Joseph Mallord William Turner

Admiral Beresford’s Barge Bringing Sir Walter Scott to the ‘Royal George’ in Leith Roads; and Related Studies


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 49 a

Catalogue entry

Five of the six sketches on this page, three of which were made with the sketchbook inverted, are probably connected to what Gerald Finley named ‘the Mission of Sir Walter Scott’,1 Scott’s visit by barge to George IV on the Royal George on 14 August 1822. Scott boarded Admiral Beresford’s barge at Leith Harbour around two o’clock with Robert Peel, Sir Thomas Bradford, Sir William Curtis and several other ‘distinguished gentlemen’, and set off to be the first to greet the king in Scotland. Scott’s mission was to welcome the King and present him with a gift from the Sisters of the Silver Cross, a group of Edinburgh ladies of whom Lady Scott was a prominent member. The gift was a richly jewelled Saltire (St Andrew’s Cross) to be worn round the arm or on a hat bearing in pearls the motto, ‘Riogh Albhain gu Brath’ (Hail to the King of Scotland).2 Scott greeted the King, presented his gift and remained on board till after supper.
Three of the sketches appear to show the arrival of Sir Walter Scott’s barge alongside the King’s yacht, the Royal George. In the centre of the page is a sketch of the yacht (see folio 4; D17514) with a wide ladder against its starboard side to receive the passengers of the barge which is just coming alongside. Inscriptions around the boat describe its colours and the numbers of particular features. There are also two sketches of details from the yacht and barge. Immediately above the drawing is a labelled sketch probably showing the elaborate bow of the barge (‘all black’ ‘blue’ ‘gold bow’), and the yacht’s bow is sketched to the left, this time with the sketchbook turned to the right; a band just beneath the prow is ‘black’.
Two further thumbnail compositions, showing the barge coming alongside the yacht, are boxed off at the top right and bottom left. Both show the yacht with the barge alongside in the top sketch and to the left in the second which was made with the sketchbook turned to the right. The final sketch on the page is just beneath the drawing of the yacht’s bow and shows the view of Leith from the Firth of Forth with the Pentland Hills beyond (see King’s Visit to the Edinburgh 1822 sketchbook Introduction for references to similar views).

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Finley 1981, pp.32–3
Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.88.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.154 no.248b.

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