Handel's royal relationships to sing in musical exhibition at the Foundling Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 February 2014

Signed manuscripts from the coronation of George I are among the Handel highlights of a show on the 300th anniversary of the occasion

An image of an 18th century painting showing people playing classical instruments
Philip Mercier, The Music Party (Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, and his sisters, Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange; Princess Caroline Elizabeth; Princess Amelia Sophia Eleanora) (1733). Oil on canvas© National Portrait Gallery, London
If royal occasions had a jukebox, the works of George Frideric Handel would be a playlist certainty: the composer’s anthem, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every coronation since King George II’s in October 1727. Nearly 300 years on, Water Music was recited on the River Thames for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

An image of a painting of an 18th century man in white, blue and grey royal attire
John Shackleton, Portrait of King George II (1758). Oil on Canvas© Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum
Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the coronation of George I, the Foundling Museum draws on the Gerald Coke Handel Collection to explore the life of a musician whose close relationship with British rulers played out in the patronage of Queen Anne and the two Georges, teaching princesses and writing works such as Music for the Royal Fireworks.

Handel was a creative philanthropist who donated the organ to the Foundling Hospital, for whom he was a governor, composed an anthem and conducted annual fundraising performances of Messiah.

“By exploring Handel’s Royal relationships here, in the context of a home for the most vulnerable children, we’re revealing two sides of a remarkable artist,” says Caro Howell, the Director of the London museum.

“The musician who personally tutored the royal princesses also oversaw the music at the Foundling Hospital’s chapel where illegitimate and abandoned children were christened.

“The composer who directed the music at lavish and unique royal events, including the Royal Fireworks, exploited the same appetite for scale by conducting fundraising concerts at the Hospital.”  

Loans from the British Library, Lambeth Palace and the National Portrait Gallery result in an impressive list of exhibits holding a personal touch.

The Archbishop of Canterbury annotates the 1727 Order of Service for the Coronation, while autograph manuscripts for Zadok the Priest, the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne and Lessons for Princess Louisa – composed by Handel specifically to teach the young royals the harpsichord – hang alongside papers from Westminster Abbey archives charting the organisation of royal events.

  • By George! is at The Foundling Museum from February 7 – May 18 2014.

An image of a wide painting of a grand royal outdoor event from the 18th century
Paul Angier, A perspective view of the building for the fireworks in the Green Park taken from the reservoir. Robert Sayer (circa 1749)© Gerald Coke Handel Collection, The Foundling Museum
A close-up photo of the score for a competition on white paper with black ink
Coronation Anthems, Anthem I, Zadok the Priest, George Frideric Handel, Manuscript full score (circa 1740)© Gerald Coke Handel Collection, The Foundling Museum
A photo of a long white boat floating down a river while celebratory crowds look on
AAM Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, Battersea Bridge (June 2012)© Hilary Everett
An image of a painting of an 18th century royal man sitting in a grand chair at a desk
King George I, studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1714). Oil on canvas© National Portrait Gallery, London
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