Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Royal Squadron at Anchor in Leith Roads with the ‘Royal George’

1822

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 114 x 187 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17520
Turner Bequest CC 7

Catalogue entry

Gerald Finley, presumably based on the prominence given to the largest vessel in the picture, has identified this as a sketch of George IV’s yacht, the Royal George, with the royal squadron at Leith Roads. A few shapes in the water towards the stern of the yacht may represent an attending dinghy, or perhaps a private vessel which has come to have a look at the King’s boat.1 The net rigging on the foresail, not visible in other sketches of the Royal George, was probably put in place shortly after the yacht lowered its sails and anchor in order to help the crew reach the spars to hang flags and bunting.
For further sketches of the Royal George see folio 4 (D17514). Most of the other vessels in the sketch are at anchor, though a few smaller boats are at sail. For a full list of sketches of shipping at Leith see the King’s Visit to Scotland 1822 sketchbook Introduction.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

1
John Prebble writes about the small boats that were sailed out to Leith Roads so that their passengers could look at the royal squadron and try to catch a glimpse of the King, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.231.

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