J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Designs for the 'Royal Progress' Series; Two Scotch Bonnets 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 43 Verso:
Designs for the ‘Royal Progress’ Series; Two Scotch Bonnets 1822
Turner Bequest CCI 43a
Pencil and pen and brown ink on white wove paper, 111 x 188 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Milley – George’ top left; top row of sketches from left to right ‘6 5 4 3 2 1’, lower row ‘16 Grey [?]archers 17 18’
Inscribed in pen and brown ink ‘Tartan | Red’ right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
A strip of nineteen tiny boxed and numbered composition studies across this page and the inside back cover of the inverted sketchbook (D40980) have been identified by Gerald Finley as representing a series of events from George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in August 1822. The series is laid out in chronological order (although number ‘9’ is mistakenly out of sequence) from right to left in the top row and left to right in the second row. Beneath these two rows is a nineteenth unnumbered composition that Turner seems to have accidentally omitted from the sequence and later added at the end.
Six of the compositions became the basis for later works of art, including four oil paintings on mahogany (three of which are unfinished). This has led Gerald Finley to propose that the sequence of compositions represents a plan for a series of oil paintings (and perhaps engravings after them) making up a ‘Royal Progress’ (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction).1 The series was never fully realised and the plan seems not to have been developed beyond these first-draft studies. However, three more of the compositions became the basis for subsequent works with the two vignette frontispieces of the 1826 edition of the Provincial Antiquities, and an illustration to one of Scott’s novels.
The studies are described below, largely based on Finley’s identifications, though with some alternative explanations, in their number order. Compositions ‘7’ to ‘15’ are described in more detail in the entry for the inside back cover of the sketchbook. References are made to other sketches of the subjects in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (D17508–D17671; D40687–D40688 complete; Turner Bequest CC) where more information on each subject is given, and to subsequent works based on the compositions.
Composition ‘1’ is described by Gerald Finley as ‘The Mission of Sir Walter Scott’.2 This is his title for the first official welcome of George IV to Scotland on 14 August 1822, when Scott was rowed out to the King’s yacht, The Royal George, shortly after the royal squadron had arrived at Leith Roads (see Tate D17590; Turner Bequest CC 49a). While the sketch is rather faint it is possible to make out two boats: the larger at the centre of the composition and a smaller vessel in front of it to the right. There may also be more vessels to the right. Their relative sizes and positions suggest that these are the Royal George and the barge conveying Scott. The same basic composition is used for the unfinished oil painting that Finley identified as the Mission of Sir Walter Scott, circa 1823 (Tate N02879).3 A variant of the composition, based more directly on a sketch in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17615; Turner Bequest CC 62) was also used for the frontispiece to volume two of the 1826 edition of the Provincial Antiquities (Tate D13749; Turner Bequest CLXVIII B), which includes a view of Edinburgh in the background and the motif of Scott and George IV’s clasped hands.
The second composition (‘2’) also relates to one of the unfinished oil painting, The King’s Departure from the ‘Royal George’ in the Royal Barge, circa 1823 (Tate N02880).4 This event occurred on 15 August (because it had been decided that the weather was too poor for the King to land on the previous day), and Turner sketched the event from a boat (see Tate D17517; Turner Bequest CC 5a for references). A larger pencil sketch of the composition occurs at the front of the current sketchbook (folio 1; D17672) and like this one shows the large and dark hull of the Royal George at the right with several boats, including Scott’s barge, to the left. The outline of Arthur’s Seat is visible to the left of the yacht in the thumbnail and oil, though not in the larger sketch.
The King’s progress toward the Leith shore is continued in composition ‘3’ which shows the royal barge approaching the quay at Leith. The composition, as Finley noticed, is quite closely based on a sketch in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17608; Turner Bequest CC 58a).5 The view is taken from the Customs House Quay and looks across the water to the landing stage, with the Leith Signal Tower at the left and the masts of five ships at the right. Turner drew the moment of the King’s landing on a loose sheet (Tate D17767; Turner Bequest CCIII J), perhaps as an alternative subject to this one.
Finley has identified composition ‘4’ as showing part of the cavalcade to Edinburgh on 15 August. After George IV landed at Leith he made his way into Edinburgh and then onto the Palace of Holyrood as part of a grand procession. This sketch appears to show the infantry and cavalry, but not the King’s carriage.6 Turner did not attempt to sketch the procession at the time, but instead relied on a careful drawing of part of the route made before or after the event (Tate D17572; Turner Bequest CC 40). The inscription beneath this composition, which probably reads ‘Grey archers’, referring to the Scots Greys and Royal Company of Archers, refers to the troops taking part in the procession, although the inscription could also relate to composition 16.
The procession continues in the next composition (‘5’) which shows, according to Finley, ‘the approach to Holyrood Palace’.7 Holyrood is seen from Arthur’s Seat as in a sketch in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17574; Turner Bequest CC 41), which may also show the arrival of the cavalcade (rather than the procession to or from the military review at Portobello Sands as Finberg suggests).8 The building in the composition closely resembles a sketch of Granton Castle (Tate D17609; Turner Bequest CC 59), although this is probably a coincidence as the view has no particular relevance to the ceremonies of the royal visit.
Composition ‘6’, continuing on the inside back cover of the sketchbook, is tentatively identified as ‘Receiving the keys at Holyrood Palace’.9 This was the event painted by David Wilkie – The Entrance of George IV at Holyrood-house, 1822–9 (Collection of Her Majesty the Queen) – though Turner did not develop the theme, and made no sketches of the event. The sketch is hard to decipher and broken by the join of the two pages, but a dark triangular shape could be a turret of Holyrood, and the subject follows chronologically from the last.
Compositions ‘7’ to ‘15’ are on the inside back cover of this sketchbook (see that entry for more information). The subjects depicted in these designs are:
‘7’: perhaps the ceremony of the Regalia, 15 August; although the receiving of the keys at Holyrood on the same date, the King’s attendance at St Giles’s, and the Peers’ Ball at the Assembly Rooms have also all been suggested as alternatives.
‘8’: tentatively identified as the Royal Levee, 17 August.
‘9’: the military review at Portobello Sands, 23 August.
‘10’: perhaps related to the procession to Edinburgh Castle with the Regalia, 22 August.
‘11’: arrival of the procession with the Regalia at Edinburgh Castle.
‘12’, ‘13’ and ‘14’: all tentatively identified as showing events to do with the return of the Regalia to the castle on 24 August; although the service at St Giles’s and the Peers’ Ball at the Assembly Rooms have also been considered as alternative identifications for composition ‘12’.
‘15’, most likely to be of the service at St Giles’s, 25 August.
At the far left of the second row is the continuation of composition ‘15’. To the right, compositions ‘16’, ‘17’ and ‘18’ have much wider dimensions than the others so far, about double the width. It is likely that Turner was simply filling the space available, though also possible that he was considering at this stage making some compositions wider than others. This may suggest that he had a specific location in mind for the cycle of paintings, with three or four spaces that would accommodate this panoramic format. The use of wooden panels rather than canvas may also suggest that the paintings were intended to be installed somewhere. There is no evidence of a commission however.
The ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone is represented by two compositions. ‘16’ shows the procession to Calton Hill that preceded the laying of the stone. The procession involved infantry, bands, and the members of the city’s Masonic lodges, and the inscription above compositions ‘16’ and ‘17’ may refer to some of the troops present: the Scots ‘Grey[s]’ and the Royal Company of ‘Archers’ (although this inscription may refer to composition ‘4’). The sketch shows a view from the top of the hill looking south-west and shows the procession nearing the site of the foundation stone. Finley identifies studies in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17563, D17564; Turner Bequest CC 35a, 36) as the sources of this composition. Although the view from Calton Hill would be incorporated into a later design, the figure studies and carriage may have been made during the procession to the castle on the 22 August, rather than this procession to Calton Hill. Finley is probably right, however, in associating this design with the 1836 watercolour March of the Highlanders, circa 1836 (Tate N04953) which utilised the design as an illustration for Fisher’s Illustrations to the Waverley Novels of Sir Walter Scott (Tate T06274).
The laying of the stone itself is depicted in ‘17’. This view was reconstructed from two sketches, one of the foundation stone itself (Tate D17561; Turner Bequest CC 34a), and one of the view looking west from the same spot towards the City Observatory (Tate D17558; Turner Bequest CC 33). The study therefore depicts figures engaged in the ceremony with the portico of the observatory to the right, and the faint outline of Edinburgh Castle to the left. Turner, however, did not witness the ceremony from this spot. Instead he was positioned above the site and slightly to the south-west at the top of Nelson’s Monument, from where he made a series of studies recording the changing configurations of people as the events of the ceremony progressed (Tate D17540; Turner Bequest CC 22a).
Despite the vague appearance of composition ‘18’, Finley confidently identifies it as Holyrood, and suggests that it may represent the King’s final departure from the Palace on 29 August.10 The final ceremony of the tour was in fact the breakfast at Hopetoun House where Henry Raeburn was knighted, and which Turner seems to have attended (Tate D17582; Turner Bequest CC 45a). He seems to have been uninterested in developing the subject however.
The final composition in the sequence is unnumbered, and considering that the subject is out of sequence (it should be between ‘14’ and ‘15’), it seems likely that Turner initially forgot to include it, and then added it at the end. It is larger than the other compositions, more highly developed and clearly related to the unfinished oil painting, George IV at the Provost’s Banquet, circa 1822 (Tate N02858).11 In fact the composition is almost identical to the oil, and even indicates the key moment of action, when the King was presented with a silver bowl of rose water.12 The composition is based on a sketch on a small piece of card that Turner made at the event: Tate D34945 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 445). Its composition extends slightly at the left onto the inside back cover of the sketchbook.
Also on this page are two pen and brown ink drawings of a feathered ‘red’ ‘tartan’ bonnet seen from the top and the side. Turner had plenty of opportunities to observe Highland costume during his time in Edinburgh in 1822, especially during the Peers’ Ball, which Scott referred to as the ‘Highland Ball’, and had instructed men to attend in Highland attire (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction and Tate D17566; Turner Bequest CC 47). At the event, Turner drew a series of eight bonnets, although none of them match this one (Tate D17580–D17581; Turner Bequest CC 44a–45). This study may have been made to incorporate into one of the nineteen designs, such as the procession to Calton Hill (‘16’). The outcome of that sketch, the March of the Highlanders, contains figures with similar hats, with red and white tartan or cheques, although the feathers are different from these.
A pink mark at top right with book inverted is the remains of Ruskin’s red ink number.

Thomas Ardill
November 2008

Finley’s proposal was examined in the exhibition Turner and George IV in Edinburgh, Tate Gallery, 1981; Finley 1981.
Finley 1981, p.32.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.153–4 no.248a.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.154 no.248b; see Finley 1981, pp.32–3.
Finley 1981, p.33.
Ibid., p.83.
Ibid., pp.33–4.
Ibid., p.37.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.153 no.248.
Finley 1981, pp.37–8.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Designs for the ‘Royal Progress’ Series; Two Scotch Bonnets 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-designs-for-the-royal-progress-series-two-scotch-bonnets-r1133262, accessed 23 May 2017.