Kew Palace from the back garden on the River Thames side. © Bruce Richardson

On the morning of October 25, 1760, George II died suddenly at Kensington Palace.  His eldest son, Frederick, had died eight years earlier and the crown therefore went to Frederick’s first son, the 22 year old George. This young king’s boyhood had been spent largely with his mother Augusta and his siblings at Kew Palace.

George III by Joshua Reynolds.
Courtesy Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Elizabeth II

The house that was to become Kew Palace was built in 1631 for Samuel Fortrey, a French-born Flemish merchant. Fortrey created an expensive and sumptuous home that was extravagantly decorated with magnificent molded plasterwork and detailed paint schemes.
Royal associations with the building began in 1728 when the house was leased by Queen Caroline to be used for accommodation for the three elder daughters of George II. This small palace, situated just behind the larger royal dwelling called The White House,  was also put to use as a school room with the future George III and his brother Edward educated thereby leading politicians, musicians, and architects.
The first ‘truly British’ Hanoverian King, George III was keen to find a wife before his coronation. After a search for suitable candidates, he married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, on the same day as he met her! 
In 1762, the Carolina colony paid honor to the royal couple by naming a city in honor or their new queen consort. They called their town Charlotte, and the surrounding county was named Mecklenburg in honor of the princess’s homeland.
This goodwill quickly faded. By the end of 1773, citizens of Boston were hanging the king in effigy and tossing East India Company tea into the harbor to protest his taxes.

This tea setting can be seen in the family drawing room at Kew Palace. The sofa table dates from 1810. The Worcester soft paste porcelain dates to c.1790. King George and Queen Charlotte visited the Worcester kilns in 1788. The Queen’s silver tea kettle and stand was made for her in 1803 by Robert Garrard.  
George revealed himself to be a family man at heart, and he and Charlotte had a long and happy marriage. Together they had fifteen children over 21 years.

Located at the far end of what is now Kew Gardens, Queen Charlotte’s cottage is an early example of a cottage orné, a rustic cottage built as a country retreat, not as a residence. The cottage, presented to the foreign bride as a wedding gift, was used by the royal family for resting and taking tea during walks in the gardens.
In the later part of his life, George III suffered from recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. Although it has since been suggested that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria, the cause of his illness remains unknown.
After a final relapse in 1810, a regency was established, and George III’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent. On George III’s death at Windsor on January 19, 1820, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV and the Regency Period came to a close.

The royal bath tub was kept in the kitchens. close to the hot water supply.
© Bruce Richardson

Tea Maestro Bruce Richardson visited Kew Palace in August 2014. Visit the official website for more information on The Georges and all the royal palaces.  
Read the next installment – The Royal Kitchens at Kew.

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