[King George III: autograph note on 'the Marines at Botany Bay'.] Autograph Note Signed ('G R.')

Author: 
King George III; New South Wales Marine Corps; Australia; First Fleet Marine Corps; Governor Arthur Phillip; Captain Francis Grose; Botany Bay
Botany Bay
Publication details: 
'Windsor May 9th. 1789. | m/35 pt. 6. PM.'
£12,500.00
SKU: 21419

The present note is of particular interest for the King's reference to 'the Corps to relieve the Marines of Botany Bay', i.e. Major Francis Grose's New South Wales Corps, which arrived in Australia with the Second Fleet in 1790, relieving the New South Wales Marine Corps, which had arrived at Botany Bay with the First Fleet in January 1788. (King George III took a particular interest in his antipodean colony, which he had instructed Captain Cook to claim for him in 1770. His botanical adviser at Kew as the 'Father of Australia' Sir Joseph Banks.) The background to the reference is as follows. On 25 April 1787, King George III, in the first official communication concerning the occupation and settlement of Australia, informed the first Governor of New South Wales Arthur Phillip that Botany Bay was 'the most eligible situation […] for the first establishment' of 'Our Territory called New South Wales', pointing out the importance of adequate procurement of provisions 'for the use of the Marines or Convicts'. The 'Marines' were the New South Wales Marine Corps which, perceived as the poor cousin to the British Army, had hoped to raise its status by volunteering to accompany the First Fleet on what promised to be a dangerous tour of duty in an unexplored land. (See John Moore, 'The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792', University of Queensland Press, 1987). The New South Wales Corps, raised in England in June 1789, and commanded by Major Francis Grose (c.1758-1814), arrived in Australia as guards on the Second Fleet in 1790. Following Phillip's return to England at the end of 1792, Grose established military rule over the colony for two years, himself returning to England at the end of 1794. 1p, 4to. On recto of first leaf of bifolium of watermarked laid paper, with two horizontal folds and the following endorsement on the reverse of the second leaf: 'May 9: 1789 | Note from the King'. Reverse of second leaf (with endorsement) grubby, otherwise in good condition, lightly aged, with thin stub from mount adhering to reverse of second leaf. Good large initalled signature above eight lines of text, reading: 'Friday is a day that will suit me very well for holding a Council on the remaining Irish Bills, and for the convenience of the Lord President I will be that day at Kew. I desire it may be fixed at half past One. | I had seen the Secretary of War's proposals for raising the Corps to relieve the Marines of Botany Bay; I believe it is as oeconomical as the Service may permit, therefore Lord Sydney may forward it. | G R.' (The 'Lord President' was Charles Pratt (1714-1794, 1st Earl Camden, who served as Lord President of the Council, 1784-1794. The 'Secretary of [sic] War' was Sir George Yonge, Secretary at War, 1783-1794. 'Lord Sydney' is Thomas Thomas Townshend (1733-1800), later 1st Viscount Sydney, the Home Secretary in Pitt's government who appointed Arthur Phillip (1738-1814) first Governor of New South Wales.) From the distinguished autograph collection of Richard Hunter, son of Ida Macalpine, whose collection of 7000 books relating to psychiatry is in Cambridge University Library. Macalpine and Hunter had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'. Included with the item is a printed slip carrying the auction catalogue description of the lot in which the note featured (Sotheby's, 29 October 1968, lot 526), with a manuscript note stating that the item was 'bought by Maggs for us for 40'. NOte: I would welcome information about other references to Botany Bay in George III's correspondence, official or otherwise, bearing the above reference in mind. Especially pre-1789.