Future King advised to avoid war in 18th century letter revealed at Buckingham Palace

By Culture24 Reporter | 03 March 2014

18th century instructions to a future ruler, written by a man who would have been King, advise against war and shallow relationships

An image of an ancient 18th century letter in black ink on yellow paper
Frederick, Prince of Wales, Instructions for my Son George (1749)© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
In 1749, two years before his premature death from a mystery abscess at the age of 44, Frederick, Prince of Wales wrote to his son, who would become George III, eerily confessing he should “have no regret never to have wore the crown, if you do but fill it worthily”.

“The sooner you have an opportunity to lower the interest, for God’s sake, do it,” he advises, in a helpful checklist for the future king described by curators at Buckingham Palace as “sound advice”.

“If you can be without war, let not your ambition draw you into it.

“Flatterers, Courtiers or Ministers, are easy to be got, but a true Friend is difficult to be found.

“Let your steadiness retrieve the glory of the throne.”

An image of a painting of a young royal man in a white gown with a blue sash
Frederick's son, later George III, as seen by Jean- Ètienne Liotard (1754)© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Frederick’s intentions – writing “out of love” and “the tenderest paternal affection” – barely reflect the attrition between the future King’s ancestors. Frederick credits George I, his grandfather, with the ideas in the letter, having been banished from St James’s Palace by his father, George II, who had also been expelled from the royal headquarters.

The letter went on public display at the Queen’s Gallery to mark the 300th anniversary of the accession of the German ruler George Ludwic, Elector of Hanover, which began the Georgian era. Frederick was left behind in Germany and separated from his father, who favoured his second son, William, Duke of Cumberland, until his eventual move to London saw the first in line to the throne become a fashionable man about town.

Frederick is said to have entertained “freely and informally”, offering supper parties at which his guests ate larks, pigeons, partridges, salmon, asparagus, coffee cream and jelly, earning the generous host a popularity despised by his mother. Queen Caroline said it “makes me vomit”.

Despite the internal turmoil the family frequently witnessed, George II reigned for 33 years during the mid-18th century. At the time of his death, which saw six months of mourning declared at court, Frederick had reached an uneasy reconcile with his father, having defied his decree by arranging for his first daughter to be born at St James’s Palace rather than Hampton Court.

“Surprisingly, for a family with two separate lands to rule and many divisions among themselves as to how it should be done, the reigns of George I and George II were very successful,” asserts Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures who curated the exhibition, The First Georgians.

Shawe-Taylor says their rule “firmly set the monarchy” on an “unbroken line of succession to the present day.”

“During the reigns of the first two Georges, Britain became the world’s most liberal, commercially successful, vibrant and cosmopolitan society. This is a remarkable legacy.”

A television series, The First Georgians: The German Kings who Made Britain, was presented by Lucy Worsley on BBC Four in late April 2014.

  • The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760 was at The Queen’s Gallery, London from April 11 – October 12 2014. Open 10am-5.30pm. Follow the gallery on Twitter @britishmonarchy and use the hashtag

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An image of a dark blue painting of a royal woman within a circular gold frame
Sophia Dorothea of Celle, Wife of George I (circa 1690-95)© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
An image of an 18th century oil painting of a royal man in a red coat gesturing to angels
Jacopo Amigoni, Frederick, Prince of Wales (1735-1736)© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
A photo of an 18th century painting of young royals in full costume in a garden with a dog
Barthélemy du Pan, The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales (1746). The future George III is on the right of the painting, with the bow© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
An image of an 18th century painting of a king in a red and orange robe with a crown
Sir Godfrey Kneller, George II, father of Frederick (1716)© Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
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