The Goldsworthy family: Siblings of George III’s royal court

Reading the menus of George III’s court, I found that the name ‘Miss Goldsworthy’ was repeated under the Princess’s dinner with no exception. This led me to wonder; who was Miss Goldsworthy and how significant was she, as she was named directly in the royal menus? As such, I investigated the Goldsworthy name in the court of George III, looking into his servants and equerries, and found two siblings of great importance and interest.

In the royal court, which was comprised of those closest to the king, such as his doctors and his family’s servants, Equerries were of great importance. Drawn from the military aristocracy, equerries acted as servants to the king who were in charge of the king’s horses, and it was among these men that Miss Goldsworthy’s brother, Phillip, served King George. From this then, I will look into the lives of the Goldsworthy siblings to see how significant they were in the life of George III, and to view what their roles were in George’s court. I hope to emphasise too how significant these siblings were in court, and display how well respected they were by George and his family.


Miss Martha Caroline Goldsworthy, sub governess and carer to George’s daughters, was an integral part of the royal household under George III. Martha came into service with the royal household following her predecessor, Mrs Coultsworth, retiring in 1772 and was hand picked by the royal household. She was a well read and highly literate woman, and her numerous writings between her and Mary Hamilton are a testament to this, though they are held at the University of Manchester so viewing them is somewhat difficult. Miss Goldsworthy’s writings do however grant an insight into life during the period, such as in how oppressive the winters were and how it affected the royals’ daily routine. To the both the royal household and royal children, Martha, or ‘Gooly’ as she was known, was well liked, particularly more than her counterpart Miss Gomm. Together though, both ladies were a fierce duo, earning themselves the title of ‘twin dragons of decorum’. In 1816, having served the royal household for 33 years, Martha Goldsworthy passed away at the age of 76 , having had no children of her own.

Martha Caroline Goldsworthy’s grave, as seen in Bath Abbey

The closeness of Miss Goldsworthy to the royal household is clear therefore, and would have made for a strong bond between her and the princesses in her care. This is made clearer too as she even lived in the Queen’s house while she was in service to the royals, meaning she was close to the family at all times. Though this closeness was only allowed directly by the royal household, as they directly employed her, and was likely due to the prestige of her family. This prestige would have not only come from her brother, the equerry, but also from her notable ancestors such as Phillip Vanbrugh, an officer in the Royal Navy and former governor of Newfoundland. As stated, Martha’s brother Phillip also served in the royal court and can give another insight into court life under George III.


Phillip Goldsworthy, George’s favoured equerry, was born in 1737 and educated at Cambridge University, later entering George’s service as an equerry in 1779. In his service, Phillip attached himself warmly to the royal family and was well liked, even becoming Clerk Martial and the King’s Chief Equerry in 1788. From others’ accounts, Phillips drab descriptions of court life entertained others at court and his dry wit made him popular with courtiers and royals alike. In his service too, Phillip is seen in accounts alongside his sister, which would suggest that the siblings remained close while in close proximity to the royal family. In his other endeavours, Phillip maintained a seat in parliament for Wilton from 1794 until his death in 1801. Like his sister, he had no children, though he did leave some legacy. In later life, Phillip appears in a painting alongside George and the Prince of Wales, displaying him clearly as a figure of importance.

Phillip Goldsworthy can be seen on the right of the painting alongside David Dundas in ‘George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops’ (1798)

From these insights then, Phillip Goldsworthy offers a humorous understanding of life in the Georgian court and in how one could rise to power in the aristocracy. As with his sister the position of his family doubtlessly helped him achieve his position, but his merits and his relationship with the king and court were undoubtedly strong. Though while he may have been close to the royals, his closeness to his sister is relatively unknown, not helped by the difficulty of accessing Martha’s letters. Phillips lack of literary nature also harm efforts to find sources on the siblings’ feelings towards each other, a fact that can’t be helped by going to Manchester.
Overall, using the Goldsworthy siblings to view the royal court helps in assessing the dynamics and relationships in the Georgian court. This assessment is hampered by a lack of available sources, though the literature surrounding them is still available and definitely useful. As both died childless though, it is unfortunate that the Goldsworthy legacy died with them, but needless to say the impact they had on the royal household was significant indeed.

Bibliography:

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Sophie Loussouarn, “Governesses of the Royal Family and the Nobility in Great Britain, 1750 – 1815” in Isabelle Baudino, Jaques Carre, Cecile Revauger eds. The Invisible Woman: Aspects of Women’s Work in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cornwall, 2005) 

Christopher Hibbert, George III: A Personal History (St. Ives, 1998) 

Morris Marples, Princes in the Making: A Study of Royal Education (London, 1965) 

Robert, Martha Caroline Goldsworthy, Sub Governess to the daughters of George III (11 March, 2010) https://www.flickr.com/photos/32157648@N08/4443208972/in/photostream/

G. Kearsley, The British chronologist; comprehending every material occurrence, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, relative to England and Wales, from the invasion of the Romans to the present time (London, 1775) 

‘Goldsworthy, Phillip (c. 1737-1801)’ in Lewis Namier, John Brooke eds. The History of Parliament: the house of Commons 1754-1790 (1964) http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/goldsworthy-philip-1737-1801

George III, Samuel Shoemaker, ‘A Pennsylvania Loyalist’s Interview with George III. Extract from the MS. Diary of Samuel Shoemaker’ in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 2 No. 1 (1878) p. 38

William Beechey, George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops (1798) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George_III_and_the_Prince_of_Wales_Reviewing_Troops_(1798).jpg


9 thoughts on “The Goldsworthy family: Siblings of George III’s royal court

  1. There is a family rumour that Miss Goldsworthy was an ancestor of mine via an illegitmate son with George 1V, Their son was raised within the palace confines till he got a commission into the army at 15. There are no records of his birth, place or parentage. If anyone wants to sleuth l can furnish more.

  2. This is a great post–really informative and well-researched. I do have one question. You mention that Miss Goldsworthy was sub governess. Does that mean Miss Gomm was the governess in chief? And if so, why did Miss Goldsworthy have her own dinner, and not Miss Gomm? Where do think think Miss Gomm ate? (Ok, that is a little bit more than one question).

    1. From what I have read, it appears that Charlotte Finch was one of the main governesses, if not governess in chief, during the period the menus were written (at least that’s how it seems from Christopher Hibbert’s work). Also, from what I have seen in Fanny Burney’s diaries, Miss Gomm generally is mentioned after both Miss Goldsworthy and Mlle. Montmoulin, maybe hinting at their level of importance within the royal household (though I could just be looking too deeply into it). As for the dinner, I would assume that Gomm would have been dining as one of the ‘Princess’s Servts.’, while Goldsworthy’s separation from the other servants may be indicative of her rank or importance among the other servants (she did come from a prestigious family, and her brother was one of the more important equerries, after all). I hope that this answers your questions, I’d like to know more on Miss Gomm, though it seems the only way to do so would be to view her letters at Kew.

  3. It is great to be able to learn in depth about one of the names that constantly re-appeared on the Royal Menus. Before your blog, I was unaware that her sibling was Philip. I do wonder what the relationship between both siblings was, although you did mention it was difficult to find. Maybe it was just a normal relationship, so it was just not mentioned?

    1. From what I’ve seen, mainly from Fanny Burney’s diaries, it seemed that the two siblings had a good relationship (or at least no hostility between the two was mentioned). I would have to read Goldsworthy’s letters in Manchester to gain any more insight, but the lack of commentary on their relationship makes it seem like the two got on well.

  4. It’s a really interesting read to find siblings in the same royal court and in equally important positions. It makes me wonder if the reason neither had children is because of their royal duties? Too busy or committed to the job perhaps or in the case of Miss Goldsworthy – maybe she never felt the need after having a hand in raising the princesses?

    1. With both siblings taking very active roles in George’s court, I would say you’re probably right. There could also be other issues with their lack of marriage and children relating to ideas of nobility and courtship in the period, though that is a whole wider issue that my research didn’t cover unfortunately.

  5. It is fascinating to see why Miss Goldsworthy cropped up on the menus – especially in relation to our group project! The significance of the Goldsworthy family to the royal family is really interesting as well.
    Did Miss Goldsworthy’s role in the household change after the princesses were grown?

    1. From what I have seen, it seems that Goldsworthy’s role changed as the princesses aged, though her basic function as governess remained relatively unchanged. This said, I have not been able to have a look at her personal letters (which are at the University of Manchester) so I could well be wrong to some extent, but I am going off of what I have available to me currently.

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