William Forster II cello, London 1782
William Forster II (Forster Sr., “Old Forster” 1739–1808) was born into the second generation of the Forster family of British violin makers. His famous London workshop served the top players of the late 18th century as well as members of the royal court. Forster made instruments for the sons of King George III: the Duke of Cumberland, who was a violinist, and the extravagant, music-loving Prince of Wales (the future King George IV), for whom Forster made an elaborately decorated cello known as the “Royal George'' in 1782. The Forster firm also published music of contemporary composers, including over 100 compositions by Franz Joseph Haydn, contributing to the composer’s rise to fame in London at the end of the 18th century. Forster’s son, William Forster III (Forster Jr., “Young Forster” 1764–1824), took over the business upon his father’s death in 1808, maintaining the reputation of the esteemed workshop with his own highly-regarded instruments. He was assisted by his sons: William Forster IV—an accomplished cellist as well as a maker—and Simon Andrew Forster, who wrote a family autobiography in 1864. The Forster workshop also employed other celebrated luthiers including George Craske and Samuel Gilkes.