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An Ode to Anne and George

Sun 14 Feb 21

In the Painted Hall, two Royal Couples gaze down in connubial bliss, or at least apparent contentment. William and Mary on the Lower Hall ceiling and Anne and George on the Upper.

A succession of foreign royals had been proposed as suitable matches for Anne, Mary’s sister (and younger daughter of James Duke of York, later James II), but the final choice landed on George, Prince of Denmark. He arrived in London in July 1683. John Evelyn describes him in his diary. “He has the Danish countenance, blonde – of few words, spake French but ill, seemed somewhat heavy but is reported to be valiant.”

The marriage took place on St Anne’s Day. Charles Montague, the future Earl of Halifax, composed an ode in honour of the occasion, which included the following verses:

What means this Royal beauteous pair,
This troop of youths and virgins heavenly fair?
That does at once astonish and delight,
Great Charles and his illustrious brother here.
No bold assassinate need fear;
Here is no harmful weapon found,
Nothing but Cupid’s darts, and beauty here can wound.

See, see! how decently the bashful bride
Does bear her conquests, with how little pride
She views that prince, the captive of her charms,
Who made the North with fear to quake,
And did that powerful empire shake;
Before whose arms, when great Gustavus led,
The frighted Roman eagles fled.

Despite its political origins, it was a devoted and loving marriage for 25 years until George’s death in 1708.