This barge was launched in 1732 for George II's and Queen Caroline's eldest son, Frederick Prince of Wales, who used her until his death in 1751. Thereafter she was used as a royal barge by succeeding monarchs until 1849. William Kent (1685-1748), the architect commissioned to design it, also worked on the interior decoration of Lord Burlington's villa at Chiswick. Many of the designs and architectural motifs which he used at Chiswick are repeated and adapted for the Barge which he designed in 1730, the year after Chiswick House was finished.
John Hall, who worked on the south side of the Thames facing Whitehall, built her. James Richards, who succeeded Grinling Gibbons in 1721 as Master Carver to the Crown, was employed to interpret Kent's drawings. Paul Petit gilded the carvings and Paul de Lamerie, the Huguenot silversmith, provided silver badges to be worn on the watermen's right chests. Kent also designed the watermen’s costumes.
The barge was used 'the first day it was upon the water' to take Prince Frederick, his mother, Queen Caroline, and the five princesses from Chelsea Hospital down to Old Somerset House to see 'Mr. Walton's progress in cleaning and mending the Royal Pictures. Since Handel stayed at Burlington House while Kent was living there, it is likely that a version of his Water Music was played on this occasion, although it was not published until a few years later. From the accounts, it is known that two cushions were provided for French horns.
On one other occasion, it attended a regatta at Woolwich in 1749 decorated in the Chinese manner, with the oarsmen in Chinese costume.
After Prince Frederick's death in 1751, the barge was used by successive kings and queens as the principal royal barge and the Prince's crown on the rod was replaced by a Sovereign’s crown.
The last time PRINCE FREDERICK'S BARGE was used was at the opening of the Coal Exchange on 30 October 1849. Queen Victoria was unwell at Windsor, but Prince Albert, with the Prince of Wales and Princess Royal, embarked at Whitehall Stairs soon after noon. The barge, which had been newly-gilt for the occasion was steered by the young Captain Lord Adolphus Fitz Clarence.
From 1849 to 1951, the barge was stored in the Royal Barge House in Windsor Great Park, at which time the late King George VI placed it on loan to the National Maritime Museum (from 1951). Unfortunately to save on storage space, she had been cut into three sections. Consequently a great deal of conservation was required but it is now on display in the Museum.
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, Edition 2, 1993
Sullivan, Dick, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums, Coracle Books, 1978
Norton, Peter, State Barges, National Maritime Museums, 1972
Rorsach, Kimberley, Apollo: Frederick, Prince of Wales; Taste, Politics and Power, pp239-245, October 1991
Built by John Hall on the South Bank of the Thames opposite Whitehall
Used by succeeding monarchs following the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales
Stored in the Royal Barge House at Windsor Great Park
Placed on loan to the National Maritime Museum by King George VI
Vessel transferred to the National Maritime Museum
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