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP), a project to give the public access to material which brings the day to day life in the royal court alive.

The king and the prince, who died before becoming monarch in 1751 aged 44, famously had a bad relationship but it appears at the time the letter was written - September 10, 1737 - things may have reached a new low.

Copy of strongly worded letter written by King George II to his son Frederick, Prince of Wales criticising his heir
Copy of strongly worded letter written by King George II to his son Frederick, Prince of Wales criticising his heir (Royal Archives/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017/PA)

George vents his anger at his son after accusing him of only revealing the pregnancy of his wife Princess Augusta a few weeks before the birth of their child, and then twice removing her from the palace, when Frederick thought she was close to labour.

He writes: "This extravagant and undutiful behaviour, in so essential a point as the birth of an heir to my crown, is such an evidence of your pre-meditated defiance of me...as cannot be excused by the pretended innocence of your intentions, nor palliated or disguised by specious words only."

The king does not hold back as he vents his fury at his son in the letter from 1737
The king does not hold back as he vents his fury at his son in the letter from 1737 (Royal Archives/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017/PA)

Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the Queen's librarian, who is closely involved with GPP initiative, said: "If you think today of the great fanfare that is made of the announcement of the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge and the successful birth of another member of the royal family, and here you've got almost the exact opposite happening."

The Georgian Papers Programme (GPP) is a partnership between Royal Collection Trust, lead academic partner King's College London and international participants.

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