04 June 2011

4 June - George III

"Augusta, Princess of Wales, with her family" by Jean Baptiste Van Loo. 1739.  George is the bouncing baby on the left.
Born today in 1738 at Norfolk House in London, George William Frederick, second child and eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his wife Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.  Since he was two months premature and not likely to live, he was immediately baptized, but when he showed a more tenacious hold on life, he was given a ceremonial baptism a month later, his godparents being Frederick, King of Sweden; Augusta's brother, Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Gotha; and his grand-aunt, George II's hated sister Sophia, Queen of Prussia.

Already in the nursery was his sister Augusta who had been born the year before under the most trying circumstances for her mother.  The Prince of Wales and his father, George II of Great Britain, had been at loggerheads for years.  While on a visit to the king's country residence of Hampton Court, the Princess of Wales went into labor, and Frederick - determined that his child would not be born anywhere near his parents - bundled his wife into a carriage and headed back to St. James Palace in London.   In rapid succession there followed George (1738), Edward (1739), Elizabeth (1740), William (1743), Henry (1745), Louisa (1749), Frederick (1750), and Caroline Matilda (1751).

George was fairly well educated, although said to be lazy and backward.  His mother described him at the age of 17 as "...shy and backward; not a wild, dissipated boy, but good-natured and cheerful, with a serious cast upon the whole... that he was not quick, but with those he was acquainted, applicable and intelligent... his book-learning she was no judge of, though she supposed it small or useless; but she hoped he might have been instructed in the general understanding of things."

Still, he was described by Lord Chesterfield as "a most hopeful boy; gentle and good-natured, with good sound sense", and when he succeeded his grandfather in 1760, his graceful bearing, good nature, and love of simplicity endeared him to his new subjects.

You know the rest of the story, and if you don't, read more about him here.

To celebrate his birthday.... TEA, of course!

Especially if you can find the same tea that certain Americans in fancy dress tossed into Boston Harbor.  The East India Company, modern descendant of the company which sent over that ill-fated tea, has a fine selection of bagged and loose tea for sale.

Refresher course on making tea [I'm using black tea, here]:

1. Fill the teapot with scalding hot water (pottery or china teapots are best)

2. Bring cold, fresh water to a full rolling boil in a kettle.

3. Empty out the hot water from the teapot and put 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves (or 1 teabag) per cup of boiling water into the teapot (if you don't know how much water your teapot holds, empty the hot water into a large measuring glass).  Some people [like me] add "1 teaspoon for the pot".

4. Pour the boiling water over the tea, put the lid on the pot, and let the tea steep for 3 - 5 minutes.

5. Place or hold a tea strainer over each cup and pour tea through the strainer [unless, of course, you are into reading tea leaves; if so, no strainer, just pour].

Every time I enjoy the cup that cheers, I have to wonder - what were those Bostonians thinking?