The Queen to reveal intimate papers that promise to shed new light on Royal Family history
The formerly private papers deal with royal scandals, triumphs and disasters, giving the inside track on palace life, from political intrigue to the secrets of palace live affairs including a prince's romance with an actress.
The prince and actress in question, however, are not Harry and Meghan Markle but George III's son and heir, later George IV, and Mary Darby Robinson, who in 1780 was paid £5,000 by the King when she threatened to go to the newspapers with letters from her lover about the affair. George III agreed to pay her off to "get my son out of this shameful scrape".
Britain to be BATTERED by Atlantic winds with rain forecast
Snow forecast and weather maps: Will it snow today?
Today the private correspondence of George III, Britain's longest-reigning King and the monarch who lost America before going mad, on these and other matters is opened up to the world when a new website begins to put The Georgian Papers from the Royal Archives online at www.royalcollection.org.uk/georgianpapers
Since 1912 the 350,000 papers from the Georgian period have been stored in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle with access granted to only a few favoured academics. Only 15 per cent have ever been published.
George IV who is included in some of the scandalous letters
But a team of researchers from King's College, London and US academics from the College of William & Mary and the Omohundro Institute have started going through the papers and unearthing hidden gems as they are digitised between now and 2020.
We are only just starting to explore this amazing resource
Dr Joanna Newman
The Queen, who has approved the project, features in a BBC Two documentary on Monday nightcharting their early discoveries, George III – The Genius of The Mad King.
They reveal that George III had a network of private spies, including one, code-named Aristarchus, a Georgian James Bond, who asked for payment for uncovering a French plot to assassinate the King as he walked at night in The Queen's Garden.
The 350,000 papers from the Georgian period have been stored in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle
Queen Elizabeth II in pictures
Fri, January 27, 2017
Queen Elizabeth II making her Royal visits in her many colourful and elegant outfits.
1 of 335
Queen Elizabeth looks towards a man dressed in traditional costume as she arrives to view an exhibition on Fiji at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia in Norwich, eastern England
The records also reveal that George III, who reigned from 1760 until 1820, drafted a letter of Abdication, never deployed in the end, during a political crisis in 1783.
There is a poignant moment where the researchers are seen finding a pristine lock of hair taken from the King's ninth son and 14th child, Prince Alfred, before he died aged 1 year and 10 months in 1782.
It had been seen into a letter from Alfred's mother, Queen Charlotte, to the children, nanny, Lady Charlotte Finch.
The papers chart the war in America, George III's fascination with astronomy, and his instructions to Captain Cook before his groundbreaking voyages that led to the monarch becoming the first King of Australia.
The Queen, who has approved the project, features in a BBC Two documentary on Monday
George's bouts with mental illness were once thought to have been a result of the disease porphyria but medical opinion now sways more to mental illness and bouts of hypomania.
Dr Joanna Newman, Vice President at King's College, London, said: "We are only just starting to explore this amazing resource and the opportunity for reinterpretation.
"And scrutiny of many aspects of 18th century and early 19th century life, political, social and economic, as well as seeing George III through more informed perspectives.
"He was fascinated by science. The Industrial Revolution happened on his watch."
The Queen, so protective of her immediate family's privacy, supports opening up the archives from later eras too. The private letters of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert may be next.
* George III – The Genius of The Mad King is on BBC Two on Monday, January 30 at 9pm.