On this day in 1762 George IV of the United Kingdom was born.
George IV was king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and king of Hanover following 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 final mental illness.
George IV led an extravagant lifestyle that contributed to the fashions of the Regency era. He was a patron of new forms of leisure, style and taste. He commissioned John Nash to build the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and remodel Buckingham Palace, and Sir Jeffry Wyattville to rebuild Windsor Castle. He was instrumental in the foundation of the National Gallery and King’s College London.
He had a poor relationship with both his father and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, whom he even forbade to attend his coronation. He introduced the unpopular Pains and Penalties Bill in a desperate, unsuccessful attempt to divorce his wife.
For most of George’s regency and reign, Lord Liverpool controlled the government as Prime Minister. George’s governments, with little help from the King, presided over victory in the Napoleonic Wars, negotiated the peace settlement, and attempted to deal with the social and economic malaise that followed. He had to accept George Canning as foreign minister and later prime minister, and drop his opposition to Catholic emancipation.
His charm and culture earned him the title “the first gentleman of England”, but his bad relations with his father and wife, and his dissolute way of life, earned him the contempt of the people and dimmed the prestige of the monarchy.
Taxpayers were angry at his wasteful spending in time of war. He did not provide national leadership in time of crisis, nor act as a role model for his people. His ministers found his behaviour selfish, unreliable and irresponsible. At all times he was much under the influence of favourites.