King of Great Britain and Ireland for 60 momentous years, George III was a man of deep contrasts. During his reign from 1738 to 1820, he seemed to live a life torn between light and darkness. King George III ended his days insane and blind.
King George made the monarchy into the glittering establishment we know today. Excess was the order of the day and the King’s loyal subjects came to expect a constant show of extravagance from their monarch. King George was an avid entertainer, treating his guests to lavish dinner parties at his spectacularly lit royal table.
Learning about these fascinating periods of history makes you wonder what people like King George III and his dandy son the Prince of Wales, would make of today’s LED lighting . Would LEDS have changed the life of these royal revellers for the better, or resulted in even greater excesses?
King George, or Farmer George as he was known, was a man of eclectic tastes. He took a deep interest in all things agricultural. He also loved music – enjoying everything from Handel to hand bells. George was ahead of his time, often seeing things in a different light. One imagines he would have embraced LEDs technology, particularly welcoming its spectacular and dramatic effects and how it would have impressed his guests.
The Regency period was a time of culinary excess in the upper ranks of society. George III and his eldest son the Prince of Wales (who was to became Prince Regent), led the way. Style was everything and the dandies of the day would go to extreme lengths to outdo each other. Having access to LED lighting, of course, would have made King George a very hard act to follow.
King George’s eldest son (the Prince of Wales) once hired the greatest and most expensive chef in the world, Marie-Antoine Carême, to prepare a flamboyant dinner for visiting Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia.
That evening Carême created 127 individual dishes for the delectation of the dinner guests. The evening’s pièce de résistance was a 4ft-high, internally lit Turkish mosque constructed entirely out of marzipan and spun sugar. Had it been illuminated with LEDs, it would have been even more grandiose! It took seven hours to consume the vast array of food, which included roast swan, pineapples, songbird pies, beetroot pudding and parmesan ice-cream.
Vast quantities of alcohol were consumed at the meal, from champagne and wine to beer and cider. Perhaps it was this as much as anything that caused the dozens of silver candelabra to shine as if lit by bright and steady LEDs. George’s sparkling parties were the talk of London society.
Of course, one is bound to wonder about the downside of LED lighting in the days of George III. There would have been no candle smoke to mask their malodorous unwashed bodies. Deodorants had yet to be invented and personal hygiene was not a priority for these Regency bucks!
After a spectacular reign of almost 60 years, George III suffered his first attack of insanity which would plague him for the rest of his life. The Prince of Wales was made temporary regent, an arrangement which became permanent in 1810. Farmer George’s bright light was finally extinguished at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820 marking the end of an era.