Although the archives include wardrobe accounts going back as far as 1660, most of the collections within it date from the reign of George III (1760-1820) and after.
Yet since they are held in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle, public access to them, even for scholars, has always been extremely limited.
Now, as announced at Windsor on 1 April in the presence of The Queen, a collaboration with King’s College London (itself founded by George IV) means that more than 350,000 pages of invaluable source material is being digitised and put online. Only about 15 per cent of this has previously been published, and even that is long out of print.
Once historians are able to use this material, it should transform our understanding of politics and court life in Georgian England; relations between Britain and what became the US before, during and after the American Revolution; the development of agriculture; the progress of the Enlightenment; and major advances in science and medicine.
Although the vast bulk dates from the time of George III himself, it also includes papers covering more than a century from the reigns of George I (1714-27) to William IV (1830-37).
Digitisation of the Georgian papers forms part of a wider programme to make the Royal Archives’ extraordinary and neglected resources available to scholars and the public.
Queen Victoria’s journals have been accessible since 2012 on an award-winning website, developed with the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford and online publisher ProQuest.
Another partnership with Cengage has recently been agreed to digitise the Stuart Papers, covering the period from when James II went into exile in 1688 and the lives of his heirs, including his son James Francis Edward Stuart (“The Old Pretender”) and grandson Charles Edward Stuart (“The Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie”).