Mozart &
Material Culture


Queen of England and wife of George III from 8 September 1761.

Mozart Relevance

Shortly after their arrival in London on 23 April 1764, Mozart and his sister performed for George III and Queen Charlotte. Leopold Mozart wrote to his Salzburg landlord, Lorenz Hagenauer, on 28 May:

  1. Johann Georg Ziesenis, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, c1761.

    Johann Georg Ziesenis, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, c1761

    On April 27th we were with the King and Queen in the Queen’s Palace in St. James’s Park. . . the graciousness with which both His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen received us cannot be described. In short, their easy manner and friendly ways made us forget that they were the King and Queen of England. At all courts up to now we have been received with extraordinary courtesy. But the welcome which we have been given here exceeds all others. A week later we were walking in St. James’s Park. The King came along driving with the Queen and, although we all had on different clothes, they recognized us nevertheless and not only greeted us, but the King opened the window, leaned out and saluted us and especially our Master Wolfgang, nodding to us and waving his hand. . . on May 19th we were again with the King and Queen from six to ten in the evening, when the only other people present were the two princes, who are the King’s brothers, and another, the brother of the Queen. . . The King placed before him not only works of Wagenseil, but those of Bach, Abel and Handel, and he played off everything prima vista. He played so splendidly on the King’s organ that they all value his organ playing more highly than his keyboard playing. Then he accompanied the Queen in an aria which she sang, and also a flautist who played a solo. Finally he took the bass part of some airs of Handel (which happened to by lyinging there) and played the most beautiful melody on it and in such a manner that everyone was amazed.

On 27 November 1764, Leopold reported to Hagenauer that Mozart intended to publish six sonatas for accompanied keyboard dedicated to the Queen, as Leopold noted, ‘at her own request’, and for which Mozart was given a present of fifty guineas (letter of 19 March 1765).  The sonatas were published in early 1765 with a dedication to Queen Charlotte (in French):

  1. To the Queen. Madam,
  2.       Full of pride and joy atdaring to offer a homage to You, I finished these sonatas in order to lay them at the feet of Your Majesty; I  was, I confess, intoxicated with vanity and ravished with myself when I perceived the Genius of Music at my side.
  3.      “Thou art very proud”, he said to me, “of knowing how to write at an age when others are still learning to spell.” “I, proud of thy Work?”, I answered him. “No, I have other causes for vanity. See in me the favourite of the Queen of these Fortunate Isles. Thou deemest that, if she had been born far from the Supreme rank that distinguishes her, her talents would have brought her glory: see upon the throne as she is, She honours and protects them. Let Her permit thee to make her an offering, thou art avid of glory, thou wouldst that all the world should know it; more philosophical, I entrust my pride to my harpsichord, which becomes a little more eloquent thereby, that is all.” “And that eloquence produces Sonatas! . . . Is it quite certain that I have ever inspired a maker of Sonatas?”
  4.      This provoked me. “Fie, father”, I said to him, “thou speakest like a pedant this morning . . . When the Queen deigns to listen to me, I surrender myself to thee and I become sublime; far from Her, the charm grows weak, her August image gives me a few ideas which art then takes charge of and completes. . . . But let me live, and one day I shall offer Her a gift worthy of Her and of thee: for with thy help I shall equal the glory of all the great men of my fatherland, I shall become immortal like Handel, and Hasse, and my name will be as celebrated as that of Bach.”
  5.      A great burst of laughter disconcerted my noble confidence. Let Your Majesty judge of the patience I need to live with so whimsical a Being! . . . Did he not also wish me to dare to reproach Your Majesty with that excess of kindness which is the object of my pride and my glory? I, Madam, reproach You with a fault? That glorious Fault! Your Majesty will never in a lifetime cure herself of it.
  6.      It is said that everything should be allowed to Genius; I owe mine the happiness of Pleasing You, and I forgive it its caprices. Deign, Madam, to receive my poor gifts. You were from the first destined to reign over a free people; the children of Genius are so no less than the British People; free above all with their offerings, they take pleasure in surrounding Your throne. Your virtues, Your talents, Your benefactions will for ever live in my memory; wherever I live, I shall consider myself Your Majesty’s subject.
  7.      I am, with the most profound respect,
  8.      Madam,
  9.      Your Majesty’s
  10.      Very humble and very obedient little servant
  11.      J. G. W. Mozart.
  12. London, 18 January 1765.[1]

[1] A la Reine. Madame, Plein d'orgueil et de joie d'oser vous offrir un hommage, j'achevois ces sonates pour les porter aux pieds de Votre Majesté; j'étois, je l'avoue, ivre de vanité et ravi de moi-même, lorsque j'apperçus le Génie de la Musique à côté de moi. "Tu es bien vain, me dit-il, de savoir écrire à un âge où les autres apprennent encore à épeller." Moi, vain de ton Ouvrage? lui répondis-je. Non, j'ai d'autres motifs de vanité. Reconnois le favori de la Reine de ces Isles fortunées. Tu prétends que née loin du rang Suprême qui la distingue, ses talens l'auroient illustrée: eh bien placée sur le trône, Elle les honore et les protege. Qu'Elle te permette de lui faire une offrande, tu es avide de gloire, tu feras si bien que toute la terre le saura; plus philosophe, je ne confie mon orgueil qu'à mon clavecin qui en devient un peu plus éloquent, voilà tout. "Et cette éloquence produit des Sonates!...Est-il bien sûr que j'aie jamais inspiré un faiseur de Sonates?" Ce propos me piqua. Si, mon père, lui dis-je, tu parles ce matin comme un pédant...Lorsque la Reine daigne m'écouter, je m'abandonne à toi, et je deviens sublime; loin d'Elle le charme s'affoiblit, son Auguste image m'inspire encore quelques idées que l'art conduit ensuite et achève...Mais que je vive, et un jour je lui offrirai un don digne d'Elle et de toi: car avec ton sécours, j'égalerai la gloire de tous les grands hommes de ma patrie, je deviendrai immortel comme Handel, et Hasse, et mon nom sera aussi célèbre que celui de Bach. Un grand éclat de rire déconcerta ma noble confiance. Que Votre Majesté juge de la patience qu'il me faut pour vivre avec un Être aussi fantasque!...Ne vouloit-il pas aussi que j'osasse reprocher à Votre Majesté cet excès de bonté qui fait le sujet de mon orgueil et de ma gloire? Moi, Madame, vous reprocher un défaut! Le beau défaut! Votre Majesté ne s'en corrigera de sa vie. On dit qu'il faut tout passer aux Génies; je dois au mien le bonheur de vous plaire, et je lui pardonne ses caprices. Daignez, Madame, recevoir mes foibles dons. Vous futes de tout temps destinée à regner sur un peuple libre, les enfans du génie ne le sont pas moins que le Peuple Britannique; libres surtout dans leurs hommages, ils se plaisent à entourer votre trône. Vos vertus, vos talens, vos bienfaits seront à jamais présens à ma mémoire; partout où je vivrai je me regarderai comme le sujet de Votre Majesté. Je suis avec le plus profond respect, Madame, de Votre Majesté Le très-humble et très- obéissant petit serviteur J.G.W. Mozart

Date 1
1744, Mirow
Date 2
1818, London
Date (Mozart)
Location (Mozart)
Bibliographic Reference
Hedley, 1975

Pages referencing Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz:

1764 or 1765, London : Zebra