William Sterling

George IV

Life and Times of King George IV

George IV is perhaps best remembered as the Prince Regent whose extravagance was matched by his good taste. He built Brighton Pavilion in an exotic style which led the way to great changes in fashion. The Regency Period is still one of the most admired in architecture typified by Nash, furniture and the arts. George was a patron both of the theatre and horse racing and was the butt of some of the wickedest satirical cartoons ever produced. His personal life was fraught with quarrels with his parents who would not allow him to marry the woman he loved. His marriage was a disaster and his beloved daughter met with tragedy. His reign as Regent marked the climax with the war against Napoleon and he counted Wellington among his close companions. In politics, Charles James Fox led a new radical Left whilst on the Right, his first Prime Minister as Regent was assassinated but Robert Peel founded the police force as Home Secretary and among other reforms was the Catholic Emancipation Act. After one of the grandest ever coronations George made the first peaceful visits since union to Edinburgh (co-ordinated by Sir Walter Scott) and Dublin. But his reign was marred by the scandal surrounding his estranged wife. In the world of science and technology the first railways were built in his reign. The course ran in three sessions dividing George IV’s life into three periods and looked at more or less chronologically. In each session his personal life and family were examined as well as the role he played as Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and King as well as looking at the background to his “times”, the social and cultural state of the nation. Themes that came out included the changes in politics with the further development of political parties, foreign affairs such as the wars against Napoleon and the attempts to keep peace after Waterloo, cultural developments especially in architecture, the art of Lawrence and Cruikshank, and the development of the novel by Jane Austen and Scott.

I first ran this workshop at Crayford Manor (Bexley College) in November 2003 as part of a series on the Kings and Queens of England.  I ran a revised version of it at the City Lit on Sunday 24th January 2016. I also ran it online during the pandemic on 6th and 13th June 2021.  The slides from this are at the end.

Chronology spreadsheet

Below is a copy of the spreadsheet I created for the original class showing a year by year chronology of George IV’s life.

George IV chronology

Some music associated with George

Haydn’s Sailor’s song, probably one of those sung by George accompanied by Haydn in 1794-5.  Haydn performed 26 times at Carlton House and was eventually paid £100 when George’s debts were being settled.

Two works by Thomas Attwood whom George sponsored to study in Vienna under Mozart and appointed to his chapel in Brighton on his return and later put in charge of the music for his coronation.

2021 PDF Slides

George IV Slides 2021 1 1762-1783 PDF

These included “If The River’s Swelling Waves” from Thomas Arne’s “Artaxerxes”

Thomas Attwood’s Magnificat

George IV Slides 2021 2 1783-1798 PDF

Music included the Finale from Haydn’s Symphony No. 95

Opening of Beethoven’s Kreisler Sonata composed for George’s protégé George Bridgetower

Salomon’s opera “Windsor Castle” for George’s marriage reused the unperformed overture from Haydn’s “L’anima del filosofo”

George IV Slides 2021 3 1798-1811 PDF

George IV Slides 2021 4 1811-1820 PDF

Attwood’s setting of Scott’s “Ave Maria”

Beethoven’s Battle Symphony dedicated to George

George IV Slides 2021 5 1820-1830 PDF

Handel’s “Welcome Mighty King” used at George’s Coronation

Rossini’s Willow Song