King George IV of Great Britain in 5 Minutes

King George IV of Great BritainThe eldest child of George III and his consort Charlotte was named George after his father, and became the fourth king of his name in the Hanoverian dynasty. George Augustus Frederick was born at St. James’ Palace on August 12, 1762 and would be involved in the panic over the continuation of the Hanoverian dynasty.

Here is a short post about him, covering his life and death in 5 minutes.

The Early Life of George Augustus Frederick

As the eldest son of the reigning monarch, George was raised with the expectation of being king. His birth meant he automatically gained the titles of Duke of Rothesay and Cornwall, but just days later he was created the Earl of Chester and the expected Prince of Wales.

Raised to be king, it meant that George learned numerous languages, including German, Italian and French. He was talented in the classroom, but he was also skilled at pulling scandal his way. Unlike his father, he had numerous mistresses and had a habit of drinking heavily. Overspending was also something he happily did, unable to grasp the value of money. At the age of 21, he had a £50,000 a year income and received a grant for £60,000. It was far too much for a man of his age, but too little for the needs he had developed.

It didn’t take long for George to grow tiresome of his father, both having differing views when it came to politics and running the country. George III also wanted to see his son act with more frugality than he showed.

Attempting to Marry a Catholic

George IV met Maria Fitzhebert shortly after his 21st birthday, and he became infatuated by her. Marriage would have been expected, but this was not one that could work out. Not only was Maria a commoner, she was also a Catholic. The Act of Settlement 1701 had barred any Catholic from succeeding to the throne, and this extended to consorts.

The country did have the Royal Marriages Act, which did offer George III some support. It meant his son could not marry without his consent, and he was not about to give it. That didn’t stop George Augustus Frederick from marrying Maria on December 15, 1785. By law, the marriage was invalid, but Maria believed that she had become his wife, because they had consummated it and held the Church above the State. She did, however, promise never to reveal that the marriage had taken place. When George was forced to live with her, his illegal marriage almost came out to the public. To protect the country from scandal, Charles James Fox publically denied the marriage happened. Maria was not happy, and George spoke to a member of Fox’s party Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to reword Fox’sdeclaration.

George Becomes Prince Regent

When his father’s mental health started suffering, Parliament needed to settle on a regent. While Fox wanted it to be George and said that it was his right as heir to the throne, William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister, said that the Parliament would need to choose a regent as there was no statute in place. The problem was George was the best option, but Pitt made sure there was a formal plan for this regency. In the past, it had been proven that a regency could lead to constant changing of laws to suit the regent’s personal views.

There were worries that George would overspend and need to sell off his father’s property, so that was written into the plan for regency. He was also not allowed to grant a peerage, except to his siblings. George was not happy, but had no choice but to find a compromise with the prime minister.

With the Regency Bill created, after some debate and complications, George would have been made regent. However, George III recovered before anything could happen.

It wouldn’t be the only time George would need to step in for his father, though. In 1810 when Princess Amelia died, George III entered another bout of insanity. The Regency Act 1811 was passed, making it clear that the regent had some restricted powers. These restrictions would expire after a year of the Act being passed.

While acting as regent, George Augustus Frederick allowed his government to handle all affairs. He was not that interested in running the country, making it clear that since the prime minister had been approved by the House of Commons, it should be up to him to make decisions.

There was the expectation that George would support a Whig government, led by William Grenville, but he kept the Tory government in place. His mother Charlotte had encouraged him to do so, saying that it would be too much for his father to deal with and would mean he would not recover. A year later, George did want to make changes because his father failed to recover from his illness. Unfortunately, the Whigs would not work within his wishes, and George kept the Tory government as it was.

Prince George Marries Caroline of Brunswick

Before finally becoming regent, the Prince of Wales continued to get himself into a lot of debt. There was only one way his father would help him, and that would be to marry Caroline of Brunswick. Initially against it, he had no choice but to accept and they were married at St. James’ Palace on April 8, 1795.

The two were definitely not suitable for each other, and separated a year later. They did have one child together, a daughter named Charlotte. Despite being estranged from Maria for periods of time, he did regularly return to her. However, he had a duty as the heir to the throne to raise Princess Charlotte as she would likely take the throne after him. It led to a custody battle, ending with George winning due to extraordinarily indiscreet behavior from Caroline; although she did not have an illegitimate son as George claimed. His daughter would not live to become queen, dying before George became king.

Throughout his marriage, George faced numerous scandals. One of those was from Mary Robinson, an actress and one of his mistresses. She threatened to go to the papers with the story of his affair, but she was paid generously to keep it quiet.

There were rumors that he fathered numerous illegitimate children. While he told a friend he had a son in the Navy, there was never anyone officially named. Many of those brought forward as illegitimate children have been dismissed by researchers.

Prince of Wales Becomes George IV of Great Britain

On January 29, 1820 Britain lost a king. George III died and the Prince of Wales—who was Prince Regent at the time—ascended to the throne. His wife Caroline did come to England for his coronation, despite living in Europe and having an affair with another man, and she did become the queen consort. However, she was never recognized as Queen and she was left out of the Book of Common Prayer.

Really, the king wanted a divorce but his advisors suggested against it. A divorce would mean the country would

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learn of his affairs. Instead, the Pains and Penalties Bill was created. Caroline’s marriage to George was annulled, but the bill was soon withdrawn due to public unpopularity. When it came to his coronation, Caroline was excluded from it. She fell ill that day and died less than a month later, believing that she had been poisoned.

Most of his reign was spent at Windsor Castle in seclusion. He did intervene in politics, and he refused to support the Catholic Emancipation Bill, despite previous showing some support for it in 1797. Due to his oath as king, he said that supporting measures that were pro-Catholic would go against that bill.

George’s reign lasted for 10 and a half years, but it was not all positive. One of the things he did manage was to revive—if not start—the tartan dress that Scotland is known for today. His extravagant lifestyle in his early years would lead to his death. By 1824, his waist was a whopping 50 inches, and he suffered from dropsy, gout and potentially porphyria. He was completely blind due to cataracts for the last two and a half years of his life, and he could no longer sign documents due to the gout in his arm. He also suffered such severe bladder pains that he needed to take laudanum, which left him mentally unstable for days. By the time of his death, he weight 280lbs and it was clear that the end was neigh.

On June 26, 1830, he apparently called out “Good God, what is this?” before clasping the hand of one of his pages. After telling the boy that it was death, he died from bleeding above the gastrointestinal area, due to a stomach blood vessel rupturing. The autopsy also showed his heart had become enlarged over the years.

Image of George IV of Britain in the public domain:

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