Kew: Home of George III

Kew Palace

Kew Palace from the Gardens. Photo by Bruce Richardson 2014.

On the morning of Saturday 25 October 1760, George II died suddenly at Kensington Palace.  His eldest son, Frederick, had died in 1752 and the crown therefore went to Frederick’s first born son, the 22 year old George, whose boyhood had been spent largely with his mother Augusta and his siblings, at Kew Palace.

Portrait of George lll when Prince of Wales

George III when Prince of Wales, Joshua Reynolds. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen 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. The small palace was also put to use as a school room with the future George III and his brother Edward educated there by leading politicians, musicians, and architects.

The first ‘truly British’ Hanoverian King, George III was keen to find a wife before his coronation, and after a search for suitable candidates, married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761, on the same day as he met her!  In 1762, American colonists in the Carolinas paid honor to the royal couple by naming a city in honor or the new queen consort. They called their town Charlotte, and the surrounding county was named Mecklenburg in honor of the princess’s homeland.

Tea settting at Kew Palace

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. Photo by Bruce Richardson 2014.

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 was used by the royal family for resting and taking tea during walks in the gardens.

charlottes cottage exterior th

Queen Charlotte’s Cottage was presented to the foreign bride as a wedding gift. The royal family often stopped here for tea while walking on the palace grounds.

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. The size of George III’s and Queen Charlotte’s rapidly growing family no doubt created something of a crisis for nursery accommodation.

Read more about King George at Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s love for tea.