The King was on the poop deck counting out his money; the Queen was in the fo’c’sle eating bread and honey.
A bevy of aristocrats, including King George I himself, boarded the royal barge at Whitehall Palace for a nautical jaunt up the Thames toward Chelsea. Anne V was there, as was the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of Newcastle, the Countess of Darlington, the Countess of Godolphin, Madam Kilmarnock, and the Earl of Orkney, to drop just a few names. The rising tide propelled the barge upstream without any necessity of rowing. The evening’s dinner consisted of four and twenty naughty boys, baked in a pie.*
Another barge provided by the City of London contained His Majesty’s secret service, the press corps, and fifty musicians who performed music written for the occasion by composer and conductor George Frideric Handel. The music opened with a melodic French overture and skittered through minuets and bourrées, with enthusiastic hornpipers hornpiping throughout.
Many freeloaders also took to the river to hear the free concert. According to a London newspaper, the whole River was covered with rubbernecking boats and barges. On arriving at Chelsea, the king left his barge, then returned to it at about 11 p.m. for the return trip. No one knows exactly what he did during his bit of shore leave, but rumor has it a chambermaid was involved. (The Queen was in the fo’c’sle eating bread and honey; the King was in the Chambermaid and she was in the money, goes the unauthorized verse.) The king was so pleased with the evening’s music that he yelled “more, more” every time the orchestra attempted to take a break, forcing them to play until well after midnight.
The moonlight, the lapping of the water against the barge, and the chambermaid are all lost to history, but Handel’s Water Music lives on.
- * Sing a Song of Sixpence,
- A bag full of Rye,
- Four and twenty Naughty Boys,
- Baked in a Pye.