View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Drawn with the sketchbook inverted, Gerald Finley has read this as a drawing of the royal barge departing from the Royal George on its way to Leith Harbour for the disembarkation of King George IV on the 15 August 1822.1 The golden barge is shown prominently in the centre of the picture, its low hull decoratively embellished and the royal standard flying from a flag-pole at its stern near where the King sat on red cushions (see folio 6; D17518). Although only two heads can be seen there were in fact sixteen uniformed oarsmen rowing the barge and the King was accompanied by Marquis Henry Conyngham and Sir Charles Paget. Although it is not apparent in the sketch, the barge was accompanied by the barges of Admiral Beresford and the captains of each ship in the royal squadron, as well by various private vessels filled with people clamouring to see the King.2
For more sketches of the royal barge see folio 5 verso (D17517).
This vessel also somewhat resembles the two steamboats that accompanied the royal squadron, the James Watt and the Comet, with the semi-circular shape near the bow being the paddle with the funnel above; see, R. Havell Jnr, The embarkation of his most Gracious Majesty George the Fourth at Greenwich, August 10th, 1822 for Scotland. Lord Mayor’s Barge &cc [sic] Royal George, Royal Sovereign. The James Watts Steam Boat, colour aquatint, 1822 (National Maritime Museum). However, the proportions appear wrong for a vessel of this size, as does its size relative to the yacht.
John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.246.