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Royal Music Library - Queen Caroline's library (1737)

The Steffani manuscripts, or at the very least the copies, later passed to Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), consort of George II. Queen Caroline was a woman of great learning, and also of astute musical tastes: Handel wrote vocal duets for her, and as Princess of Wales in 1714-27, she demonstrated her patronage of music by hosting several balls and concerts.

Queen Caroline's library was a new building that had been added to St James's Palace shortly before her death, in 1736-37; indeed, she had the use of it for only a month. It has since been demolished, to be replaced by Lancaster House, but a picture of it survives:

Queen Caroline's Library, from W. H. Pyne, The History of the Royal Residences

Queen Caroline's Library, from W. H. Pyne, The History of the Royal Residences (1819). The British Library, 747.f.3. Copyright © The British Library Board

George II is not so much remembered for his contribution to the cultural life of the country, but he did give the Old Royal Library to the nation. This library includes various musical manuscripts, particularly medieval sources, but these really form a different category from the library of performance scores which Caroline preserved and expanded. Caroline's library inventory includes Italian opera libretti, most of which are for London performances from her time in London, as well as a number of scores. Steffani is the main collection; most of the remainder are also for vocal music, with some of dance music. A number of printed scores relate to performances from her time in Germany. Despite her personal connections with Handel, there is only a small proportion of Handel material listed in the inventory.

Contact

Dr Nicolas Bell
Music Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7772
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7751

E-mail: music-collections@bl.uk