Who were all these princesses? Part I: Princess Augusta

As part of a household music library, the Hanover Royal Music Archive captures the musical interests of many of the fifteen children of George III and Queen Charlotte from the late eighteenth century through 1837.  The archive was created because of one of these children, and represents the musical library which went with Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, to Germany when he became King of Hanover in 1837, and which he continued to develop at the Hanover court.  The collection also documents the energetic musical life of the family household in England, whether in music notebooks, albums of printed and manuscript music, works dedicated and presented to members of the royal family, or the collection of the Duke of Cumberland’s band.    In particular, the collection helps to bring into focus the musical lives of the six daughters of George III:  Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia.

Several of the princesses were musically active.  The collection is particularly interesting for its insight into the musical career of Princess Augusta, whose activities are documented from the 1780s through the early 1830s.  The collection contains several music notebooks signed by her, with manuscript contents in several different hands, and these indicate that she not only  played music at the royal household, but also spent considerable time thinking, discussing, and collecting music.  The albums contain corrections and drafts of music, showing her interest in the practical nuances and details of performed music.

The collection contains many works dedicated to Augusta.  In this, she can be seen as an active and influential patron of music in England, receiving letters, dedications, and presentation copies from composers.   Her notebooks contain works, in print and manuscript, by important English court composers like Johann Christian Bach and Charles Edward Horn, as well as many dozens of other less well-known composers, encompassing musical genres from hymns to sonatas to Scottish ballads.

Also visible in the Hanover Royal Music Archive are the relationships between the children.  Many volumes are inscribed to Augusta from her siblings: in some examples, Frederick Augustus inscribed an album of sonatas by Johann Forkel to Augusta in 1787, Augusta inscribed an album to her younger sister Amelia, and inherited one of Amelia’s albums from her brothers Ernest Augustus and Frederick on Amelia’s death.

Augusta never married, and remained in England until her death, at Clarence House, St James, in September of 1840.  The archive holds a tremendous amount of material relating to her musical interests, from the late 1780s through the 1830s.  As well as supporting research more generally in popular musical culture and the musical lives of households and the royal family in the period, the collection also offers the opportunity to focus on Augusta as a musical performer, consumer, and patron in England at the turn of the century.

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