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Untold lives blog

20 posts categorized "Propaganda"

20 June 2018

Seeking Wartime Employment: Bertram Thomas and Frank Smythe

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On 27 August 1939, the explorer Bertram Thomas sent a telegram to John Charles Walton of the India Office, offering his services to the Government of India in the event of war, in the Persian Gulf ‘or wherever my Arab experience may be of use’.

  IOR L PS 12 300 f.72Telegram from Bertram Thomas to John Charles Walton at the India Office, 27 August 1939 (IOR/L/PS/12/300, f 72). The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item. 

In 1931, Thomas had become the first European to cross the ‘empty quarter’ (the Rub' al Khali desert) of Arabia.  He had also served in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during the First World War, and had held offices in the Middle East including that of Financial Adviser to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman.

 
IOR L PS 12 2137 f.308'ARABIA. Route Traverse across the RUB' AL KHALI from DHUFAR TO DOHA by BERTRAM THOMAS 1930-31' map (IOR/L/PS/12/2137, f 308) Noc

After the declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939, Thomas wrote to the Foreign Office enquiring whether he could be of use to them in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, in case the Government of India could not find a suitable role for him.  He stated ‘I want to serve the country’ and ‘I should feel wretched to be idling when I ought to be helping somewhere’.  He suggested that ‘I might be the sort of man the new Department of Propaganda has a use for, collecting information on the spot, or disseminating it there’.  Herbert Lacy Baggallay of the Foreign Office passed on Thomas’s letter to the Ministry of Information, remarking that Thomas’s ‘knowledge of Arabic and of Arab countries is, of course, very considerable’.

On 30 July 1941 the Ministry of Information offered Thomas the role of Publicity Officer in the Persian Gulf, responsible for the preparation and co-ordination of pro-British and Allied propaganda in the Gulf.  Thomas served in this role until he became first Director of the new Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies, a centre for training British personnel in the Middle East.  He held this post from 1944 to 1948.

Other individuals offered their services to the India Office and the Foreign Office during the Second World War including the mountaineer and author Frank Symthe (Francis Sydney Smythe).  Smythe had led the 1931 expedition which conquered the Himalayan mountain Kamet, the first summit over 25,000 feet (7,620 metres) to be climbed.  He had also taken part in Everest expeditions, including the 1933 expedition which equalled the height record (c 28,000 feet or 8,534 metres) established by Edward Felix Norton in 1924.

Symthe wrote to Walton at the India Office on 23 September 1939 that he was ‘anxious to undertake some work in which any special qualifications I may possess would be of the most use’.  In a further letter of 11 August 1941, he stated that ‘since the German attack on Russia the Indian frontier again becomes important’, and he suggested that he could train a corps of mountain scouts drawn from Gurkhas and Sherpas.
 

IOR L PS 12 300 f.66Letter from Frank Smythe to John Charles Walton of the India Office Political Department, 23 September 1939 (IOR/L/PS/12/300, f 66) © Frank S. Smyth (Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence)

It appears that Smythe never served on the Indian frontier, but he did spend part of the Second World War training troops in mountain warfare and spent time in the Rockies with the Lovat Scouts.

Susannah Gillard
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
India Office Records files which can be viewed on the Qatar Digital Library:
British Library, PZ 5277/1939 'War - Offers of service in the event of -' IOR/L/PS/12/300
British Library, ‘File 28/7 I War: Propaganda: local opinion’ IOR/R/15/2/687
British Library, ‘File 28/7 II War: Propaganda – Local Opinion’ IOR/R/15/2/688
British Library, 'File 1/44 Publicity Officer, Bahrain' IOR/R/15/2/1040
British Library, 'File 4/12 (1.a/52) Publicity Officer, Persian Gulf' IOR/R/15/2/933
British Library, Ext 5050/43 ‘Formation of an Arab Centre in the Middle East for providing selected British officers with knowledge of Arabic, Arab countries and Middle East problems’ IOR/L/PS/12/857

Francis Owtram (2015) Preparation Pays Off: Bertram Thomas and the Crossing of the Empty Quarter
Francis Owtram (2016) Dhofar, Doha and a ‘Road Trip’ to Riyadh: Bertram Thomas’ sojourns in Arabia
John Ure (2008) ‘Thomas, Bertram Sidney (1892–1950)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Harry Calvert, Symthe’s Mountains: The Climbs of F. S. Smythe (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1985).
Arnold Lunn, revised by A. M. Snodgrass (2011) ‘Smythe, Francis Sydney (1900–1949)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

 

21 May 2018

‘A Trustworthy Indian in Stockholm’: A. Yusuf Ali’s Mission to Scandinavia, 1918

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A hundred years ago, Stockholm was the centre of Indian anti-colonialism and, at the same time, British counter-intelligence operations. In late April and early May 1918, the Indian lawyer and administrator A. Yusuf Ali gave a series of lectures on Indian culture in Scandinavia, including Copenhagen, Stockholm, Uppsala and Oslo.

A Yusuf Ali 1A. Yusuf Ali from Træk af Indiens Kultur

Delivered in English, the lectures dealt with modern Indian poetry, Indian religion and the role of women in Indian, and they were translated into Danish and published as Træk af Indiens Kultur (Features of Indian Culture) in 1918. In the Foreword, Ali conceded that the lectures were not intended to be published in book form, but ‘valuable friends’ persuaded him to do so. What Ali did not admit was that these ‘valuable friends’ were the British Foreign Office (FO).

A Yusuf Ali 2Træk af Indiens Kultur 

In fact, as reports from the FO show, the British were so worried about the anti-colonial activities of the Indian National Committee (INC) among the socialist delegates assembled in Stockholm for the proposed peace conference that they considered ‘the possibility of sending a trustworthy Indian to Stockholm who could put the case from a loyalist point of view’.

As it happened, the two Indian revolutionaries Virendranath ‘Chatto’ Chattopadhyaya and M.P.T. Acharya from the Berlin-based Indian Independence Committee had arrived in Stockholm in May 1917 and set up the INC. They met the organising Dutch-Scandinavian Committee in July 1917, putting their demands for independence to the socialists, but they were met with little sympathy. The Dutch socialist Pieter Jelles Troelstra noted that ‘the Indian question is important, but it is a distraction’ from the peace negotiations.

However, Chatto and Acharya remained in Stockholm and carried out extensive propaganda in the Swedish newspapers in the next couple of years. For instance, when Finland achieved independence in January 1918, the INC sent congratulatory wishes through the Swedish newspapers Svenska Dagbladet and Aftonbladet, hoping for Finland’s support for Indian independence.

It was such articles that prompted the FO to send Ali on his mission to Scandinavia. In response to the propaganda of the INC, Ali wrote in Stockholms-Tidningen in April 1918 that the Indian revolutionaries were wrong, there was no desire for independence in India, and that the ties between India and Britain had been strengthened during the war. Furthermore, he claimed that the Indian revolutionaries had no support in India, and he referred to them as ‘anarchists’. Chatto denied these accusations, in an article in Stockholms-Tidningen in May 1918, and asserted that they enjoyed widespread support in India, particularly from Bengal.

In his reminiscences of the time in Stockholm, Acharya later wrote that they used to attend Ali’s lectures and hand out their own material to the audience. This meant that many thought that Ali belonged to the INC and subsequently approached him for more information. Ali’s mission had failed, claimed Acharya, and the British called Ali back in the summer of 1918.

The British felt differently, however, as is clear from a review of Ali’s book from The Times Literary Supplement: ‘If it was the object of our Foreign Office to give the Scandinavian public an opportunity of knowing better and valuing more highly the genius of India it would appear that this aim has been excellently fulfilled’ (5 September 1918).

Ole Birk Laursen
Lecturer at NYU London and a Research Associate at The Open University

Further reading:
M. Yusuf Ali, Træk Af Indiens Kultur (Copenhagen: V. Pios Boghandel/H Branner, 1918)
M. A. Sherif, Searching for Solace: A Biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Interpreter of the Qur’an (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 1994)
British Library, India Office Records/L/PS/11/126, P 3449/1917 The War: Stockholm Peace Congress; attitude of Oriental delegates

 

16 May 2018

The Anti-German Union and the India Office

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A file among the records of the India Office Public & Judicial Department shows how the anti-German hysteria that developed in Britain after the outbreak of the First World War came to spread as far as central India.

Anti German Union Museum of Fine Arts Boston CON651696Poster for Anti-German Union 1915 courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

George Makrill was Honorary Secretary of the Anti-German Union  - motto: ‘No German Labour, No German Goods, No German Influence, Britain for the British'.  On 9 August 1915 he wrote to the India Office from the Union's headquarters on The Strand concerning ‘... certain information, which I have received from a source which I know to be trustworthy, and which appears to me to require immediate action’.

This potentially grave matter was then left hanging, as Makrill had forgotten to include in this initial communication a short list of persons with German connections who had worked or were working in the Central Provinces administration.  This was dispatched, with apologies, on 26 August.
 
The India Office thus found itself tasked with investigating four of its own civil servants:
• the late Sir Arthur Blumerhassett, former Chief Secretary - what damage might he have done the Allied cause before his death?
• Mr Marten, his successor - had he been ‘turned’ by Sir Arthur?
• Mr Grille, Assistant Commissioner - was he part of the conspiracy?
• Mr Hullah, Third Secretary  - what was his nefarious role?

Mr Makrill might himself have done some elementary checking prior to alerting the India Office, given that he must have meant Sir Arthur Blennerhassett who had died in late January.  It was soon established that the four individuals were all Oxbridge graduates, which before the Cambridge spy ring scandal erupted decades later must presumably have worked in their favour.  Departmental Secretary Malcolm Seton (Repton and Oriel College, Oxford) took it upon himself to deal with the matter, putting the laconic note in the file on 2 September : ‘Mr. J. T. Marten has a German mother, but the Martens are an old Gloucestershire family.  I have known him intimately for over 20 years.  He has always been rather anti-German in feeling’.  He was plainly not impressed by the error over the Blennerhassett surname: ‘Burke or Debrett could have been consulted’.

In retrospect it is clear that the whole episode stemmed from the Anti-German Union having somehow discovered that a handful of overseas civil servants had some German ancestry and/or had married German wives, and were keen for the India Office to investigate their backgrounds.  Seton’s sense of exasperation is plain in another written comment: ‘If the Anti-German Union hopes to proscribe every official who has German blood, its labours will be protracted’.  No further action seems to have taken place, and Messrs Marten (Clifton and New College, Oxford), Grille (Harrow and Jesus, Cambridge) and Hullah (Oundle and Caius College, Cambridge) were sensibly allowed to continue their careers unmolested.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services

Further reading:
IOR/L/PJ/6/1395, file 3304
Papers of Sir Malcolm Seton India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E267

 

12 October 2016

Edith Cavell – 101 years on

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One hundred and one years ago today Edith Cavell was executed.  Last year, on the centenary of her death, her story was re-told in the press, the Royal Mint issued a commemorative £5 coin, and hundreds attended services to remember her.   In the years after 1915 she was not forgotten and people wrote poems and built memorials to her.  So it seems fitting not to let the 101st anniversary of her death pass by unnoticed, and to tell the story of the people who did not forget her.

 

Cavell 2 F60145-14

Daily Sketch, 23 October 1915  Images Online Noc

 

Edith Cavell was executed on 12 October for treason, having smuggled French and British troops out of German-occupied Belgium.  Immediately after her death the world was in shock and masses of ephemeral items were produced.  Several examples are held in the British Library in the volume at shelfmark Tab.11748.aa.2. which I have been working on.  (Fuller records for individual items within this volume will appear in Explore the British Library in due course.)

Many people used her death for propaganda purposes, as a rallying point to entice more men to join in the fight against the Central Powers.  E. H. Rowe, of South Shields, helped feed this propaganda, writing a poem that described German soldiers as ‘her relentless foe thirsting for her life’ and ending with the ominous line ‘God’s will be done. He will repay’.  Another particularly dramatic poem by John Streaks begins ‘She died a martyr in her country’s cause; we mourn to know how foully she was slain’.

 

Cavell 4 kh222813

Illustration from a French journal © Coll.Dixmier/Kharbine-Tapabor/British Library Images Online

 

Some poems were printed and sold for charity.  The British Library holds a design for a memorial cross, adorned with a picture of her dressed in her nurse’s uniform and inscribed with the message ‘Nestling here the spirit of love ever watcheth and slumbering sleepeth not’.  The artist produced a small copy of this design with an explanation on the back, describing how he had chosen roses, maple leaves, thistles, shamrocks and oak leaves.  He wrote that by adding lamps to the composition a ‘sacramental feeling’ is produced, that makes one want to pause and remember.  He created a larger version of this image for sale, and hoped that a good proportion of the profits would go to ‘Homes of Rest for Nurses’.  The Daily Mirror (alongside the Daily Telegraph) raised money for an Edith Cavell Memorial Fund, which had poets composing sheets to be sold in order to raise money.  Her death was a rallying point for all Allied troops.  Even in Canada memorial sheets were sold to collect money for the Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Patriotic Funds.

Multiple poems were written about her legacy.  One printed pamphlet has a large drawing of her face inside a laurel wreath with the caption ‘A tribute written to the air of “Queen of the Earth” in memory of a woman, whose name will live in history, and whose fame will be as imperishable as that of either Florence Nightingale or Grace Darling’.  Nowadays the propaganda purpose of such items is well known, and historians are beginning to understand Edith Cavell as an individual, complicating the view of Nurse Cavell-as-martyr that is suggested by this ephemera.

Ann-Marie Foster
PhD placement student Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
The items cited are all from the guard volume at shelfmark Tab.11748.aa.2. except for the larger design for a memorial cross at shelfmark: 1820.h.8.(104.)
Edith Louisa Cavell
World War One atrocity propaganda
Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell (London, 2010)

 

 

01 September 2015

Scaremonger or Patriot? Lionel Horton Smith and War with Germany

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Debates about Britain’s decision to go to war in 1914 typically focus on the actions of its government. We hear less about pressure groups which encouraged preparation for war with Germany. The Imperial Maritime League was one of the noisiest.

Imperial Maritime League B20068-08

Imperial Maritime League. "Wake up England !" Tab.11748.a. poster 180. Images OnlineNoc

 

The league was co-founded in 1908 by Lionel Graham Horton Smith and Harold Wyatt. Both were senior members of the Navy League, but they became disillusioned with its refusal to criticise the Admiralty and Liberal government.

The two men were obsessed with the possibility that Germany might overtake Britain as a naval power. But far from disliking Kaiser Wilhelm II, Wyatt and Horton Smith admired his militarism. Their criticisms were instead directed at British society, for being ignorant about its reliance on the Royal Navy and lacking the resolve to fight rival empires.

 Wyatt believed in the necessity of war for national survival, though he lacked direct experience of the armed forces. Horton Smith, a lawyer, had some experience in the army. He wrote prolifically on the classics and Scottish culture, and deposited a large cache of the league’s surviving documents with the British Library on 21 October 1933.

 

  Imperial Maritime League 1
Imperial Maritime League Pamphlets X.631/742 Noc

Over a thousand members of the Navy League departed with Horton Smith and Wyatt to form the Imperial Maritime League, including famous names such as Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle. It also received support from some right-wing newspapers.

The league made progress in fund raising and organising large-scale petitions and rallies. These demanded increased naval spending and opposed international agreements that curtailed the Royal Navy’s capacity to wage war. Rattled by its upstart rival, the Navy League overhauled its organisation and campaigning, and as a result expanded its membership and political influence. With its thunder stolen, the Imperial Maritime League struggled to appear credible. Journalists mocked its campaigns as irrelevant, extremist and hyperbolic.

Exhausted and demoralised, Wyatt and Horton Smith resigned as joint secretaries in 1913. Wyatt left completely. Horton Smith remained to help the new management. But he became embroiled in petty internal squabbles typical of small extremist organisations. In August 1914, just before war broke out, the league was reduced to promoting its cause to tourists in Devon.

Yet the war supplied a new role for the league and Horton Smith. He headed its ‘Villages and Rural Districts Enlightenment and Recruiting Campaign’, lecturing young men on the necessity of enlisting. And he published a stream of pamphlets justifying the conflict, all deposited at the British Library.

 

Imperial Maritime League 2

Imperial Maritime League Pamphlets X.631/742 Noc

 

The Imperial Maritime League ceased in 1921, but it had unintentionally helped to revive the Navy League. The latter continues to the present day as the Sea Cadet Corps.

Horton Smith’s campaigning on behalf of the Imperial Maritime League corrects the popular misconception that war with Germany was unexpected in 1914. It also reminds us that sections of British society desired such a conflict, not only to stem the rise of Germany as a world power, but also to ‘improve’ British society.

 

Imperial Maritime League 3

 Imperial Maritime League Pamphlets X.631/742 Noc

 

Neil Fleming
Senior Lecturer in Modern History, University of Worcester

Further reading:
N.C. Fleming, ‘The Imperial Maritime League: British Navalism, Conflict and the Radical Right, c. 1907–1920’, War in History, 23, 3 (2016).

Discover the work of Lionel Graham Horton Smith through Explore the British Library

 

05 February 2014

‘For the Sake of Freedom’: British World War II Propaganda Posters in Arabic

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An unassuming financial file contained in the records of the British Political Agency in Bahrain (that now form a part of the India Office Records held at the British Library) unexpectedly contains two rare examples of Arabic-language propaganda posters produced by the British Government during World War II. Remarkably, the only reason that the two posters have been preserved in the records is because financial accounts of the Bahraini government are typed on their reverse. It appears that the posters were used by the Agency in place of paper due to a shortage in supplies caused by World War II.

  Image 1
IOR/R/15/1/355 f. 42 Noc

The accounts on the posters’ reverse are for the hijri calendar years 1362 and 1363 (c. 1943) but the posters themselves are not dated. However, given that one of them depicts a children’s mock parliament discussing the post-blitz re-planning of London, it appears that they were produced sometime after May 1941 (when the blitz ended) and thus are roughly contemporaneous with the financial accounts printed on their reverse.

Image 2
Front Cover of ‘File 19/176 VI Bahrain Finances’ (IOR/R/15/1/355) Noc

Both of the posters seek to promote a strong, progressive image of Britain and stress the involvement of school children (of both sexes) in British society and in shaping the future of the country. By depicting children involved in a mock parliament, one of the posters alludes not only to Britain’s actual parliament – in contrast with Germany’s dictatorial system – but also to the supposedly inclusive nature of a modern Britain that involved young people in broader issues related to society.

The other poster presents a more overtly militaristic image of British youth and has the tag line يتمرن طلبة المدارس بريطانيا اليوم ليكونوا صناع و جنود الغد [Students of British Schools Practice Today to be the Builders and Soldiers of Tomorrow]. The poster has a large image of a boy in British Army uniform firing a Bren Machine Gun. Its text discusses military service for youth in the country.

Image 3
IOR/R/15/1/355 f. 41  Noc
Training the People: British Boys and Girls discussing the re-planning of London

 تدريب الشعب اولاد و بنات بريطانيا يتباحثون في اعادة تخطيط لندن

On both of the posters, the slogan 'For the Sake of Freedom' appears below a picture of the Union Jack flag. The use of this slogan is ironic to say the least given that at this time Britain still ruled over a vast global empire that robbed millions of people around the world of the very freedom that they were ostensibly fighting for. Indeed, many of the individuals at whom these Arabic-language posters were targeted were living in areas that were under the imperial domination of the British.

This was especially true in the case of Bahrain. Although the country was never formally a part of the British Empire, a series of treaties agreed between the British Government and the Al Khalifa family in the nineteenth century had given Britain control over Bahrain’s foreign relations, incorporating the country into the British Imperial system.

Image 4'For the Sake of Freedom' (detail from IOR/R/15/1/355 f. 42) Noc

During World War II, the Middle East was the site of a propaganda struggle between Great Britain and its allies, and Nazi Germany and the other axis powers. As my earlier blog post demonstrated, propaganda produced by the German Government – in this case radio broadcasts in Arabic – found a receptive ear in some areas of the Persian Gulf. The British made efforts to counter this German propaganda by radio broadcasts of their own and through the production of printed materials such as these posters.

Louis Allday
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Qatar Digital Library

Twitter @Louis_AlldayCc-by

 

21 January 2014

George Orwell’s loft

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Today is the anniversary of the death on 21 January 1950 of Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell.  Andy Simons tells us about Orwell's collection of pamphlets which now have an online inventory to help researchers explore this fascinating resource.

George Orwell’s collection of mostly political ephemera was an important barometer of the social changes of the 1930s and 1940s, and a measure of his influences during those decades.  While Orwell’s personal papers went to University College London and the National Archives, his miscellaneous materials are held by the British Library.  Totalling over 2700 items, a full inventory of Orwell’s collection of pamphlets is now available via the British Library’s website.

Orwell was not a writer of ‘bestselling’ books until the end of his life, after the Second World War.  He became known as a journalist, a critic of other people’s writings and a word-portraitist of the landscape of politics.  It is likely he never passed up the opportunity to acquire pamphlets of any persuasion.  He wryly observed in The Tribune that the pamphleteer’s road was paved by a “complete disregard for fairness or accuracy” (8 December 1944).   Perhaps the most appealing aspect of his pamphlets collection is that he wasn’t Hoovering them up to form a George Orwell Archive; he considered them as a spectrum of thought that was deserving of preserving.    

While Orwell could not acquire and preserve the thoughts of every political entity, those caught in his net were numerous.  He documented the major political parties and the better known minor ones that didn’t figure much electorally, such as The Communist Party of Great Britain, and The Socialist Party.  Orwell was especially strong in acquiring the ephemera of the fringe Left, but any non-mainstream organisation was worthy of attention, for example The Central Board for Conscientious Objectors and The Society of Individualists.  He was keen on foreign publications too, including much from Moscow.  

The author’s interest in non-human animals is revealed including articles from issues of The Smallholder and The Farmer and Stock-Breeder.  His wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food and so they retained a range of ‘war cookery’ guides.  And, given his pulmonary problems from tuberculosis, one shouldn’t be surprised that he read Smokeless Air: The Smoke Abatement Journal.


  Orwell
1899.SS.35 (15)  Noc

Perhaps the oddest item is a four-page pamphlet from January 1945, The War in Wax, an attempt to get shoppers in London’s Oxford Street to buy tickets to a twisted version of Madame Tussauds.  This promised paying customers an experience of "The horrors of the German Concentration Camp," “Tree-Hangings,” “Stamping to death,” and, on the last page, a children’s section of mechanical moving figures including Cinderella, Laurel & Hardy, Disney characters, Bing Crosby, and even Mae West.   This so-called attraction was too absurd for Orwell not to share, so the concept had a walk-on role as Ingsoc propaganda in 1984.  

Orwell’s heaps of pamphlets informed his writing, both fiction and non fiction. He took pride in his squirrelling-away of pamphlets, “political, religious and what-not”.  In 1949, he estimated that this hoard numbered 1200-2000, but even the higher figure was an underestimation.  He wrote that “a few of them must be great rarities” and they were “bound to be of historical interest in 50 years time.”  In line with most of his considerations, he wasn’t wrong.


Andy Simons
Curator, Printed Historical Sources Cc-by



Further reading
Inventory of George Orwell’s pamphlet collection

A longer version of George Orwell’s Loft

George Orwell  - help  for researchers

09 January 2014

George IV in Highland Dress

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The Prince Regent became King George IV on 29 January 1820 and was crowned on 19 July the same year.  The coronation provided the occasion for a display of unparalleled magnificence – not least in the new monarch’s dress.  George IV was keen for further opportunities to display himself in royal state to his subjects.  In 1821 he visited both Ireland and Hanover.  In 1822 it was the turn of Scotland.

George IV Tab1249aNocPortrait of George IV (when Prince of Wales) from The British Gallery of Contemporary Portraits. London, 1822.  (Tab.1249.a.)

The Scottish visit was recorded in some detail by Robert Mudie, at that time a reporter for the London newspaper the Morning Chronicle, in A Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland published soon afterwards.  Mudie provided a minutely detailed account, from the King’s journey to Greenwich to embark for his voyage to Edinburgh until his departure from the Scottish capital for his return by sea to London.

Apart from the ecstatic reception on his arrival in Edinburgh, one of the high points of the visit was the King’s levee held at the palace of Holyrood on 17 August 1822.  The Caledonian Mercury for 19 August provided a report, declaring:

On Saturday, his Majesty held his first levee in the Scottish metropolis, which was most splendidly attended, and we hear that the numbers exceeded those of any levee ever held in London.

There followed a lengthy list of those who ‘had the honour of being presented to his Majesty’.  According to Mudie ‘The King himself remarked at the close, that there must have passed him not less than 2000 persons’.

George IV at Leith 811d33NocDetail from a plate in Mudie, A Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, ‘TheLanding of King George IV at Leith, 15th August 1822’. (811.d.33)

George IV took care to be appropriately attired.  According to the Caledonian Mercury ‘His Majesty was superbly dressed in the Highland costume, with trews of the Stuart tartan. … the manly and graceful figure of his Majesty was finely displayed in this martial dress’.  London’s Morning Post for 22 August added a few details - ‘his Majesty was dressed in a full Highland uniform, and wore the broad sword, pistols, and philebeg [a belted plaid]’.  The King was painted in his Highland dress some years later by Sir David Wilkie - the portrait is now in the Royal Collection.  Wilkie took care to emphasise George IV’s ‘manly and graceful figure’ and to depict the many rich jewels that formed part of the King’s exuberantly luxurious appearance.

 

Moira Goff
Curator Printed Historical Sources 1501-1800 Cc-by

Visit our  exhibition Georgians Revealed


Further reading:
Robert Mudie. A Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland. Edinburgh, 1822.
Stephen Parissien. George IV: the Grand Entertainment. London, 2001.
E.A. Smith. George IV. New Haven and London, 1999.