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Katie Wooten ’21 granted rare access to Royal Archives

katie wooten
History major Katie Wooten ’21 stands in front of Windsor Castle, which houses the Royal Archives in its Round Tower.

Before starting her current research project, Katie Wooten ’21 only knew about King George III, the last king of America, from the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton.”

A lot has changed for Wooten since then.

In November Wooten was invited to a Georgian Papers symposium in London, where she attended presentations and mingled with top scholars in the field and “Sherlock” co-creator and producer Mark Gatiss. The Georgian Papers is an international collaboration between the Royal Archives, King’s College London, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, the College of William & Mary and the Library of Congress. The collaboration is focused on cataloguing, digitizing and making publicly available 425,000 pages in the Royal Archives relating to the Georgian period from 1714 to 1837.

Thanks to the planning and help of Furman Professor of History Carolyn Day, Wooten also received rare access to the Royal Archives at Windsor, where she spent a day transcribing King George’s actual correspondence.

“It was a surreal moment to transcribe personal correspondence from the king and actually touch the same letter that he wrote,” said Wooten, who is majoring in history.

Wooten worked with Day during the summer after her freshman year to transcribe a collection of Jervis family papers dated 1804 to 1806. Through that work, Wooten became interested in King George III’s recovery from mental illness. Her current focus is his trip to Weymouth in 1804 and how he tried to manage his role as a monarch and restore his health.

She is working to contextualize King George III’s 1804 trip using primary and secondary sources. Wooten said she and Day are planning to submit a proposal and paper for the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies in April 2020.

During her time at the Royal Archives, Wooten transcribed a letter King George III wrote to his son during the American Revolution in 1778.

“There was one line that made me giggle,” Wooten said. “King George III was talking about the war in America and told his son, ‘Victory may join us on Wednesday’. I found that interesting because that did not happen on that Wednesday. That was just funny to find.”

It is unusual for an undergraduate student to gain access to the Royal Archives. Day herself was a historian with a doctorate degree before being allowed in the Royal Archives for the first time in 2010.

“I wanted to look at a section of papers, and I had to beg for seven years to get access,” Day said. She received access in part because of the Georgian Papers Program. “Although the Royal Archives has opened up because of the Georgian Papers, it’s still not a common thing to get in.”

The Georgian Papers symposium Wooten attended focused on King George III’s mental health. Alumni gifts to the History Department Alumni Annual Fund supported the experience by paying for Wooten’s ticket to travel to the symposium from Edinburgh, Scotland, where she spent the fall semester through Furman’s study away program.

“The coolest part of this whole thing was seeing where the actual history was made and seeing the actual letters,” Wooten said. “It made this project so real.”

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