by Arthur Burns, King’s College London, and Karin Wulf, Omohundro Institute
On 25 September 2018 Michael Jibson, the award-winning actor whose portrayal of King George III in the London staging of Hamilton is one of the highlights of the show, was invited to visit the Royal Library at Windsor Castle to see a selection of the remarkable collection of documents held by the Royal Archives that relate to King George III.
This was made possible as part of the Georgian Papers Programme, a partnership between the Royal Archives and King’s College London, joined by primary U.S. partners the Omohundro Institute and William & Mary, who are working together to make the Georgian Papers held in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle available to a worldwide audience in digital form.
In Hamilton, King George III is seen only via and in context of the American Revolution. But through the work of the Georgian Papers Programme, we see the American Revolution as but one aspect of the king’s life and reign, and Britain’s empire.
In this exhibition created for Mike, we linked Hamilton’s and the programme’s perspectives by organising the exhibits around the themes highlighted in the three songs he/George sings in the show: ‘You’ll be back!’, ‘What comes next?’ and ‘I know him’, as well as the one crucial line which features in all three songs which speaks to our wider perspective: ‘Oceans rise, Empires Fall’.
Since Mike clearly found the documents he saw fascinating, the Programme team decided to make a virtual version of the exhibition available online, so that fans of both the show and of the actor could have the opportunity to tread digitally in Michael’s footsteps. You can see records of Michael’s visit itself here and here.
Michael Jibson’ visit forms part of a programme of events and initiatives designed to share the work of the Georgian Papers Programme with the widest possible public and to demonstrate the interest and relevance of its findings to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. We are also interested in contemporary representations of the Georgian period and of King George III himself, and the visit was therefore also an exciting one for us, bringing as it did one of his foremost interpreters face to face with George’s own documents in his own home.
Hamilton represents a fresh new directions in music theatre, and has thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Here this cutting-edge theatre comes together with one of the most historic sites in the United Kingdom: the round tower at Windsor, where the documents are stored in the Royal Archives, which dates from the twelfth century. King’s and the Omohundro Institute at William & Mary are not only distinguished centres of historical research and teaching, but also both also have strong historic royal connections, with the former being granted its royal charter by George III’s son George IV in 1829 (making it the fourth oldest university in England), and the latter being founded in pre-Revolutionary North America in 1693 by letters patent issued by William III and Queen Mary (making it the second oldest institution for Higher Education in the United States).
In this event, as ever, the meeting of old and new proved extremely fruitful. We hope you enjoy the exhibition.