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Royal Music Library - George III and Queen Charlotte (1760-1811)

In contrast to his grandfather George II, George III (1738-1820) was an avid collector: 'The King's Library', now proudly on display in the British Library's St Pancras building, consists of over 65,000 volumes. His Queen Consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg (1744-1818), was also very musical: she was a proficient harpsichordist and had her own private band. She continued to build up Queen Caroline's library, but her own library, which extended to some 45,000 volumes, is said to have been auctioned off at Christie's along with her other personal belongings.

However, it seems that much of the music from her library is preserved in the British Library, either in the Royal Music Library or in the King's Library. Some of her books may be identified by the 'CR' monogram embossed on the cover of various volumes, others by an inscription on the flyleaf.

Queen Charlotte's monogram

Queen Charlotte's monogram. The British Library, R.M.7.g.4. Copyright © The British Library Board

From 1763 to 1782, J.C. Bach was music master to Queen Charlotte, and he is represented within the Royal Music Library by several printed volumes and eight major works in autograph. Amongst other composers, Carl Friedrich Weidermann, who instructed George III on the flute, is represented by a series of Entradas for court balls; Carl Friedrich Abel, who taught chamber music to Queen Charlotte, probably donated several of his works represented in the collection and various musicians associated with the King's Band have copies of their music within the Library. Even the eight-year-old Mozart was graced with the permission to dedicate his sonatas K. 10-15 to Her Majesty.

Part of the autograph score of J. C. Bach's Magnificat in C major

Part of the autograph score of J. C. Bach's Magnificat in C major; circa 1758. The British Library, R.M.22.a.11., f. 2r. Copyright © The British Library Board

This is really the first time that we can start to speak of a Royal Music Library as such: until this time the music had always been an ancillary component of a larger collection. It is quite likely that much of the collection continued to be housed in Queen Caroline's library at St James's Palace until Queen Charlotte began to transfer materials to Buckingham House, later Buckingham Palace, but it is equally possible that some of the music was housed at Windsor for a while: we simply do not know, and all that can be said for certain is that the library was housed in Buckingham Palace by the mid-19th century, where it was kept in a small room deep inside the Palace which apparently also stood as the office of the Master of the Queen's Musick.

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