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George IV
George IV

George IV (1762-1830), the son of George III, became king in 1820. He had served as regent for his father from 1811 to 1820. George IV lacked his father's ambition to govern and was uninterested in his royal duties and preferred the pleasures of high society social life. He was a reprehensible character, giving his father a great deal of grief, with his libertine ways, his monumental debts and his many mistresses.

In 1785, George married a widow, Maria Fitzherbert. Although he took more mistresses after the marriage, Mrs Fitzherbert was the abiding love of his life. The marriage was, however, illegal because it contravened the provisions of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772. In 1795, George was forced to marry his first cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. This came about because Parliament had agreed to pay his debts provided he took a legal wife. The marriage was a disaster although the marriage was consummated and a daughter, Princess Charlotte was born before the couple separated.

George IV had no share in the important reforms of his reign. Among these were the reform of criminal law and of the police, the freeing of trade, and the grant of increased toleration to both Protestant dissenters from the Church of England and members of the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, George IV was a man of taste, and he commissioned many beautiful buildings.