William & Mary

Royal Papers

  • Royal history
    Royal history  Royal Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine shows Queen Elizabeth II items from the George III Collection at the launch of the Georgian Papers Programme at Windsor Castle's Royal Library. Karin Wulf, director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and William & Mary history professor, and Steve Hanson, W&M vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies, are in the background.  PA Images
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    Royal history  "When we examine the Annals of the World from the beginning of Government unto this day, we shall find the generality of nations groaning under the yoke of Despotism," wrote King George III in this draft of an essay that he wrote and rewrote a number of times.  Royal Archives
  • Royal history
    Royal history  Queen Elizabeth II greets Baroness Blackstone, chair of the British Library, while attending the launch of the Georgian Papers Programme at Windsor Castle's Royal Library. Steve Hanson, William & Mary vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies, is on the far right.  PA Images
  • Royal history
    Royal history  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Wren Building in 1957. They were the first reigning monarchs to visit the university.  Courtesy Swem Archives
  • Royal history
    Royal history  William & Mary Libraries staff and faculty visit Windsor Castle in 2016, meeting with the royal librarian and Georgian Papers project manager. From left: Kim Sims, W&M university archivist; Debbie Cornell, W&M Libraries head of digital services; Oliver Urquhart Irvine, royal librarian; Carrie Cooper, W&M dean of university libraries; Tami Back, W&M Libraries director of communications and strategic planning; Nick Popper, W&M associate professor of history; and Oliver Walton, Georgian Papers Programme project manager and curator.  Courtesy W&M Libraries
  • Royal history
    Royal history  "The number of troops to be employed in North America will probably exceed 38,000 men," noted King George III in this memorandum on the requirements for war in America.  Royal Archives
  • Royal history
    Royal history  Royal Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine shows Queen Elizabeth II items from the George III Collection at the launch of the Georgian Papers Programme at Windsor Castle's Royal Library.  PA Images
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    Royal history  A view of Windsor Castle, where the iconic Round Tower houses the more than 350,000 documents that are being digitized and provided to the public freely through the Georgian Papers Programme.  Tami Back
  • Royal history
    Royal history  Local children greet Queen Elizabeth II at William & Mary in 2007.  File photo
  • Royal history
    Royal history  This lock of hair was included in a letter penned by Queen Charlotte following the death of one of her younger sons, Alfred, and sent to Lady Charlotte Finch, governess to the royal children.  Royal Archives
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    Royal history  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth II at William & Mary in 1957, during her first visit. She would return 50 years later.  Courtesy Swem Archives
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Nearly 500,000 royal documents housed in Windsor Castle’s iconic Round Tower are being scanned and sent to William & Mary to be transcribed by students in Swem Library.

The Georgian Papers Programme, a project that is making these documents public, promises to fundamentally change how the world sees such figures as King George III. W&M and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture are the primary U.S. partners in this initiative.

The documents may not be the Holy Grail of archives, but they aren’t far off. They will allow historians to gain a deeper understanding about Britain’s role in the world, including its relationships with Colonial America, the fledgling United States and other European countries. Scholars also expect insights into British politics, the Enlightenment, science, food, artistic patronage, life at court, the education of royal children and more.

The project has already released more than 33,000 digitized documents, including some penned by King George III regarding the American Revolution, making them freely available online. Until now, only 15 percent of the collection has been published, and access has been limited.

The program represents a partnership between, on the American side, the Omohundro Institute and W&M, with leading British partners the Royal Archives, Royal Library and King’s College London.

The Omohundro Institute, recognized globally as the leader in early American historical studies, is deeply embedded in the program. With funding through its Lapidus Initiative, it has committed to support up to eight research fellowships annually. W&M Libraries provides technical expertise for the project, and the university is also sending history faculty and classes to Windsor Castle.

The project was launched by Queen Elizabeth II, who has twice visited W&M – once in 1957 and again 50 years later for the 400th commemoration of the founding of Jamestown.

“Her Majesty fully supports the work currently underway to make the historic treasures of the Royal Archives widely accessible to the world through digital technology,” said Royal Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine. “Having the Omohundro Institute and William & Mary as our primary U.S. partners is essential in bringing academic rigor, depth and context to the interpretation of key papers that will shed new light on the emergence of the United States of America itself.”