frederick of wales

On this day, 1 August in 1740, one of the most famous songs in British history was first performed.

“Rule Britannia”, written by the Scotsman James Thomson was performed in the masque (a court performance) called “Alfred”, about Alfred the Great.

It was performed at Cliveden, the country home of Frederick, Prince of Wales – the eldest son of George II – to commemorate the accession of George II, and the third birthday of Frederick’s daughter, the Princess Augusta. (Frederick pre-deceased his father, and on George II death, the throne passed to Frederick’s eldest son, George III.)

James Thomson was born in Ednam in Roxburghshire around 11 September 1700. There is a memorial to him at Ednam near Kelso.

He co-wrote “Alfred” with David Mallet, and Thomson’s song “Rule Britannia” was set to music by Thomas Arne.

His words, “Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves. Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” are not meant to be a boast about things past. The word is not “rules”.

Rather the word is “rule”. An exhortation for Britons, through our navy, to rise to commanding heights in the world. That is, “to rule”.

After this song appeared, Britain did indeed seek to follow that command quite successfully!


Because I do funny things when I’m bored. A family tree showing the line of descent directly from William the Conqueror to the last Imperial Children:

William I —> Henry I —> Empress Matilda —> Henry II —> King John —> Henry III —> Edward I —> Edward II —> Edward III —> Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence —> Philippa Plantagenet, 5th Countess of Ulster —> Roger de Mortimer, 4th Earl of March —> Anne de Mortimer —> Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York —> Edward IV —> Elizabeth of York —> Margaret Tudor—>James V —> Mary, Queen of Scots —> James I/IV —>Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia —>Sophia, Electress of Hanover —>George I —>George II —> Frederick, Prince of Wales —> George III —> Edward, Duke of Kent —> Queen Victoria —> Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse —> Alix, Empress of Russia —> OTMAA


Prince Frederick’s Royal Barge

This royal barge was built in 1732 for Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of George II. It was built by John Hall and designed by the architect William Kent. The barge is an open rowing boat, accompanied with 24 oars and is carved and gilded with the royal coat of arms, sea creatures, Vitruvian scrolls and Prince of Wales feathers.  Inside there is upholstered seating, carpet and a painted ceiling, this section is topped with a crown. The barge was intended to be rowed by 21 oarsmen and a Barge-Master. 

The first outing of the barge was a trip with Prince Frederick, his mother Queen Caroline and his five sisters, from Chelsea Hospital to Old Somerset House to see paintings from the Royal Collection being restored. On this outing they were accompanied by a second barge of officers and ladies and a third barge of musicians. Frederick went on to use the barge for numerous pleasure trips, including one notable trip in 1749 where the entire barge was decorated in the chinoiserie style and the bargemen were dressed in oriental uniforms. The barge continued to be used in state processions until 1849. The last outing of the barge was to take Prince Albert and his daughter the Princess Royal to the opening of the Coal Exchange. After this it was placed in the Royal Barge House in Windsor and has been loaned to various museums in the years since.