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Claire Skinner, Archivist, The Box, Plymouth

Claire Skinner, Archivist at The Box tell us why The Object of her Affection is a romantic story worthy of any Jane Austen tale – or even Bridgerton!

The object of my affection is this diary by George Winne, who was the merchant of Plymouth. And it’s written in 1788 to 1789. And it’s about the relationship between his daughter and Prince William, who later became William IV. In the diary, it sort of traces that royal romance that we wouldn’t really know much about if we didn’t have this fantastic diary.

So the diary is written by Sally’s father, George Winne. He’s a merchant of Plymouth. And at this time, Prince William was based at the dockyard in Devonport. And he used to come and visit the Winne family because he was actually godfather to George. 

He talks about various balls that are attended by the local ‘great and good’. And Prince William (he talks about him as ‘Prince W’) says, “Making choice of my daughter, he danced with her the remainder of the evening.” So this is quite significant because at this time, if you think about Jane Austen and balls were an opportunity for young people to socialise and if you showed preference to one person, there was an implication there that you were courting them in effect.

A nice coloured cartoon of William with his brothers the Duke of York and the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in Plymouth, also dating from 1788

So you can imagine that this happened repeatedly, that he danced solely with Sally Winne. And you can almost sense the excitement of the family thinking is there going to be a royal wedding? 

And of course, no, there wasn’t. 

What happened is that George III (he was Prince William’s father) realised that his son was getting too close to a commoner. It wasn’t going to be suitable as a royal match. And he sent his son’s ship over to America. So of course, William being in the Navy had to go where he was sent. And so the couple was separated and they never got together.

It’s a lovely little treasure. I just think it’s wonderful the way it brings that story to life.


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