Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Madness of King George

George William Frederick, otherwise know as King George III, ruled longer than any previous British monarch; first as King of England and Ireland, and later as King of the United Kingdom. He succeeded to the crown in 1760, at the age of 22, after the sudden death of his father, King George II. The following year, he married Princess Charlotte in St. James Palace. Although they met for the first time on their wedding day, it turned out to be a true love match, and they had 15 children.

King George's reign was fraught with several military battles, arguably the most famous of which was the Revolutionary War. In later years, he suffered from intermittent and later permanent mental illness, which in more recent times has been theorized to have been the blood condition porphyria. Because of these two circumstances, King George III is often called "the Mad King" or the "King Who Lost America."

In c.1805, in England, this coverlet was made to commemorate these military events, and it represents a whole different kind of Madness! It is comprised of pieced circles of printed and plain cotton, with different designs in their centers, set in a white background. It has a medallion center, and 40 circular scenes around the border. The coverlet now resides in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England.

V&A: T.9-1962

The central medallion is both pieced and embroidered, and depicts King George reviewing his troops in Hyde Park on his birthday, June 4,1799. It may have been added after the coverlet was pieced, as it cuts across several of the circles.

The design was taken from a print after John Singleton Copley, called "His Majesty Accompanied by the Prince of Wales and Gloucester. Reviewing the Volunteer Cops of London and its vicinity, in Hyde Park, on the 4th June, 1799," which is the longest title of a painting I've ever seen, but at least we don't have to wonder what the subject is. :)

National Army Museum: 1974-04-20

There are an additional 40 scenes of military and domestic life around the border. Some of these scenes were also taken from prints, paintings, and illustrations of the day. This is an illustration of the song Poor Jack by Charles Dibdin (c.1788), and below it, a scene from the coverlet.

National Maritime Museum: PAJ4029

And here is a hand coloured etching by Robert Dighton entitled "Descriptions of Battles by Sea & Land" and it's accompanying scene.

National Maritime Museum: PU473

To see other pictures and information about the coverlet, visit the Victoria & Albert Museum website.

If you feel ambitious, Marta from Cartulinas is drafting these blocks and hosting a SAL on her blog. She also has a SAL Flick'r group where people can post their blocks.

And Una from Samsy is also drafting these blocks, and you can watch her progress on her blog. I just love her fabric choices.

And you can watch a video of Tracy Chevalier, author of "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" as she meets with V&A Quilt Exhibit curator Sue Pritchard to view the George III Coverlet here.

Every year in October I head to Northern Michigan for the annual Fabric of Friendship Quilting retreat. It's three, four, or more days of fun, fabric, and friendship, not to mention good food. The optional classes are free, and there is also a scrap quilt class, if you're interested in that. You might remember the pictures I posted last fall of Lake Michigan and the Victorian houses in nearby Bayview.

If you would like to join us this year, email quiltingretreats@gmaildotcom for information. Hope to see you there!