The youngest of King George III’s daughters, and–of Queen Charlotte’s children who survived infancy–the shortest-lived, Princess Amelia (1783 – 1810) is an active musical presence in the Hanover Royal Music Archive. Her notebooks offer a glimpse into her life, spent almost entirely at the Hanoverian court in London, and document her enthusiasm for popular musical culture of the late eighteenth century, including notebooks and scores of opera, song, and dance.
One of the bound volumes (OSB MSS 146, Box 853) inscribed “Amelia, 1798 Janry 12, Windsor,” contains a typically multi-faceted selection, including Mozart’s A Duet for two Performers (K.381, [c. 1797]), Haydn’s Symphony, H. I, 97, C major and his Celebrated Overture [c.1796], and Handel’s Overture in Esther. Works are frequently signed by one or another member of the royal family (Augusta, for instance, signed the Mozart) and the album is annotated–sometimes in identifiable hands, more often not–throughout.
Other volumes show Amelia’s penchant for popular music: “Ramah Droog, or, Wine does Wonders,” Joseph Mazzhingi’s vocal operatic score, is signed by Amelia and inscribed to Amelia by her sister, Augusta (OSB MSS 146, Box 631). Stephen Sorace’s vocal score, “No Song, No Supper” (c. 1790) can also be found, signed by Amelia and her sister, Mary. Rosselli’s “Four Canzonets and Four Duetts for one and two voices” is signed not only by the composer, but also by Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Amelia, and Mary. In a diary of the royal family’s excursion to Weymouth, the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1799 shows Amelia and her family partaking of the musical (and other) amusements of the seaside, alternately bathing, riding, and visiting the theatre to see performances such as “The Heir at Law,” “The Midnight Hour,” and “The Romp.”
Even on this trip in 1799, Amelia’s fatigue and “indisposition” are already apparent. Her death in 1810 is said to have been the catalyst for her father’s last decline into sickness and mental illness, in what is now believed to have been porphyria, a metabolic disease. The Regency Act was approved by Parliament, and George Augustus Frederick, eldest son and first child of George III and Charlotte, was proclaimed Prince Regent. Amelia’s death is marked in the Hanover Royal Music archive: after her death, her sister Augusta Sophia inscribed one of Amelia’s music notebooks (OSB MSS 146, Box 815), writing “Given me by my two Dear Brothers the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge after my beloved Amelia’s death, Nov. 21st, 1810.”