Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/210

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George IV
George
204

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.]

J. A. H.

GEORGE, Prince of Denmark (1653–1708), husband of Queen Anne, second son of Frederick III of Denmark and Sophia Amalia, daughter of George, duke of Brunswick-Liineburg, the grandfather of George I, was born on 23 April 1653 (se Hübner, Doyle dates his birth 21 April). His governor from 1661 to 1665 was Otto Grote, a man of great ability, to whom the house of Hanover afterwards largely owed its new electoral dignity (Vehse, Höfe d. H. Braun-