Because the unfortunate condition of King George III rendered him unable to discharge the duties of a monarch, at the behest of Parliament his eldest son His Royal Highness George Augustus Frederic, the Prince of Wales, took them upon himself. Thereafter, until the time of his royal father's death, he was known as the Prince Regent. After succeeding to the throne in his own right he was known as King George IV
A handsome child, the prince grew into a rather florid and corpulent man. He was quick of apprehension, thoroughly educated and of the most polite and finished manners. His taste in literature perhaps leaned to the frivolous, with novels such as the works of Scott and Miss Austen being among his favourites, but in matters of art and architecture he demonstrated a surer judgment. This enthusiasm however led him into great unpopularity when his expenditure on fine paintings and buildings exceeded even the generous allowance made to him by a country struggling with the expenses of a long and costly war. His quarrels with Parliament on the subject are well known.
It was in the sphere of private life however that the Prince most forfeited the respect of the nation. Always susceptible to the charms of the ladies, he indulged himself too much in their company. His youthful infatuation with an actress, and later his long liaison (and possible clandestine marriage?) with Mrs Fitzherbert, a Papist, do him no credit; but it was his treatment of his lawful wife, the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, which at last alienated the affection of his countrymen. They resented the coldness of his behaviour towards her. The story that on first meeting and saluting his tender bride he showed dismay, and revulsion - even going so far as to turn to an equerry saying "I am not well. Pray get me a glass of brandy" - is perhaps not true. No gentleman would utter such words, and whatever else he may have been, in manners the Prince was always a gentleman. Nevertheless it is true that after the birth of their first (and only) child he treated Princess Caroline with such coolness that she eventually fled abroad and sought solace for a wounded heart among the diversions of Italy and France. There can be little doubt that there, deprived of her husband's guidance and protection, she committed a great many indiscretions: but in general the English were inclined to forgive her for them, for she was popular and her husband was not.
King George IV died in 1830, having suffered from ill-health for many years. He is buried at Windsor.
|Caroline of Brunswick|