George Kingdom
King of the United Kingdom
George Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later. From 1811 until his accession, he served as Prince Regent during his father's relapse into mental illness. George IV led an extravagant lifestyle that contributed to the fashions of the British Regency.
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  • 1830
    In 1830 his weight was recorded to be.
    More Details Hide Details By the spring of 1830, George's imminent end was apparent. Attacks of breathlessness due to dropsy forced him to sleep upright in a chair, and doctors frequently tapped his abdomen to drain excess fluid. He was admired for clinging doggedly to life despite his obvious decline. He dictated his will in May and became very devout in his final months, confessing to an archdeacon that he repented of his early dissolute life, but hoped mercy would be shown to him as he had always tried to do the best for his subjects.
  • 1829
    In mid-1829, Sir David Wilkie reported the King "was wasting away frightfully day after day", and had become so obese that he looked "like a great sausage stuffed into the covering".
    More Details Hide Details The King took laudanum to counteract severe bladder pains, which left him in a drugged and mentally handicapped state for days on end.
  • 1828
    By December 1828, like his father, he was almost completely blind from cataracts, and was suffering from such severe gout in his right hand and arm that he could no longer sign documents.
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    Lord Goderich left office in 1828, to be succeeded by the Duke of Wellington, who had by that time accepted that the denial of some measure of relief to Roman Catholics was politically untenable.
    More Details Hide Details George was never as friendly with Wellington as he had been with Canning and chose to annoy the Duke by pretending to have fought at Waterloo disguised as a German general. With great difficulty Wellington obtained the King's consent to the introduction of a Catholic Relief Bill on 29 January 1829. Under pressure from his fanatically anti-Catholic brother, the Duke of Cumberland, the King withdrew his approval and in protest the Cabinet resigned en masse on 4 March. The next day the King, now under intense political pressure, reluctantly agreed to the Bill and the ministry remained in power. Royal Assent was finally granted to the Catholic Relief Act on 13 April. George's heavy drinking and indulgent lifestyle had taken their toll on his health by the late 1820s. Through huge banquets and copious amounts of alcohol, he had become obese, making him the target of ridicule on the rare occasions that he appeared in public. By 1797 his weight had reached, and by 1824 his corset was made for a waist of. He suffered from gout, arteriosclerosis, peripheral edema ("dropsy"), and possibly porphyria. In his last years, he spent whole days in bed and suffered spasms of breathlessness that would leave him half-asphyxiated.
  • 1827
    The second son of George III, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, had died childless in 1827, so the succession passed to the third son of George III, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who reigned as William IV.
    More Details Hide Details George's last years were marked by increasing physical and mental decay and withdrawal from public affairs. Privately a senior aide to the King confided to his diary: "A more contemptible, cowardly, selfish, unfeeling dog does not exist... There have been good and wise kings but not many of them... and this I believe to be one of the worst." On his death The Times captured elite opinion succinctly: "There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow?... If he ever had a friend – a devoted friend in any rank of life – we protest that the name of him or her never reached us." George IV was described as the "First Gentleman of England" on account of his style and manners. He possessed many good qualities; he was bright, clever, and knowledgeable. However, his laziness and gluttony led him to squander much of his talent. The Times wrote, he would always prefer "a girl and a bottle to politics and a sermon".
  • 1824
    By 1824 he was denouncing Catholic emancipation in public.
    More Details Hide Details Having taken the coronation oath on his accession, George now argued that he had sworn to uphold the Protestant faith, and could not support any pro-Catholic measures. The influence of the Crown was so great, and the will of the Tories under Prime Minister Lord Liverpool so strong, that Catholic emancipation seemed hopeless. In 1827, however, Lord Liverpool retired, to be replaced by the pro-emancipation Tory George Canning. When Canning entered office, the King, hitherto content with privately instructing his ministers on the Catholic Question, thought it fit to make a public declaration to the effect that his sentiments on the question were those of his revered father, George III. Canning's views on the Catholic Question were not well received by the most conservative Tories, including the Duke of Wellington. As a result, the ministry was forced to include Whigs. Canning died later in that year, leaving Frederick Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, to lead the tenuous Tory-Whig coalition.
  • 1821
    George IV decided, nonetheless, to exclude his wife from his coronation at Westminster Abbey, on 19 July 1821.
    More Details Hide Details Caroline fell ill that day and died on 7 August; during her final illness she often stated that she thought she had been poisoned. Despite the enormous cost, it was a popular event. In 1821 the King became the first monarch to pay a state visit to Ireland since Richard II of England. The following year he visited Edinburgh for "one and twenty daft days". His visit to Scotland, organised by Sir Walter Scott, was the first by a reigning British monarch since the mid-17th century. George IV spent most of his later reign in seclusion at Windsor Castle, but he continued to intervene in politics. At first it was believed that he would support Catholic emancipation, as he had proposed a Catholic Emancipation Bill for Ireland in 1797, but his anti-Catholic views became clear in 1813 when he privately canvassed against the ultimately defeated Catholic Relief Bill of 1813.
  • 1820
    When George III died in 1820, the Prince Regent, then aged 57, ascended the throne as George IV, with no real change in his powers.
    More Details Hide Details By the time of his accession, he was obese and possibly addicted to laudanum. George IV's relationship with his wife Caroline had deteriorated by the time of his accession. They had lived separately since 1796, and both were having affairs. In 1814, Caroline left the United Kingdom for continental Europe, but she chose to return for her husband's coronation, and to publicly assert her rights as queen consort. However, George IV refused to recognise Caroline as Queen, and commanded British ambassadors to ensure that monarchs in foreign courts did the same. By royal command, Caroline's name was omitted from the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England. The King sought a divorce, but his advisors suggested that any divorce proceedings might involve the publication of details relating to the King's own adulterous relationships. Therefore, he requested and ensured the introduction of the Pains and Penalties Bill, under which Parliament could have imposed legal penalties without a trial in a court of law. The bill would have annulled the marriage and stripped Caroline of the title of Queen. The bill proved extremely unpopular with the public, and was withdrawn from Parliament.
  • 1817
    His only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, had died from post-partum complications in 1817, after delivering a stillborn son.
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    His only child, Princess Charlotte, died before him in 1817 and so he was succeeded by his younger brother, William.
    More Details Hide Details George was born at St James's Palace, London, on 12 August 1762, the first child of King George III of the United Kingdom and Queen Charlotte. As the eldest son of a British sovereign, he automatically became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay at birth; he was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester a few days later. On 18 September of the same year, he was baptised by Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury. His godparents were the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (his maternal uncle, for whom the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Chamberlain, stood proxy), the Duke of Cumberland (his paternal great-uncle) and the Dowager Princess of Wales (his paternal grandmother). George was a talented student, and quickly learned to speak French, German and Italian, in addition to his native English. At the age of 18 he was given a separate establishment, and in dramatic contrast with his prosaic, scandal-free father, threw himself with zest into a life of dissipation and wild extravagance involving heavy drinking and numerous mistresses and escapades. He was a witty conversationalist, drunk or sober, and showed good, but grossly expensive, taste in decorating his palace. It was far too little for his needs – the stables alone cost £31,000 a year. He then established his residence in Carlton House, where he lived a profligate life. Animosity developed between the Prince and his father, who desired more frugal behaviour on the part of the heir apparent.
  • 1814
    On 30 December 1814, the Prince Regent signed and ratified the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812 with the United States.
    More Details Hide Details Napoleon returned from exile in 1815, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, brother of Marquess Wellesley. During this period George took an active interest in matters of style and taste, and his associates such as the dandy Beau Brummell and the architect John Nash created the Regency style. In London Nash designed the Regency terraces of Regent's Park and Regent Street. George took up the new idea of the seaside spa and had the Brighton Pavilion developed as a fantastical seaside palace, adapted by Nash in the "Indian Gothic" style inspired loosely by the Taj Mahal, with extravagant "Indian" and "Chinese" interiors.
  • 1812
    On 10 May 1812, Perceval was assassinated by John Bellingham.
    More Details Hide Details The Prince Regent was prepared to reappoint all the members of the Perceval ministry under a new leader. The House of Commons formally declared its desire for a "strong and efficient administration", so the Prince Regent then offered leadership of the government to Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, and afterwards to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 2nd Earl of Moira. He doomed the attempts of both to failure, however, by forcing each to construct an all party ministry at a time when neither party wished to share power with the other. Possibly using the failure of the two peers as a pretext, the Prince Regent immediately reappointed the Perceval administration, with Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, as Prime Minister. The Tories, unlike Whigs such as Earl Grey, sought to continue the vigorous prosecution of the war in Continental Europe against the powerful and aggressive Emperor of the French, Napoleon I. An anti-French alliance, which included Russia, Prussia, Austria, Britain and several smaller countries, defeated Napoleon in 1814. In the subsequent Congress of Vienna, it was decided that the Electorate of Hanover, a state that had shared a monarch with Britain since 1714, would be raised to a kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Hanover.
    In 1812, when it appeared highly unlikely that the King would recover, the Prince of Wales again failed to appoint a new Whig administration.
    More Details Hide Details Instead, he asked the Whigs to join the existing ministry under Perceval. The Whigs, however, refused to co-operate because of disagreements over Catholic emancipation. Grudgingly, the Prince of Wales allowed Perceval to continue as Prime Minister.
  • 1811
    The Prince of Wales became Prince Regent on 5 February 1811.
    More Details Hide Details The Regent let his ministers take full charge of government affairs, playing a far lesser role than his father. The principle that the prime minister was the person supported by a majority in the House of Commons, whether the king personally favoured him or not, became established. His governments, with little help from the Regent, presided over British policy. One of the most important political conflicts facing the country concerned Catholic emancipation, the movement to relieve Roman Catholics of various political disabilities. The Tories, led by the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, were opposed to Catholic emancipation, while the Whigs supported it. At the beginning of the Regency, the Prince of Wales was expected to support the Whig leader, William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville. He did not, however, immediately put Lord Grenville and the Whigs into office. Influenced by his mother, he claimed that a sudden dismissal of the Tory government would exact too great a toll on the health of the King (a steadfast supporter of the Tories), thereby eliminating any chance of a recovery.
  • 1810
    In late 1810, George III was once again overcome by his malady following the death of his youngest daughter, Princess Amelia.
    More Details Hide Details Parliament agreed to follow the precedent of 1788; without the King's consent, the Lord Chancellor affixed the Great Seal of the Realm to letters patent naming Lords Commissioners. The letters patent lacked the Royal Sign Manual, but were sealed by request of resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament. The Lords Commissioners appointed by the letters patent, in the name of the King, then signified the granting of Royal Assent to a bill that became the Regency Act of 1811. Parliament restricted some of the powers of the Prince Regent (as the Prince of Wales became known). The constraints expired one year after the passage of the Act.
  • 1804
    In 1804, a dispute arose over the custody of Princess Charlotte, which led to her being placed in the care of the King, George III.
    More Details Hide Details It also led to a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry into Princess Caroline's conduct after the Prince of Wales accused her of having an illegitimate son. The investigation cleared Caroline of the charge but still revealed her behaviour to have been extraordinarily indiscreet.
  • 1796
    The two were formally separated after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte, in 1796, and remained separated thereafter.
    More Details Hide Details The Prince remained attached to Maria Fitzherbert for the rest of his life, despite several periods of estrangement. George's mistresses included Mary Robinson, an actress who was bought off with a generous pension when she threatened to sell his letters to the newspapers; Grace Elliott, the divorced wife of a physician; and Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, who dominated his life for some years. In later life, his mistresses were the Marchioness of Hertford and the Marchioness Conyngham, who were both married to aristocrats. George was rumoured to have fathered several illegitimate children. James Ord (born 1786)—who moved to the United States and became a Jesuit priest—was reportedly his son by Fitzherbert. The King, late in life, told a friend that he had a son who was a naval officer in the West Indies, whose identity has been tentatively established as Captain Henry A. F. Hervey (1786–1824), reportedly George's child by the songwriter Lady Anne Lindsay (later Barnard), a daughter of the 5th Earl of Balcarres. Other reported offspring include Major George Seymour Crole, the son of theatre manager's daughter Eliza Crole or Fox; William Hampshire, the son of publican's daughter Sarah Brown; and Charles "Beau" Candy, the son of a Frenchwoman with that surname. Anthony Camp, Director of Research at the Society of Genealogists, has dismissed the claims that George IV was the father of Ord, Hervey, Hampshire and Candy as fictitious.
  • 1795
    The Prince of Wales's debts continued to climb, and his father refused to aid him unless he married his cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick. In 1795, the Prince acquiesced; and they were married on 8 April 1795 at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace.
    More Details Hide Details The marriage, however, was disastrous; each party was unsuited to the other.
  • 1787
    The Prince was plunged into debt by his exorbitant lifestyle. His father refused to assist him, forcing him to quit Carlton House and live at Fitzherbert's residence. In 1787, the Prince's political allies proposed to relieve his debts with a parliamentary grant.
    More Details Hide Details The Prince's relationship with Fitzherbert was suspected, and revelation of the illegal marriage would have scandalised the nation and doomed any parliamentary proposal to aid him. Acting on the Prince's authority, the Whig leader Charles James Fox declared that the story was a calumny. Fitzherbert was not pleased with the public denial of the marriage in such vehement terms and contemplated severing her ties to the Prince. He appeased her by asking another Whig, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to restate Fox's forceful declaration in more careful words. In the summer of 1788 the King's mental health deteriorated, possibly as the result of the hereditary disease porphyria. He was nonetheless able to discharge some of his duties and to declare Parliament prorogued from 25 September to 20 November. During the prorogation he became deranged, posing a threat to his own life, and when Parliament reconvened in November the King could not deliver the customary speech from the throne during the State Opening of Parliament. Parliament found itself in an untenable position: according to long-established law it could not proceed to any business until the delivery of the King's Speech at a State Opening.
  • 1772
    This was in spite of the Act of Settlement 1701, which barred the spouse of a Catholic from succeeding to the throne, and the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which prohibited his marriage without the King's consent, which would never have been granted. Nevertheless, the couple went through a marriage ceremony on 15 December 1785 at her house in Park Street, Mayfair.
    More Details Hide Details Legally the union was void, as the King's consent was not granted (and never even requested). However, Fitzherbert believed that she was the Prince's canonical and true wife, holding the law of the Church to be superior to the law of the State. For political reasons, the union remained secret and Fitzherbert promised not to reveal it.
  • 1762
    Born on August 12, 1762.
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