Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
The Bee, or literary weekly intelligencer ; volume 10
'The Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer' was a magazine written by James Anderson, a farmer as well as a prolific essayist. He aimed his publication at men involved in business, arguing that so long as knowledge was held only in the literary circles, rather than in manufacturing ones, Britain could not progress. Each week's edition cost 6 pence. 'The Bee' ran from December 1790 to January 1794, in a total of 163 instalments.
Anderson's article on the monarch’s involvement in a project to produce fine wool in Britain was accompanied by a drawing of a Merino ram ‘to satisfy the curiosity of the public’. He followed this with an extract from 'Annals of Agriculture' by Arthur Young, who describes being given a Merino ram by George III, named Don. Young praises the King’s interest in agriculture as forward-thinking, and good for the country.
George III was keenly interested in improving crops and stock-breeding, an interest almost certainly aroused by Lord Bute, whose own early adulthood was spent ‘amusing himself with the study of agriculture, botany and architecture’. From the 1760s George III was improving the estates he had inherited at Richmond and Kew, which included two farms, and by the mid-1780s he was also farming in the Little Park in Windsor. In the late 1780s George III began an experiment to see if it was possible for British wool and cloth to be of the same superior quality as that produced in Spain, especially as historically Britain had commanded the wool market. He bought some Spanish Merino sheep from France, and appointed Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, who was conducting a similar experiment, unofficial stud-master and shepherd.
From 1790 sheep from the King’s flock were being sold at public auctions. The Merinos which would be among the first to travel to Australia to establish fine wool production there were purchased at one of these auctions in August 1804. George III’s investigations provided crucial knowledge of sheep breeding and fine cloth manufacture to the first Australian colonists, and contributed significantly to the growth of the Commonwealth wool trade. Within fifty years fine-wool production in Australia and other British colonies ended Britain’s dependence on European wool. Australia is still a major exporter of wool to the rest of the world.