Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/George IV
GEORGE IV (1762–1830), king of England, eldest son of George III and of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, was born at St. James's Palace about half-past seven on the morning of 12 Aug. 1762. On the 17th he was created by patent Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, and on 8 Sept. was baptised by Archbishop Secker under the names of George Augustus Frederick, his sponsors being the Dukes of Cumberland and Mecklenburg-Strelitz and the Princess Dowager of Wales. He was inoculated and handed over to the care of a retinue of nurses, under the control of Lady Charlotte Finch. On 26 Dec. 1765 he was created a knight of the Garter, and was presented to the public in October 1769 at a drawing-room formally held in his name. In the main, however, he was brought up along with his brother, Frederick Augustus [q. v.] duke of York, with strict and almost excessive plainness and seclusion, at the Bower Lodge at Kew. In 1771 his regular education began under Markham, bishop of Chester, Dr. Cyril Jackson, a Swiss gentleman, M. de Sulzas, and Lord Holdernesse. In 1776 these tutors were replaced by Hurd, bishop of Lichfield, Mr. Arnold, and Lord Bruce, and the latter was soon succeeded by the Duke of Montague. The prince's education was extensive, and included classics, modern languages, elocution, drawing, and husbandry.
He learnt readily, and showed some taste for Tacitus, but he soon displayed a troublesome disposition. He was headstrong with his tutors and disrespectful to the king. He was addicted to lying, tippling, and low company.
As he approached his nineteenth birthday he pressed his father for a commission in the army and greater personal liberty, but the king refused the request. In 1780, however, he was provided with a small separate establishment in a portion of Buckingham House; the arrangement took effect on 1 Jan. 1781, and he was forthwith launched upon the town. He immediately became closely attached to Fox and the whigs, and though Fox advised him not to identify himself with any political party (Diary of Lord Malmesbury, ii. 75), his partisanship was undisguised, and at times indecent (Walpole, Last Journals, ii. 599, 600). He was at this time stout, of a florid complexion, with gracious and engaging manners, considerable social facility, and some accomplishments. He sang agreeably, played on the violoncello, dressed extravagantly, quoted poetry, and conversed in French and Italian. He fell under the influence of the Duke of Cumberlandand the Duede Chartres; he gamed and drank, and was so extravagant that he spent 10,000l. on his clothes in a year. In 1780 he became involved in an intrigue with Mary Robinson, a beautiful actress, by whose performance of Perdita at Drury Lane he was captivated. He provided for her a splendid establishment, and when after two years the connection terminated, she obtained from him his bond for 20,000l., which she afterwards surrendered. He left her to want in her latter days (see Mary Robinson, Memoirs of Perdita). When the Rockingham ministry came in, he shared the triumph of Fox and the enmity of the king. In June 1783 it became necessary to consider his future allowance. The ministry proposed 100,000l. a year, charged on the civil list. The king thought this an extravagant sum, and offered to provide 50,000l. a year himself. After a ministerial crisis upon the question, it was ultimately decided that the prince, now harassed with debts, should receive from parliament a vote of 30,000l. to liquidate them, and 50,000l. a year from the king. To this the duchy of Cornwall added 13,000l. per annum. He came of age in August, established himself at Carlton House, and took his seat in the House of Lords on 11 Nov. 1783.
The prince's first vote in parliament was given for Fox in one of the India Bill divisions on 15 Dec., and he assisted Fox in his Westminster election. Fox had fallen (18 Dec.), and the prince shared his unpopularity. For some time he lived in the closest alliance with the whig leaders, and sought amusement in an endless round of routs and masquerades, boxing matches, horse races, and drinking bouts. He lavished vast sums on alterations and decorations at Carlton House. He spent 30,000l. a year on his stud. By the end of 1784 he was 160,000l. in debt. He appealed to the king for aid, and talked of living incognito on the continent in order to retrench. The king refused either to help him or to allow him to travel. With every month he became more and more embarrassed. In 1786 he opened negotiations with the ministry for a parliamentary vote of 250,000l. He endeavoured to put pressure on the king by proposing to devote 40,000l. a year, two-thirds of his income, to paying his debts; broke up his establishment, shut up part of Carlton House, and sold his horses and carriages at auction. He lived in borrowed houses, travelled in borrowed chaises, and squandered borrowed guineas. At length a meeting of his friends was held at Pelham's house, and early in 1787 it was decided to appeal to parliament, and accordingly Alderman Newenham, member for the city of London, gave notice of a motion on the subject for 4 May.
The prince's friends were embarrassed by the allegation that, in breach of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772, he was secretly married without the king's consent, and to a Roman catholic. In 1784 he had become acquainted at Richmond with the widow of Mr. Fitzherbert of Swinnerton, Staffordshire [see Fitzherbert, Maria Anne], then a beautiful and accomplished woman of eight-and-twenty. He fell violently in love with her. She resisted his importunities. To work upon her feelings he stabbed himself so as to draw abundance of blood without risking his life, and sent complaisant friends to bring her to see him in this state of despair. She withdrew to Holland, where he persecuted her with endless couriers and correspondence. His ardour passed all bounds. He would go to Fox's mistress, Mrs. Armstead, to tell her of his love, cry by the hour, beat his brow, tear his hair, roll on the floor, and fall into fits of hysterics (see for his use of phlebotomy on these occasions, Holland's Memoirs of the Whig Party, ii. 68). At length in December 1785 Mrs. Fitzherbert was prevailed upon to return, on condition that a formal ceremony of marriage should be gone through. Fox, suspecting what was intended, wrote to the prince advising him to have nothing to do with a marriage. The prince replied that he was not going to marry, but on 21 Dec. he secretly went through the ceremony of marriage, by a clergyman of the church of England, with Mrs. Fitzherbert in her drawing-room in Park Lane, in the presence of her brother, John Smythe, and her uncle, Henry Errington. They thenceforth lived together openly, and in the society of his friends, male and female, she was treated with the respect due to his wife. The rumour of this union seriously endangered his chance of obtaining parliamentary assistance in 1787. The leading whigs, headed by the Duke of Portland, had declined to injure their party by espousing his cause. At the meeting at Pelham's the prince denied that he was married to Mrs. Fitzherbert, but Fox alone was eager to support him. Newenham's notice of motion was at once followed by dark hints from Rolle, M.P. for Devonshire, of an inquiry into the supposed marriage. On 30 April Fox, authorised and instructed by the prince, rose to deny that any marriage had been entered into, or form of marriage gone through. To the prince the announcement was of inestimable value ; it encouraged his friends, and disarmed his enemies ; but having obtained his end by throwing over Mrs. Fitzherbert, he found it necessary to pacify Mrs. Fitzherbert by throwing over Fox. Next day he owned to Grey that a ceremony had been gone through, and asked him to say something in the House of Commons to modify what Fox had said, but Grey haughtily declined (Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, ii. 139; Russell, Memorials of Fox, ii. 289). He told Mrs. Fitzherbert that Fox had 'exceeded his instructions.' Fox found his mouth closed. To vindicate himself was to charge the prince with lying, and for a whole year he refused to speak to him. Mrs. Fitzherbert had to console herself for her husband's slight with the increased respect which she received from the Duchesses of Portland and Devonshire, and all the leaders of whig society. Pitt now saw that no ground remained for refusing assistance which could creditably be brought forward. On 21 May a royal message was brought down, recommending an increase in the prince's income, and promising 10,000l. a year from the civil list; 161,000l. was voted to pay the debts, which amounted to that sum, and 20,000/. for the completion of Carlton House. The prince promised to be more careful in future.
The reconciliation which followed with the king was short-lived. In August the Duke of York returned from abroad, and the prince, in his company and that of Fox, Sheridan, Brummell, and Lord Rawdon,soon fell into new extravagance. Resenting the exclusion from Brooks's of his henchmen, Payne and Tarleton, he founded a new club under the management of his German cook, Weltjie, where boundless drinking and gaming went on. Here, when he was sober enough to play at all, he lost thousands of pounds a night. His I O U's became a speculative security among usurers. To add to these follies, he began in 1784 to build his costly absurdity, the Brighton Pavilion, decorated in the oriental, especially the Chinese, style. He had taken a fancy to Brighton since his first visit in 1782, and soon made it equally fashionable and dissolute. It was from Brighton that he was summoned post haste to Windsor in November 1788 by the news of the king's insanity.
The king's madness was in part brought on by distress at the prince's irregularities. On catching sight of his son, the unhappy father flew at him, clutched him by the collar, and threw him against the wall. The prince was overcome, and could only shed tears. Next day, however, he recovered himself, and assumed the direction of affairs in the castle. It was thought the king would die, and already Thurlow, the chancellor, began to ingratiate himself with the prince. The prince accepted his overtures, but also made overtures of his own through Payne to Lord Loughborough. Soon, however, it became plain that a regency would have to be provided for, and a warfare of intrigue between the prince and the queen, the whigs and the Pittites, began, first for the regency, and then for the custody of the king's person. Finding that the ministry proposed to fetter the regent with many restrictions to be imposed by parliament, the whigs put forward on behalf of the prince a claim to an indefeasible title in right of his birth to a regency without any restrictions at all. On Lord Loughborough's advice a plan was prepared by which the prince was to assume power and summon parliament by a sort of coup d'état. When parliament met on 20 Nov. 1788, the day to which it had been prorogued, an adjournment took place for a fortnight. The arrival of Fox from the continent gave greater consistency to the policy of the whigs, and on his advice the prince became reconciled to the Duke of Portland. By 29 Nov. matters had so far progressed that Loughborough was prevailed upon to waive his claims to the great seal in favour of Thurlow, and the prince was in a fair way to have his new ministry settled. Parliament met on 4 Dec., and a series of debates followed, in which Pitt easily exposed the inconsistency and unconstitutionally of the whig theory of the prince's right to the regency. The prince wrote to the chancellor complaining of Pitt for want of respect to him in general, and in particular for settling his proposals for the regency without any communication to himself. On 16 Dec. Pitt introduced his three resolutions as a preliminary to bills to provide for the exercise of the powers of the crown. Though the prince had openly canvassed for votes against them, the second was carried by 288 to 204, and the others were passed also. They were carried in the House of Lords by 99 to 66, and a bill was prepared. Meantime the dissensions between the queen and the prince had grown very grave. He was charged with exhibiting his mad father to visitors in the most unfeeling manner, and with insulting the queen by sealing up the king's papers and jewels which had been left at Windsor on his removal to Kew. The prince retaliated with bitter complaints of the queen, and permitted his henchmen to speak of her in his presence in a ribald manner. On 30 Dec. Pitt communicated to him the heads of the bill: the queen was to have the custody of the king and the control of his household, and although the prince, as regent, was to exercise the royal powers generally, he was not to create peerages, except in the case of his brothers as they came of age, or to convey away the king's real or personal property, or to grant pensions or offices, except during pleasure. The prince, having consulted Burke and Fox, replied on 2 Jan. 1789 in a letter, which was also revised by Loughborough and Sheridan, complaining of the restrictions as a plan for dividing the royal family, and for dislocating all the royal powers. On 16 Jan. Pitt's proposals were brought forward in the form of resolutions, and these having been passed by both houses the bill was introduced. It passed the commons on 12 Feb., and reached the lords, but in the beginning of February the king's health had begun to improve, and the progress of the bill was now suspended. Meantime the Irish parliament, on Grattan's motion on 11 Feb., had agreed to an address to the prince praying him to assume the royal powers unrestricted, and despatched a deputation of six members to London to offer him the regency in Ireland entirely unfettered. It arrived on 25 Feb., only to find the king all but restored to health. By the end of the month the king was tolerably sane again. The prince, suspecting that his recovery was exaggerated, desired to see him; but the queen, in spite of long written remonstrances, excluded him from the king's presence, so that the meeting did not take place till 23 Feb. The conversation at this interview was guarded and general, and the king suffered no relapse; but the queen contrived to prevent further interviews, and on 7 March the king was induced practically to decline to see his son. On 23 April, when the king returned thanks at St. Paul's for his recovery, the prince attended the service, but his indecorous levity on the occa- sion was much remarked. He also addressed to the king in writing long remonstrances against the animosity shown by the queen in the affair of Colonel Lenox's duel with the Duke of York, and a memorial explanatory of his conduct during the king's insanity, but the father and son continued to be estranged.
By 1789 the prince was again almost as deeply in debt as ever. More than double the amount granted by parliament had been spent upon Carlton House. His creditors were clamorous and dunned him in the streets. During the king's illness he and his brother, the Duke of York, with the assistance of Weltjie, the cook, had begun raising money abroad upon their joint post-obits, conditioned for payment when either should ascend the throne. Some 30,000l. was obtained in this way upon most usurious terms, but with the king's recovery these bonds lost their attraction to speculators. The prince had also, in 1788, endeavoured to raise 350,000l. in Holland upon the security of the bishopric of Osnaburg. It was brought out as a formal loan; Thomas Hammersley, a banker of Pall Mall, was to receive subscriptions and pay dividends. The loan was taken up abroad, and large sums were obtained in this way through persons named Boas, De Beaume, and Vaucher. Interest at six per cent, was paid till 1792, but when the bonds at maturity were presented for payment the prince's agents repudiated their liability. Importunate claimants were expelled the kingdom under the Alien Act. The affair began to wear the aspect of a deliberate fraud. Mrs. Fitzherbert, too, had brought her jointure into the common stock of her own and the prince's funds, and was soon almost penniless. To pay the bailiffs out of her house, the prince pawned his diamonds. Yet mere want of money was not allowed to interfere with his numerous amusements. Faro at Mrs. Hobart's, cricket at Brighton, private theatricals at Richmond House, and masked balls at Wargrave engrossed his attention. He became an ardent patron of the turf till an imputation of swindling fell at least upon his jockey, and drove him from it in dudgeon. In 1788 he won the Derby, and in the four years following took 185 prizes. His jockey, Sam Chifney [q. v.], was suspected of spoiling the prince's horse, Escape, for his first race at Newmarket on 20 Oct. 1791, in order to affect the betting upon the next day's race, which the horse was allowed to win. The Jockey Club censured Chifney, and sent Sir Charles Bunbury to warn the prince that if he suffered Chifney to ride for him no gentleman's horse would start against him. The prince took deep offence. He never revisited Newmarket, but hs continued racing for at least twenty years longer. He bought seven horses one after another in hopes of winning the Ascot Cup, and even so late as 1829 attended the Ascot meeting (see Greville Memoirs, 1st ser.) After 1792 he retired into the country, and for some time lived principally at Bagshot Park, at Kempshott Park, near Basingstoke, and at Critchill House in Dorsetshire.
At last he became so involved that for the sake of an increase of income he consented to a marriage as the only condition upon which the king could be induced to assist him. In June 1793 he employed Lord Malmesbury to arrange his affairs for him. He owed 370,000l., and had executions in his house. He talked of going abroad; he sold five hundred horses and shut up Carlton House; he proposed to live in the country and devote three-fourths of his income to the payment of his debts. By August 1794 matters had proceeded so far that he had promised the king to give up Mrs. Fitzherbert and to marry the Princess of Brunswick. A reconciliation was all the more easy because, since the disunion among the leading whigs in 1792, the prince had nearly severed himself from his old friends. In November Lord Malmesbury was despatched to the court of Brunswick with a formal proposal for the princess's hand, and the prince, though he had then only seen her portrait, displayed in his correspondence with the emissary the impatience and ardour of a lover. None the less he was at the same time wholly under the influence of Lady Jersey, whose husband he appointed his master of the horse, and this person after the wedding was thrust upon the princess as her principal lady in waiting. When the Princess Caroline [q. v.] arrived at St. James's on 5 April 1795, she and the prince met for the first time, and he found the shock of his emotions upon that occasion so severe that, having kissed her in silence, he was obliged to drink a dram of brandy in a corner of the room. The ceremony of marriage took place on the evening of 8 April at the Chapel Royal, St. James's, and the prince was only brought through it with decorum by the prompting of his father, who was more familiar than he was with the prayer-book. Long afterwards the princess accused him of having been dead drunk most of the wedding night (Diary of the Times of George IV}. The honeymoon was spent partly at Windsor, partly at Kempshott, but very shortly a quasi-separation took place between the prince and his wife. The marriage had been entirely without affection on either side, and he treated her without respect or even decorum. On 27 April his pecuniary position came before parliament and was debated in May . His total income was then about 73,000l. His debts since the last grant amounted to 639,890l., 500,000l. being on bonds or I O U's bearing interest. Pitt proposed to give the prince a total income of about 140,000l., with 28,000l. down for jewels and 26,000l. for Carlton House. His debts were to be liquidated by setting aside 25,000l. per annum. Even the whigs were no longer close allies of the prince, and, to his lasting displeasure, Grey moved to limit the parliamentary income to 100,000l., and Fox doubted whether it was wise after the pledges of 1787 again to apply to parliament for aid. It was said on the prince's behalf that he had never received the arrears of revenue of his duchy of Cornwall, which had accumulated during his minority to the enormous amount of 233,764l., exclusive of interest; the whole of it had been retained by the king. Pitt's proposals eventually passed the House of Commons by 93 to 68, and received the royal assent on 26 June; and a commission, consisting of the speaker, the chancellor of the exchequer, the master of the rolls, the master of the king's household, the accountant of the court of chancery, and the surveyor of the crown lands for the time being respectively, was appointed to investigate and compromise his creditors' claims. This produced much dissatisfaction, and one creditor, Jeffreys, a jeweller, who found himself almost ruined, published a series of pamphlets attacking the prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert.
The prince meantime was occupying himself with public affairs. He was persuaded by Grattan that he ought to be appointed viceroy of Ireland, and he addressed to Pitt two long memorials, dated 8 Feb. and 29 Aug. 1797, urging his claims to that post, but Pitt declined so much as to bring the subject before the king. Subsequently, in June 1798, the prince was prevailed upon to exert himself actively to obtain a pardon or commutation of sentence for Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Moore, Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 1875, p. 203), and in the same year he again applied to the king to be sent abroad on active service with his regiment, the 10th light dragoons, of which he had been appointed colonel in 1793; his request was refused on the ground that 'military command was incompatible with the situation of the Prince of Wales.'
Meantime the Princess of Wales had been delivered of a daughter on 7 Jan. 1796. As soon as the princess recovered, a final separation took place. On 30 April, after some negotiation through Lord Cholmondeley, he wrote to her a coldly insulting letter, dated 30 April 1796, renouncing further cohabitation. The princess continued for some time to have rooms reserved for her at Carlton House, while the prince lived principally at Windsor and at Brighton. After the princess had removed to Blackheath he returned to Carlton House, and presently resumed his intimacy with Mrs. Fitzherbert.
For some time the prince concerned himself but little with public affairs. He amused himself with letters and with art. He inspected Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries, and was disposed to believe them genuine; he despatched the Rev. John Hayter to Naples to unroll papyri, at great expense and with no result; he practised music and played at faro. In 1801 he again was brought into political prominence. Under the influence of Lord Moira [see Rawdon, Francis, 1754-1826] he for the time being entertained opinions favourable to catholic emancipation. Accordingly, when the king became temporarily insane in February, the prince on 23 Feb. willingly made overtures to Pitt. Pitt insisted that if a regency should be found necessary it must be on the terms of the bill of 1789. The prince acquiesced and was in high spirits. The king, however, recovered early in March, and, in spite of a relapse a few weeks later, was able to continue to occupy the throne much as before.
After the peace of Amiens the question of the heavy arrears of the civil list came before parliament, and advantage was taken of the opportunity by the prince's friends to press his claims to the proceeds of the duchy of Cornwall during his minority. Addington desired to get rid of this inconvenient claim by a compromise, and proposed a grant of 60,000l. to the prince for three years from the previous January; this was in addition to the augmented grant of 1795 and to a further augmentation of 8,000l. a year which had been arranged by Addington in 1801; and, in spite of the fact that, as Pitt wrote to Rose on 8 March, 'these debts have been contracted in the teeth of the last act of parliament, and in breach of repeated and positive promises,' the further arrangement was carried out in February 1803. Having found Addington complaisant in money matters, the prince renewed his claim to military rank and employment. He addressed himself first to the minister on 18 July 1803, and subsequently a long correspondence took place with the king. The king, however, was resolute. He met his son's impassioned prayer to be allowed 'to shed the last drop of my blood in support of your majesty's person, crown, and dignity' with the cool reminder that 'should the implacable enemy so far succeed as to land, you will have an opportunity of showing your zeal at the head of your regiment; 'nor could the prince enlist the assistance of the commander-in-chief, his brother the Duke of York. The publication of some correspondence on this subject with the prince's connivance still further embittered his relations with the king.
All through 1804 the king's health was again uncertain, and a regency appeared to be imminent. Addington, on the pretence of saving the king trouble, proposed that a council of regency should be named, of which the prince should be a member. The prince accordingly endeavoured to balance himself dexterously between the ministry and the opposition, depending on the advice of his favourite, the Earl of Moira, and communicating through Sheridan with Addington. Though he still occasionally communicated with Fox, all intimacy had ceased between them. Yet, little as he had maintained his old relations with the whig leaders, when Erskine consulted him as to the acceptance of the proffered attorney-generalship, he expressed his astonishment that such a suggestion should have been brought before him. At the same time, on his own behalf he was willing to approach Pitt, and sent Moira to the lord advocate in March 1804 with a message, intended for Pitt, saying that he had informed Fox and Grey that he would not consult them in the event of a regency, but would leave himself in Moira's hands, and suggesting a union of Fox and Pitt under Moira's moderating leadership. Pitt declined to commit himself, and when he returned to office the prince found that his elaborate strategy had failed (Russell, Memorials of Fox, iv. 63; Stanhope, Pitt, iv. 137; Moore, Sheridan, ii. 321-6).
During the next three years the prince's relations with his wife and daughter grew more critical. The king, who always remained friendly to his daughter-in-law and devoted to his grandchild, was desirous of providing satisfactorily for the Princess Charlotte's education. Owing to recent events, the prince had been studiously uncivil to his father. He had absented himself from the birthday drawing-room on 4 June, though he knew that the king especially desired the attendance of all his family on that day; and to show that his absence was not due to indisposition he ostentatiously showed himself in the streets all day. However, in the summer of 1804 negotiations for a reconciliation were begun by Pitt and Eldon on the king's part, and Moira and Tierney on the prince's. As a first step, an interview between the king and the princo was arranged on 12 Nov., and they became, outwardly at least, reconciled, though the prince's ill-humour was so visible that it was not thought the reconciliation could be lasting (Buckingham, Courts and Cabinets of George III, p. 366). Moira saw Pitt on behalf of the prince, and the king and his minister understood the prince to consent to provision being made by the king for the Princess Charlotte's education at Windsor. The prince, however, declared that he had given no such consent. Negotiations were resumed in December between the lord chancellor, acting for the king, and the prince; and at the end of the year it was arranged toplace the princess under the care of Lady de Clifford and the Bishop of Exeter. Deprived of his own child, the prince interested himself in a protegee of Mrs. Fitzherbert's, Miss Mary Seymour, daughter of Lady Horace Seymour, even canvassing the House of Lords for votes when the chancery suit about the guardianship of the child came before that tribunal. He was successful in procuring a decision that the child should be placed under care of Lord Hertford, who transferred her to Mrs. Fitzherbert. It was in the course of this suit that the prince became intimately acquainted with Lady Hertford, who ultimately supplanted Mrs. Fitzherbert in his affections.
In November 1805 the Duke of Sussex took up the scandalous charges which Sir John and Lady Douglas had made against the Princess of Wales, and laid them before the prince. Actuated solely by a sense of duty, the prince consulted Thurlow and Romilly upon them in December. They advised him that the present charges were inadequately supported, and recommended further inquiry. Ultimately a commission was constituted by the king on 29 May 1806 to examine the princess's conduct. During this inquiry the prince seems to have remained passive as soon as he had obtained its institution, but the princess was ultimately exonerated by the commissioners on 14 July.
In the various changes of ministry of 1805 and 1806 the prince played a very subordinate part. He had let it be known on Pitt's return to office that, though still generally favourable to catholic emancipation, he did not wish to press the question forward at present. When Fox succeeded Pitt the prince stood aloof, and although in September, after Fox's death, he wrote effusively about it to Grey, still from this time, thinking himself not sufficiently consulted by the whig leaders, he practically severed himself from that party. In effect all that he really desired was profit for himself and place for his friends, and he saw no great prospect of obtaining either from the whigs. His friends, Moira, Erskine, and Romilly, were provided for in the 'Talents' administration, but he was not favourably disposed to Howick's Army Bill, and when the ministry fell he was gratified at the event, and announced that he had ceased to be a party man. He now extended his long-standing dislike of Grey to Lord Grenville, and when next he appeared prominently before the public was carried by these feelings of personal hostility into an opposition to them both unconstitutional and dangerous. In October 1810 the king again became deranged. The prince at first thought it wise to remain passive. Perceval determined to follow the precedents of Pitt. Parliament met on 1 Nov., and was successively adjourned till 12 Dec. The prince gave out that he would continue the present ministry subject to the admission to it of a friend of his own. Perceval, however, communicated to him on 19 Dec. that the restrictions to be proposed upon the regency were to be as before: restrictions from making peers, from granting offices in reversion or pensions, from dealing with the king's property, and from having the custody of the king's person. The prince replied evasively; but having assembled his brothers prevailed upon them to sign a protest against the restrictions, and the Duke of Sussex spoke against them in the House of Lords on 27 Dec. During the first days of 1811 the ministry met with more than one defeat in parliament, and the prince at once veered towards Lords Grenville and Grey. He consulted them upon the answer which he was to return to the address of the two houses, and they submitted to him a draft of his reply. The prince, however, then privately submitted it to Adam and Sheridan, and, following their counsel, decided to reject it and to prepare another. With this Lord Grey, who disapproved of it altogether, would have nothing to do, and on 11 Jan. he and Grenville addressed a brief note to the prince to the effect that they understood they had been applied to as his public and responsible advisers, expressing their 'deep concern' at his treatment, and declining to be in any way responsible for his letter. Sheridan's own account of the transaction did not get rid of the inference that Grey and Grenville had been both foolishly and uncivilly treated, but rather convicted himself and the prince of duplicity (see Sheridan's 'Letter to Lord Holland,' 15 Jan., in Moore's Sheridan). Amends were eventually made to the two lords, and they undertook the task of considering what administration they could form, stipulating, however, with the prince that he was not to call into council any secret advisers. By 21 Jan. the general outlines of arrangements were settled, but when they came to the distribution of particular offices they found that the prince had already made promises of the chancellorship to Erskine, the Irish secretaryship to Sheridan, and similar dispositions. These they rather unceremoniously overrode. But at this point, about the end of the month, the king seemed in a fair way of recovery, and the prince oscillated again towards his father's ministers. He consulted his friends Lady Hertford and Mrs. Fitzherbert, who used their powerful influence with him in favour of Perceval, and through Sir Henry Halford he was in communication with the queen, and through her with the ministers. He yielded at last to these advisers, and on 1 Feb. announced to Lords Grenville and Grey that he should not require their services, and on the 4th to Perceval his intention of continuing his father's servants in office. The disappointment of the whigs was great, but they hoped for future favour when the period of restriction upon the regent's powers should have expired.
The Regency Bill having passed on 5 Feb. 1811, the prince took the oaths as regent, and virtually, though not in form, began his reign. But although, contrary to general expectation (Romilly, Diary, ii. 365; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 492), he had decided not to dismiss the ministry, he took care to let them feel that his favour was not to be counted upon. He placed busts of Fox and the Duke of Bedford in the privy council chamber; he communicated with his ministers through his servants, Macmahon and Turner. On 20 Feb. he held his first levee, and he celebrated his accession to power by a costly entertainment of the most tasteless and extravagant kind at Carlton House on 19 June. He made use of this occasion to break with Mrs. Fitzherbert, by refusing her at his table any precedence above that to which her own position entitled her. In his political sympathies he showed a curious vacillation. He sanctioned the suppression of the Irish 'catholic committee' on the one hand, and, on the other, caused a radical address in favour of reform, which had been presented to him, to be printed in the 'Gazette.' He occupied himself with the plans for laying out the Regent's Park and surrounding terraces, and, having returned to Brighton for the recess, amused himself by giving a number of concerts. As, however, the time for the expiry of the restrictions approached, signs appeared of an intention to reconsider the constitution of his ministry. He began about September to cultivate close relations with one member of the cabinet, the Marquis Wel- lesley. That the prince had before him any definite plan would be too much to assume; he wavered in his preferences almost from day to day; but as time went on two facts became apparent: his close reliance on Wellesley, and his personal dislike of Grey and Grenville. Yet his liking for Eldon and his objection to the catholic claims were a barrier to complete confidence in Wellesley, and public opinion was steadily growing in favour of some combination which would restore the whig leaders to the service of their country. The prince's principal interest in the arrangements seems to have been to secure the best terms that he could for himself. To his indignation Perceval had withdrawn from his original proposal of 150,000l. to defray the extra expenses of the regency, and had reduced it to 100,000l. The prince employed Wellesley to urge upon the cabinet that the king should have a suitable but modest establishment, the queen and princesses separate allowances, and that he should himself take over the entire civil list and state of the sovereign. To this Perceval would not consent (see Life of Perceval, ii. 227; Wellington's Supplementary Despatches, iii. 257; M'Cullagh Torrens, Marquis Wellesley, p. 465).
When parliament met on 7 Jan. 1812 the public mind was in an excited condition. The catholic question was brought forward by the opposition, and this was inconvenient alike to the prince and his ministers; it produced a division between Wellesley and the rest of the cabinet, and placed the prince, who had on many occasions expressed his agreement with the catholic claims, in the difficult position of having to choose between his preferences and his consistency. To add to his troubles he was out of health. He had become very fat; he suffered from symptoms in the head that seemed to threaten paralysis; and in the previous November, while teaching his daughter the highland fling at the Duchess of York's ball at Oatlands, he had struck against a sofa and severely sprained his ankle and broken two tendons. He bore his pain with little fortitude, refusing to attend to business, and resorting to laudanum every three hours to such an extent that he took as much as seven hundred drops a day. Naturally, therefore, in January 1812 he was in a state of body highly disordered. With some dexterity, however, he induced the cabinet to agree to treat the catholic question as an open one. The defeat of the catholics being thus assured, the Marquis Wellesley resigned on 17 Jan. The prince now had to consider how to deal with Lords Grenville and Grey, and he appears to have conceived an adroit plan to fulfil popular expectations by inviting them to enter his service, and yet so to frame the invitation that they must necessarily refuse it on grounds which would appear punctilious and unaccommodating. He addressed a letter to his brother the Duke of York, dated 13 Feb. 1812, intended to be communicated to the two lords, in which he expressed the gratification he should feel 'if some of those persons with whom the early habits of my public life were formed would strengthen my hands and constitute a part of my government.' The two lords wrote to the duke two days later to say that on grounds of 'honour and duty' they were unable to unite with the present government. They insisted upon a total change in the system of administration and upon concession to the catholic claims. For the present Perceval and his colleagues remained undisturbed, as indeed, secure in the support of the Marchioness of Hertford, they had all along felt certain of being. But the regent was very unpopular. As he went in state on 23 Feb. to the Chapel Royal, his first appearance as sovereign, 'not a huzza was heard, not a hat was raised.' The ministerial negotiations were brought before the House of Lords on 19 March, and Lord Grey openly accused the prince of having broken express promises made to the catholics, and of being dominated by the influence of his favourite. Among other lampoons upon him was the attack in the 'Examiner,' describing him as a 'libertine' and a 'corpulent gentleman of fifty,' for which the Hunts were indicted and imprisoned. But unexpectedly the whole imbroglio was revived after the lapse of only a few weeks by the assassination of Perceval on 11 May 1812.
Personally the prince was anxious to retain in office a ministry which would follow the lines of Perceval's policy, and he asked the cabinet whether they would be willing to go on under a prime minister whom he would choose from among them. They returned a doubtful assent, and wished overtures to be made either to Wellesley and Canning or to Grenville and Grey. On 17 May Lord Liverpool opened communications with Canning. But on the 21st the prince's hand was forced. Matters being still unsettled, Stuart Wortley moved an address to the prince regent praying him to cause a firmer administration to be formed, and carried it against ministers by a majority of four. It was presented to the prince next day by Lord Milton and Stuart Wortley, and the ministry resigned. They remained, however, during the ensuing crisis in temporary discharge of their duties, and were in so little doubt that with the assistance of the Hertford influence they would retain their places, that Eldon did not trouble himself to pronounce judgment in a single one of the many cases pending before him. The prince sent for Lord Wellesley, who, though he had thought himself betrayed in January, now proposed to form an administration upon the basis of catholic emancipation and the vigorous prosecution of the Peninsular war. After some negotiations with the whigs, on 23 May, which were met by Grenville's well-founded doubt of the prince's sincerity, the prince, on 25 May, gave Wellesley full liberty in forming an administration. Although he had vacillated upon Grattan's motion in favour of emancipation earlier in the year, at one time desiring his friends to oppose it, at another to support it, he now promised the marquis his full support on the catholic question, but bitterly opposed the inclusion of any of the opposition in the ministry. As a body he said he would rather abdicate the regency than come in contact with them, and, when Wellesley pointed out to him that no ministry founded on a principle of exclusion could be honourable or permanent, the conflict between his antipathy to Grey and the necessity in which his situation placed him was so acute that for the time being he became almost deranged with irritation (see Buckingham, Courts and Cabinets of the Regency). Wellesley's efforts failing, the prince had recourse on 27 May to Moira, who endeavoured to reconcile the regent to Grey by sending the Duke of York on 31 May to remonstrate with his brother. The result merely was that the prince quarrelled with the duke. What rankled in his mind was Grey's phrase used in the House of Lords on 19 May, that there was ‘an unseen and pestilent secret influence behind the throne, which it would be the duty of parliament to brand with some signal mark of condemnation.’ On 1 June he again had recourse to Wellesley, who came to Grey authorised to form an administration in conjunction with him. But Grey found that it was already settled with the prince that Moira, Erskine, and Canning were to be in the cabinet, and that only four places were to be open to the nominees of himself and Grenville. He refused to negotiate on the principle of disunion and jealousy and the supposed balance of contending interests, and on 3 June Wellesley announced to the House of Lords that, owing to the ‘dreadful animosities’ with which he met, he had failed to form any administration.
Though not very openly talked of, the last remaining point upon which the prince would not give way was the household, where Lady Hertford's son, Lord Yarmouth, held high office. Grey and Grenville required that the household should go out with the other ministers. The regent now began to be frightened. He invested Moira with authority to form a government. Moira asked if this included the filling up of the household, and although the prince consented, Moira, for some inexplicable reason, undertook that the existing household should not be dismissed. Accordingly he found, on again applying to Grey and Grenville, that he had effectually prevented the success of his attempts, and after three weeks of negotiations the crisis came to an end by Lord Liverpool becoming first lord of the treasury on 9 June 1812.
The prince next came into conflict with his wife and with the Princess Charlotte, who showed herself warmly attached to her mother's cause. At the beginning of 1813 she intimated to her father that she would no longer submit to be under governesses; but under the pressure which, with the assistance of Eldon, he put upon her, she gave way. The prince, always jealous of his wife, conceived that she had incited the Princess Charlotte to this resistance, and brought the intercourse of mother and child before the privy council, which decided that the restrictions upon it ought to continue as before. Upon the pretext that the Princess of Wales had caused the publication in the ‘Morning Chronicle’ on 10 Feb. of the letter she had addressed to George on 14 Jan.—a letter of strong remonstrance composed by Brougham—the prince refused to allow her to see her daughter. Later on he made a pretext of himself requiring Kensington Palace, in order to deprive his wife of her residence there. To relieve himself of the embarrassment of managing the Princess Charlotte, he decided to procure her marriage, and selected the Prince of Orange as her husband, but after a few months the princess's resistance baffled his design. When the exiled king of France came up to London before the restoration in 1814, the prince carefully excluded his wife and daughter from any share in the festivities, and when the allied sovereigns visited England he sent Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt to the czar requesting him not to carry out his intention of visiting the Princess of Wales. The ceremonies attending their reception were entirely after the regent's own heart, and he played his part in the pageants with a satisfaction alloyed only by the marked disfavour with which the public, even at that juncture, received him. When he endeavoured to induce the committee of White's Club to exclude the Princess of Wales from their ball, they took such offence that they abandoned their ball altogether. At length his difficulties cleared away. The Princess Charlotte was allowed to become betrothed to Prince Leopold in January 1816. In the previous August the Princess of Wales had finally left England. The regent, whose excesses had impaired even his constitution, and brought him to the verge of death in September 1816, obtained an opportunity of recruiting his health and his reputation by living a quiet life, and attracting as little public attention as possible.
Unfortunately, he continued to come before the public in the most unpopular way. Tierney brought to light the enormous extravagance of his expenditure since he had become regent. The 100,000l. then provided by Perceval as his outfit had been diverted to the payment of pressing debts. 160,000l. had since been lavished on furniture for Carlton House. His silversmith's bill was 130,000l., and, in spite of the scheme for liquidating his debts which had now been many years in operation, they still amounted to 339,000l. It is hardly surprising that after these revelations a populace, impoverished and almost starving after so long a war, wrote ominously upon his walls, 'Bread, or the Regent's head.' He had retired to the less conspicuous publicity of Brighton; but his very unpopularity made residence in London important, and Lord Liverpool strongly insisted upon the inconvenience and even danger of his absence. He appeared in public surrounded by troops, and in vain attempted to elude the hatred of the crowd by stealing across the park to the Chapel Royal in a private carriage. The mob hung hissing upon his carriage-wheels. As he returned from opening parliament in January 1817 they stoned his coach, and were said to have fired on him with air-guns. For his protection the act of 1795, for the security of the king's person, was extended to cover the person of the regent. His unpopularity increased, and his hold on the people diminished, after the death of the Princess Charlotte on 6 Nov. 1817, an event by which he was himself as a father so deeply affected that he sought relief for his feelings by being cupped and bled. He diverted himself by yachting and attending regattas; and as soon as, by his mother's death on 17 Nov. 1818, Buckingham House, the old 'Queen's House,' fell into his hands, he threw himself with ardour into the congenial extravagance of reconstructing it. Nash, the architect, was taken under his patronage, and the quarter of London about the Regent's Park, together with Regent Street, the Quadrant, and Waterloo Place, was erected during the regency with his sanction and encouragement.
George III died on 29 Jan. 1820. The new king nearly died in the hour of his accession to the throne. He had been too ill to attend his father's deathbed, and the inflammation, due to a chill, from which he suffered was, on the night of 1 Feb., so acute that he was in danger of suffocation, and was saved only by a bleeding so severe that it alone almost killed him. No less than 130 oz. of blood was taken from him (Colchester, Diary, iii. 111). On recovering his first step was, on 6 Feb., to consider how to deal with the prayer in the Book of Common Prayer which prays for 'our most Gracious Queen' (Croker Papers). His next was to employ the servant whom he most relied upon, Sir William Knighton, to compromise, buy up, or pay off his outstanding and long-overdue debts, bonds, and notes of hand, and during the next ten years Knighton was constantly and successfully engaged indelicate and secret negotiations with this object. He then pressed his ministry to attack the queen, against whom he had since 1818 been collecting evidence; and now, upon her determination to return to England and assert her claims, he resolved to take steps for a divorce. His ministers were at first loth to assist him, and in a cabinet minute of 10 Feb. 1820 recorded their opinion that the evidence was inadequate. 'The cabinet,' writes Croker, 'offer all but divorce. The king will have divorce or nothing.' As the queen drew nearer to England, George urged Lord Liverpool to endeavour to come to some compromise with Brougham, by which she would be induced to remain on the continent; but the queen reached England in the first days of June. On the 6th the king sent to the House of Lords a message recommending to their attention the evidence which had been collected against her, and the divorce proceedings began. During the remainder of the year, though the king remained inexorably resolved that they should go on to the end, his hand did not openly appear in the matter. The Divorce Bill was a ministerial bill, and the proceedings went on in the House of Lords without the king's intervention. Even after it had been withdrawn he bore himself with outward indifference to its failure.
In the spring of 1821 he was engrossed with the preparations for his coronation, the outlay on which was on the most profuse and elaborate scale. Sheltered by his ministers he was able to refuse the queen's request to be present at the ceremony, and even carried this affectation of indifference so far as to return her letters unopened to Lord Liverpool (1 May 1821), 'in conformity to a resolution adopted more than twenty years ago, and since invariably adhered to by the king, that the king would never again receive or open any letter or paper addressed to him personally by the queen' [see Caroline, Amelia Elizabeth]. The ceremony took place with great pomp, but the expense was so enormous and the exclusion of the public so complete that it produced only unpopularity. The royal robes alone cost 24,000l., the crown 54,000l. The king next made preparations for visiting Ireland, and landed at Howth, from the Lightning packet, on 12 Aug., undeterred by the news of his wife's death (7 Aug.), which he had just received. 'The king was uncommonly well during his passage and gayer than it might be proper to tell,' but in deference to his bereavement he postponed his entry into Dublin until the 17th. He quitted Ireland on 3 Sept., after a series of festivities, to which all parties contributed with enthusiastic loyalty; but the weather was so unfavourable that it was not till the 13th, after considerable peril, that he landed at Milford. He next arranged to visit Hanover. He left England 24 Sept., and, travelling via Calais and Brussels, in about a week reached Osnaburg and Hanover, where he remained till the end of October. It was on this journey that he encountered his old friend Brummell, almost destitute, at Calais, and passed him by without recognition or relief. To complete the tour of his dominions he next visited Scotland, and landed at Leith on 14 Aug. 1822, remaining in Edinburgh till the 29th. Lord Londonderry's death occurred during his absence, and on his return to town he was engaged in the arrangements for a reconstitution of the ministry. He resisted as long as he could the introduction of Canning into the cabinet, but at length he yielded on 8 Sept. When Canning had retired in 1820 the king had parted from him with expressions of goodwill, but subsequently he took offence because Canning's friends in the House of Lords opposed the Divorce Bill, as he supposed at Canning's instigation. Greville also reports that Canning had insisted that the expense of the Milan commission should be defrayed by the king and not by the state (see this exclusion of Canning from office 1820-2, discussed in Stapleton, Correspondence of Canning, vol. i.) For some time after Canning became foreign secretary he found himself thwarted by the king, who derived from some of the other ministers, especially Lord Westmorland, private information and advice, and even communicated directly with the foreign ambassadors. Now, however, and for the remainder of his life, he withdrew himself almost completely from the public view. Except to open and prorogue parliament, he made no public appearance in London after his visit to the two theatres in 1823. He spent his time, attended, without any concealment, by his mistress, Lady Conyngham, at Brighton, and latterly almost entirely at Windsor, where he built a pagoda at Virginia Water and established a menagerie. Signs of dropsy had begun to appear, and, apprehensive of being ridiculed for his unwieldy bulk, he took extraordinary precautions to prevent himself from being seen even while driving in Windsor Park. As the catholic question grew more pressing his opposition to emancipation became more decided, and it was also with great reluctance that he was brought to consent to the recognition of the Spanish-American republics (see Stapleton, Correspondence of Canning). In 1825 it was known that he supported the Duke of York in his almost passionate denunciation of the measures for the relief of the catholics. At the end of the year he came to an understanding with Canning, that his objections to catholic relief were to be respected, and thenceforward their relations became more amicable. Upon the retirement of Lord Liverpool (February 1827) he was at first desirous of keeping Canning out of the first place, making some peer, to be selected by the cabinet, Liverpool's successor, and retaining the existing ministry; but this proving impracticable, and the delay in the formation of a ministry being now serious, he commissioned Canning on 10 April to form a ministry. During this crisis his health was bad, and excitement and indecision rendered it worse. In a long interview with the Duke of Buckingham he explained that his chief anxiety had been to keep together a cabinet which would let the catholic question rest. Next the Duke of Wellington resigned his position of commander-in-chief, and the king was with difficulty convinced that it would be unconstitutional for him to assume the direct command of the army himself. After Canning's death (8 Aug. 1827) all the troubles of the spring began again. Contrary to expectation the king, instead of selecting a 'protestant' premier, commissioned Lord Goderich to form an administration. He was very anxious to have Herries included as chancellor of the exchequer, and after considerable pressure induced him to accept the seals. It was thought that he desired this because Herries was intimate with Knighton, his confidential servant, and was consequently, though wrongly, supposed to be likely to yield to the king's wishes on money matters. During the existence of Lord Goderich's weak ministry in 1827-8 the king assumed considerable freedom in disposing of patronage and appointments without consulting his ministers. By the end of the year 1828 dissensions had broken out in the cabinet, and Lord Goderich resigned. The Duke of Wellington was sent for and formed a strong protestant administration. The only person whom the king had refused to accept as a minister was Grey, but the duke had no difficulty in forming a tory ministry. For twelve months the king enjoyed comparative peace, though it was with reluctance that he accepted the Test and Corporation Acts; but when the ministry was compelled in 1829 to face the necessity for catholic emancipation, he offered a resistance which not even his habitual awe of the firm management of the Duke of Wellington could overcome, and he was all the less fitted for a contest by the fact that he suffered from chronic inflammation of the bladder, and his dropsical and gouty swellings were increasing, both preventing him from taking any wholesome exercise and necessitating the use of large quantities of laudanum. All through the autumn of 1828, in proportion as Peel and Wellington became favourable to emancipation, the king became more suspicious of them and more determined against it. Lord Anglesey's encouragement of the catholic association in December threw him into a fury, and early in January 1829 his agitation was so great that it was thought that the family tendency to insanity might break out in him. He talked freely of laying his head on the block rather than yield. On 26 Jan. the duke went to Windsor with a cabinet minute, stating the intentions of the ministry to introduce a Catholic Relief Bill, and the grounds on which they were acting. This he carefully got signed by his majesty. Thus pinned down, the king assented to the speech with which the session was opened, announcing that the ministry would propose a measure of catholic relief. Soon, however, influenced by the Duke of Cumberland, he began to waver. The Duke of Wellington was obliged to see him again on 26 and 27 Feb., and after an interview of five hours he was again brought to acquiesce in the policy of his ministers. But the defeat of Peel at Oxford revived his hopes. On 1 March he obstinately refused to direct his household to vote for the Relief Bill, and protested he would rather abdicate. A cabinet was then held, and he was reminded that he had signed a memorandum of his adhesion to this policy. On 4 March he sent for the duke, the chancellor, and Peel, and said he must have a clearer explanation of their policy. He was told the oaths of supremacy were to be repealed. He protested he had never understood that, and could never consent to it, and after five hours of discussion the resignation of his ministers was tendered and accepted. Next day, however, he repented, and wrote to the duke that he would yield, and the ministry was allowed to proceed with its bill. For some time he continued to complain to his visitors of the violence done to his feelings, and the injudicious provision which compelled O'Connell to undergo a second election in Clare was inserted to gratify his resentment; but his resistance to his ministers, except in a few matters of patronage, and indeed his political activity of any kind, was now at an end. His health began clearly to fail. No one but Knighton could induce him even to sign the necessary documents of state. He lay all day in bed and passed his nights in restless wakefulness. He kept his room at a high temperature and drank excessive quantities of cherry brandy. By February of 1830 he had become partially blind, and his singular delusions, such as that he had commanded a division at Waterloo and ridden a winning race at Goodwood, were in high force. On 12 April he drove out for the last time. Those about him knew, though he did not, that he was sinking. In May the Duke of Wellington caused the Bishop of Winchester to attend on him to prepare him. for his end. Though Knighton thought he might rally, Halford and Tierney had given him over. On the 23rd he signed a request to parliament that a stamp might be substituted for the sign-manual. On 8 June the physicians told him that his end was near. He bore the news with fortitude, and in the night of the 25th he suddenly died.
When his affairs came to be looked into, a curious condition of things was revealed. He seemed to have had a mania for misplaced hoarding. All the coats, boots, and pantaloons of fifty years were in his wardrobe, and to the end he carried the catalogue of them all in his head, and could call for any one of them at any moment. He had five hundred pocket-books, and all contained small sums of money laid by and forgotten; 10,000l. in all was thus collected. There were countless bundles of women's love letters, of women's gloves, of locks of women's hair. These were destroyed. In 1823 Lord Eldon had made the king's will, and the executors were Lord Gifford and Sir W. Knighton, but his private effects were of comparatively small value.
The character of George IV was a singular mixture of good talents and mean failings. Undoubtedly he was clever and versatile, and, lazy though he was, he acquired a fair dilettante knowledge of many things. When he chose he could prove himself a capable man of business, nor could a person who associated with all the distinguished men of two generations, and won the regard of not a few of them, have been either without natural merit of his own, or incapable of profiting by their society. He had considerable mimetic talent (see Macvey Napier's Correspondence, p. 276; Campbell, Chief Justices, iii. 245), and could assume a most gracious and winning manner at will, which accounted for, if it did not justify, his title of the 'first gentleman in Europe.' Undoubtedly he was master of that art which is called 'deportment.' 'Louis XIV himself,' says Wraxall, 'could scarcely have surpassed the son of George III in a ballroom, or when doing the honours of his palace, surrounded by the pomp and attributes of luxury and royal state.' But he often chose to be coarse, gross, and rude in his own demeanour, and the tone of manners of which he set the fashion was unrefined and vulgar. His flatterers called him a good musician, but Croker, who knew him well, says in 1822: 'His voice, a bass, is not good, and he does not sing so much from notes as from recollection. He is therefore as a musician very far from good.' In conversation he was very amusing and talkative, and passionately fond of gossip, and what he most sought for in his companions was deference without awe, and a capacity for keeping him amused. But his memory was very inaccurate, and his word wholly untrustworthy. The long statement which he dictated to Croker in 1825 for publication, which is given in the 'Croker Papers,' purported to correct the errors in the account given in Moore's 'Life of Sheridan' of the negotiations for a change of ministry in 1811 and 1812; but as an authority for the events of those years it is not to be relied upon. It is rather a political apology and a statement of the view which he would have desired the world should take of his conduct down to 1812, than a statement of fact. He was extraordinarily dissolute. In addition to his five more or less historic connections with Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Fitzherbert, and Ladies Jersey, Hertford, and Conyngham, Lloyd and Huish, who devote much curious industry to this topic, enumerate eleven other persons by name and two others unnamed who were at one time or other his mistresses, and intimates the existence of very many other more temporary intrigues. Greville, who knew him well, and had no reason to judge him unfairly, says of him: 'This confirms the opinion I have long had, that a more contemptible, cowardly, unfeeling, selfish dog does not exist than this king.' In substance this is likely to be the judgment of posterity. There have been more wicked kings in English history, but none so unredeemed by any signal greatness or virtue. That he was a dissolute and drunken fop, a spendthrift and a gamester, 'a bad son, a bad husband, a bad father, a bad subject, a bad monarch, and a bad friend,' that his word was worthless and his courage doubtful, are facts which cannot be denied, and though there may be exaggerations in the scandals which were current about him, and palliation for his vices in an ill-judged education and overpowering temptations, there was not in his character any of that staple of worth which tempts historians to revise and correct a somewhat too emphatic contemporary condemnation. All that can be said in his favour is this. The fact that his character was one which not even his own partisans could respect or defend caused the personal power of the monarch, which was almost at its highest when he became regent, to dwindle almost to a shadow years before he died.
Three portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence and a marble statue by Chantrey are at Windsor. Portraits by West as a boy (with the Duke of York), and by Owen after Hoppner, are at Hampton Court. An unfinished portrait by Lawrence is in the National Portrait Gallery.[Duke of Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets of George III, the Regency, and George IV, 1853; Lord John Russell's Memorials of Fox, 1862; Lord Holland's Memoirs of the Whig Party, 1854; Moore's Sheridan; Moore's Diary; Memoirs of Lord Malmesbury; Memoirs and Correspondence of Lord Auckland, 1861; Cornwallis Correspondence; Stanhope's Pitt; Life and Letters of Sir Gilbert Elliot, first lord Minto, 1874; Lord Colchester's Diary, 1861; Croker Papers, ed. Jennings; Greville Memoirs, 1st ser.; Twiss's Life of Eldon, 1844; Life of Sir J. Romilly; Lady Bury's Diary of Times of George IV; Cobbett's History of the Regency; Lives of George IV, by G. Croly, P. Fitzgerald, K. Huish, H. L. Lloyd, and Wallace; Langdale's Memoirs of Mrs. Fitzherbert; Jesse's George III; Horace Walpole's Journals and Correspondence; Gronow's Reminiscences; Massey's History of England, 1855, ending in 1802; Thackeray's Four Georges; Mrs. Delany's Autobiography, ed. Lady Llanover, 1861-2; Wraxall's Memoirs, 1864.]