George Augustus of Hanover and his wife, Caroline of Ansbach arrived in London in 1714, in the train of the new king, George I, George Augustus’s father. Within just a few weeks writers, philosophers, artists, and other members of the cultural communities in London were hastening to Caroline’s Drawing Room at St James’s Palace. As a teenager living in Berlin, she had met the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, the composer George Frideric Handel, and many other towering intellectual figures of Europe, and her new compatriots anticipated lively discussions would continue in London. They would not be disappointed. Sir Isaac Newton even conducted scientific experiments, to demonstrate light refraction, to enliven court occasions.
In 1731 after the accession of her husband as George II, Caroline commissioned portrait busts to honour her scientist and philosopher heroes from the sculptor Giovanni Battista Guelphi. They were set up around the walls of her Hermitage, a folly pavilion in the royal gardens at Richmond.
Visitors were deeply impressed, and this led to the Gentleman’s Magazine running a poetry competition in its celebration, and to praise the Queen:
Virtue and Science! Lo they both unite,
And blaze in Caroline with matchless light!
Find out more about this clever Queen by visiting the exhibition, Enlightened Princesses at Kensington Palace until November 12th.
By Dr Joanna Marschner