In April 1764, on their journey to London, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister Nannerl (real name: Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart) wrote in her diary that they had watched “how the ocean ebbs and waxes” in Calais. Everyone in the family was horribly seasick on the trip; Leopold even boasted to his family back at home that he had won a competition for being the most frequently sick.
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After a long journey, on the twenty-third, they finally made it to London, where they spent a few days in a Piccadilly inn before moving into more affordable quarters above a barbershop in St. Martin’s Lane. After seeing that their attempts at seeming Parisian were met with screams of “Bugger the French! After learning that ” from bums, Leopold hurried to outfit the family with English clothes, including trendy round caps.
Five days after their arrival, Wolfgang and Nannerl played for King George III and Queen Charlotte at Buckingham House, further solidifying the children’s already stellar reputation. For fourteen months, their time in London would be both wonderful and trying.
Although Handel had been dead for five years when the Mozarts arrived in London, his legacy as a performer was still fondly remembered by many. Both George III and Charlotte were close to their twenties at the time.
Both the monarch and queen could trace their ancestry back to Germany. As elector of his ancestral Hanover, in addition to his British crown, he brought a decidedly German flavour to the proceedings. According to Leopold, they were the friendliest and most approachable monarchs they had met.
Leopold was already complaining about the success of a couple of events that earned more than his yearly salary in Salzburg. George stuck his head out the window as King George III and Queen Elizabeth II rode by in a carriage as the Mozarts strolled through St. James’s Park between court appearances. A sure evidence of royal interest.
London was the world’s largest and wealthiest city at the time, as well as one of the most culturally diverse and a haven for the arts. It was second only to Paris as a hub for musical publication.