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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

George IV. (1820-1830)

George IV. (1820-1830).

The reign of George IV. is crammed with little but adulteries, lies, and debts. The former are too filthy, and the page 93 latter too monotonous, for detailed narration. Like his father, George IV. was a bigamist. In December, 1785, he married Mrs. Fitzherbert with whom he openly lived as his wife. He, of course, denied the contract when it suited his purpose; but after his death his executors, the Duke of Wellington and Sir William Knighton, admitted the validity of the proofs.

In April, 1794, he led to the altar Caroline of Brunswick. "Led to the altar" is here used in a metaphorical sense, for George was in a condition to be led, not to lead. He was so drunk that his two royal brothers could scarce keep him on his feet. He fairly astonished his grace of Canterbury by rising from his knees before the ceremony was half over. Caroline in after life may not have been a pattern of matronly virtue, but the English people with a correct instinct stood by her, holding that she was more sinned against than sinning. To procure evidence in the famous divorce suit against her, the Secret Service Money of the State was freely drawn upon.

The First Gentleman was, in fact, as expert a wife-beater as any coal-heaver, and his language habitually smacked of the brothel. When Napoleon's death was announced to him in the words, "Your majesty's bitterest enemy is dead," George jumped to the hasty conclusion that Caroline was no more, and joyfully exclaimed, "Is she, by God!" He was in Ireland, where he had arrived "in the last stage of beastly intoxication," when the news of the poor lady's actual demise reached him. "This is one of the happiest days in my life," he soon afterwards remarked. Nor was he less heartless to the women he "protected" than to those he married. Lady Jersey, Lady Conyngham, Lady Hertford. "Perdita" Robinson, and a host of others discovered, by bitter experience, that Thackeray was right when he affirmed that George owed everything to his tailor.

As a gambler, he repudiated his debts of honour, because honour he had none, and if he was not a turf swindler, his contemporaries in the affair of his horse Escape slandered him most foully. He professed to present George III.'s library to the nation, was secretly paid for it, and then received the effusive thanks of parliament for his munificence! With regard to so vile a creature as "the first gentleman in Europe" it is page 94 abundantly safe to reverse the ordinary legal maxim, and hold him guilty of everything till he is proved innocent. "He leads," says Greville, "a most extraordinary life—never gets up till six in the afternoon. They come to him and open the window curtains at six or seven in the morning; he breakfasts in bed; does whatever business he can be brought to transact in bed too; he reads every newspaper quite through, dozes three or four hours; gets up in time for dinner, and goes to bed between ten and eleven. He sleeps very ill, and rings his bell forty times in the night; if he wants to know the hour, though a watch hangs close to him, he will have his valet de chambre down rather than turn his head to look at it. The same thing if he wants a glass of water; he won't stretch out his hand to get it. His valets are nearly destroyed, and at last Lady Conyngham prevailed on him to agree to an arrangement by which they wait on him on alternate days. The service is still most severe, as on the days they are waiting their labours are incessant, and they cannot take off their clothes at night and hardly lie down. He is in good health but irritable." And these be your Gods, O Israel!

The only thing he left behind him which was worth "anything was his old clothes, which realised £15,000—a miserable asset for a sovereign who, though his reign was brief, must have cost the country some twenty millions sterling.

The political harm which he did was comparatively small, but what time he could spare from the more congenial pursuits of fiddling, tailoring, dancing, drinking, gambling, and worse things was chiefly devoted to mischief.

The best thing that can be said of him is that he was not worse than his brothers, York and Clarence, and that, like his father, he suffered from occasional lunacy. He had heard so much about Waterloo that he ultimately convinced himself that he had led a murderous charge of cavalry on that decisive battle-field under the name of General Brock. "Did I not do so, Arthur?" he would on occcasion demand of the Duke of Wellington." I have often heard your majesty relate the incident," was the diplomatic reply.

George the First was reckoned vile—viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard any good of George the Third?
When from earth the Fourth descended, Heaven be praised, the Georges ended.