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His Royal Miserliness – A Milliner’s Shop

I rather like this print, published by Henry Kingsbury in 1787, and which appears on the Lewis Walpole Library website:It is entitled A Milliner’s Shop and is a dig at the miserliness of the Royal family  – suggesting that the King (George III) and his wife Queen Charlotte go shopping in Windsor with their entourage of Royal Princesses, and then haggle over the pennies charged by the local tradesmen. The verses underneath end with the lines

“And why in Gods name should not Queens and Kings

purchase a comb or corkscrew; Lace for cloaks,

Edging for Caps, or tape for apron-strings

Or pins or Bobbin, cheap as other folks?

Reader, to make thine Eyes with wonder stare,

Farthings are not beneath the Royal Care!”

In a way nothing has changed – look at the  fuss made by the British Press if a member of the Royal family pops in to order a take-away pizza. We like to blame our royals for being extravagant (“Air Miles Andy”) but we also like to ridicule them if they appear less than ‘regal’ in their everyday actions. George III was often mocked for his miserliness because it was in such marked contrast to the wildly opulent lifestyle of his son, the future Prince Regent.

9 thoughts on “His Royal Miserliness – A Milliner’s Shop”

  1. I found a repeat of the print on the British Museum site, which states: “A long counter extends across the greater part of the design. The Queen is seated buying tape, which she holds appraisingly, looking with a satisfied smile to one of the Princesses seated on her left. The King stands on her right. Two fashionably dressed ladies stand in the foreground (left) in conversation. Two others make a purchase at the right end of the counter, one turning her head to look at a device for extending a skirt which she is trying on. The back wall is lined with boxes, &c. Above these are hung specimens of the fashionable petticoat inflators, a hat, &c. In the foreground a little girl holds an enormous muff; a dog, partly shaved in the French manner, barks at a cat which stands on a band-box with its back arched. In the back parlour of the shop (left) two women sit at a table sewing; a man sits between them threading a needle. The three shopmen behind the counter are elegantly dressed young men. ‘Split farthing Milliner to her [Majesty]’ is inscribed in large letters over the entrance to the parlour or work-room.”

    1. My understanding is that it was an Elizabethan custom to import straw hats from Milan, Italy. They would then be finished off in London by “Milan-ers” who would add ribbons and bows, so I suspect ‘milliners’ was a corruption of this and covered all sorts of embellishments and not just the making and selling of hats.Mind you, describing yourself as a milliner was the standard response of many a harlot dragged before the bench – it wasnt an especially reputable calling, any more than being ‘an actress’ !

    1. King George III and his Queen were ridiculed for their frugal habits – but not as much as their playboy son (The Prince Regent) was lampooned for his excesses and extravagence ….seems like the Royal family couldnt do right for doing wrong (then, or now!)…

  2. Pingback: Rise of the Milliner in England: A History of Mad Hatters, by Sharon Lathan | Austen Authors

  3. Pingback: Rise of the Milliner in England: A History of Mad Hatters, by Sharon Lathan by Sharon Lathan on Austen Authors

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