A Passport issued by King George III

passport King George III

George III was born on 4 June 1738 in London, the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. He became heir to the throne on his father’s death in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760. He was the third Hanoverian monarch and the first to be born in England and use English as his first language. He never visited Hanover! passport King George III

In his reign, which was longer than that of any British monarch before him, fell the gain of French colonies in Canada and French possessions in India (1763) and the loss of a large part of North American colonies in the American War of Independence (1775-1783). The coalition wars against France, which lasted for more than two decades, ended in 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo; British dominance on the oceans was also strengthened.

George III is widely remembered for two things: losing the American colonies and going mad. passport King George III

This is far from the whole truth. George’s direct responsibility for the loss of the colonies is not great. He opposed their bid for independence to the end, but he did not develop the policies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend duties of 1767 on tea, paper, and other products, leading to war 1775-76 and which had the support of Parliament.

The declaration of American independence on 4 July 1776, the end of the war with the British forces’ surrender in 1782, and the defeat which the loss of the American colonies represented could have threatened the Hanoverian throne.

Under this aspect, this passport is also most significant for early American history. passport King George III

Read a letter by George III on the loss of America.

George III was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 to 1801, then King of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. In the Holy Roman Empire, he ruled as Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg, since the Congress of Vienna as King of Hanover (1814). He was also the last British monarch to call himself King of France after the Hundred Years’ War.

George’s accession in 1760 marked a significant change in royal finances. Since 1697, the monarch had received an annual grant of £700,000 from Parliament as a contribution to the Civil List, i.e., civil government costs (such as judges’ and ambassadors’ salaries) expenses of the Royal Household. In 1760, it was decided that Parliament should provide the whole cost of the Civil List in return for the surrender of the hereditary revenues by the King for the duration of his reign.

George III was the most attractive of the Hanoverian monarchs. He was a good family man and devoted to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for whom he bought the Queen’s House (later enlarged to become Buckingham Palace). They had 15 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood.

However, his sons disappointed him and, after his brothers made unsuitable secret marriages, the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was passed at George’s insistence. (Under this Act, the Sovereign must consent to the marriage of any lineal descendant of George II, with certain exceptions.).Being extremely conscientious, George read all government papers and sometimes annoyed his ministers by taking such a prominent interest in government and policy. passport King George III

He was the first king to study science as part of his education (he had his own astronomical observatory). Examples of his collection of scientific instruments can now be seen in the Science Museum. George III also took a keen interest in agriculture, particularly on the crown estates at Richmond and Windsor, known as ‘Farmer George.’

After serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801, George became permanently deranged in 1810. He was mentally unfit to rule in the last decade of his reign, and he became blind; his eldest son – the later George IV – acted as Prince Regent from 1811. Some medical historians have said that George III’s mental instability was caused by a hereditary physical disorder called porphyria.

He died at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820, after a reign of almost 60 years – the third longest in British history.


The Passport

“We George the Third, from God’s Grace, King of Great Britain, France & Ireland, Protector of the Faith, Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneburg, the Holy Roman Empire Treasurer and Prince Elector”

PRINCIPALITY OF BRAUNSCHWEIG-LÜNEBURG – KING GEORGE III. PASSPORT for delivery of 300-400 Sollinger Dachsteine (roof tiles), which will be transported to Bückeburg for the account of the Rental Chamber of Bückeburg for stately buildings there from Holzminden the Weser down to Rinteln. Hannover, 1 May 1781, signed by WENCKSTERN. On the backside numerous visas: Polle, 23.08 (J. B. Kruckeberg), Grohne and Ohren, 24.08. (Ristenpart?), Hameln, 24.08 (Chappuzeau), Polle, 01.08 etc.). The passport was used for several deliveries and is written in German. passport King George III

King George III 1781

King George III 1781 reverso

What a beautiful document of passport history – and it’s not less than 237 years old!

Detlev Alexander von Wenckstern (* 25 August 1708 in Celle;† 13 February 1792) was a German lawyer, Secret Council, Judge, Chamber President, and President of the Higher Appeal Court in Celle. Detlev Alexander von Wenckstern lived at the time of the personal union between Great Britain and Hanover. Around 1779 he was a royal British politician, appointed to the Elector Braunschweig-Lüneburg Chamber of Electors “enacted politician.” Friedrich Alexander von Wenckstern, the Hanoverian envoy at the imperial court in Vienna, was his son.

passport King George III



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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

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Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

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