Sailor King: The Life of King William IV

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He gave a liberal constitution to the Kingdom of Hanover, his other kingdom. William had two legitimate children who survived long enough to be christened and therefore named: Princess Charlotte and Princess Elizabeth; both died as infants. Though nine of his illegitimate children survived him, neither of his legitimate children did so William was succeeded by his niece, Queen Victoria. He was baptized in the Great Council Chamber of St. Vincent in While the prince was in America, George Washington approved a plot to kidnap him, writing "The spirit of enterprise so conspicuous in your plan for surprising in their quarters and bringing off the Prince William Henry and Admiral Digby merits applause, and you have my authority to make the attempt in any manner, and at such a time, as your judgment may direct.

I am fully persuaded, that it is unnecessary to caution you against offering insult or indignity to the person of the Prince. William became a Lieutenant in and a Captain the following year. In he was stationed in the West Indies under Horatio Nelson , who wrote of William, "In his professional line, he is superior to two-thirds, I am sure, of the [Naval] list; and in attention to orders, and respect to his superior officer, I hardly know his equal. William sought to be made a Duke like his elder brothers, and to receive a similar Parliamentary grant, but his father was reluctant.

William the ‘Sailor King’

To put pressure on him, William threatened to run for the House of Commons for the constituency of Totnes in Devon. Andrews and Earl of Munster on May 20, , supposedly saying, "I well know it is one more vote added to the opposition. The newly created duke ceased his active service in the Royal Navy in Instead, he spent time in the House of Lords, where he defended the exorbitant spending of his brother, the Prince of Wales, who had applied to Parliament for a grant for relief of his debts.

He also spoke in the abolition of slavery debates although slavery was not legal in the United Kingdom, it still existed in the British colonies. He used his experience in the West Indies to defend his positions. In Clarence was appointed Admiral of the Fleet, a strictly honorary position. Despite repeated petitions, he was not given any command throughout the Napoleonic Wars. William was part of the first generation to grow to maturity under the Royal Marriages Act of , which forbade descendants of George II from marrying unless they obtained the monarch's consent, or, if over the age of 25, alternatively giving 12 months' notice to the Privy Council.


Several of George III's sons, including William, chose to live with the women they loved, rather than seeking to wed. After all, the younger sons, including William, were not expected to figure in the succession, which was considered secure once the Prince of Wales wed and had a daughter.

From on William and Dorothea had ten illegitimate children, five sons and five daughters, who were given the surname "FitzClarence. Jordan was given a financial settlement the generosity of which has been debated and custody of the daughters, on the condition she did not resume the stage. When she did take up her acting career again, the duke took custody of the daughters.

Jordan died, impoverished, near Paris in When Princess Charlotte, Clarence's niece by the Prince Regent, and second in line to the throne after her father died in childbirth in , the king was left with 12 children, and no legitimate grandchildren. The race was on among the royal dukes to marry and produce an heir. William had a great advantage in this race. His two older brothers were both childless and estranged from their wives in any case both women were probably beyond childbearing , so he would almost certainly become king if he lived long enough, which was likely since the former sailor took more care with his health than either older brother.

However, William's first choices of brides either met with the disapproval of the Prince Regent or the women turned him down. Princess Anne of Denmark, appalled at William's long liaison with Mrs. Jordan, refused to consider the match. His younger brother, the Duke of Cambridge, was sent to Germany to scout out the available Protestant princesses, and, after coming up with one whom William laughingly turned down when it became clear that the Duke of Cambridge was in love with her himself and shortly thereafter married her , he came up with one who was amicable, home-loving, and loved children an important attribute considering William's ten children, several of whom had not yet reached adulthood.

This marriage , which lasted almost 20 years until William's death, was by all accounts happy. The new duchess took both William and his finances in hand. For their first year of marriage, the couple lived in economical fashion in Germany , William's debts were soon on the way to being paid especially once he accepted the lower-than-requested allowance increase Parliament had passed for him and his wife , and William is not known to have had mistresses.

The couple could only produce two short-lived daughters, and Adelaide had three miscarriages or stillbirths as well. Despite this, rumors that Adelaide was pregnant persisted into William's reign, when they would be dismissed by the king as "damned stuff. In , the king died, leaving the crown to the prince regent, who became George IV.

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The Duke of Clarence was now second in the line of succession to the throne, preceded only by his brother Frederick, Duke of York. When the Duke of York died in , Clarence, then more than 60 years old, became heir presumptive. Later that year, the incoming prime minister, George Canning , appointed Clarence to the office of Lord High Admiral, which had been in commission that is, exercised by a board rather than by a single individual since While in office, Clarence attempted to take independent control of naval affairs, although the law required him to act, under most circumstances, on the advice of at least two members of his council.

The king, through the prime minister, by now Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, requested his resignation in ; the Duke of Clarence complied. Despite the difficulties that the duke experienced, he did considerable good as Lord High Admiral, abolishing the cat o' nine tails for most offenses other than mutiny and requiring regular reports of the condition and preparedness of each ship. He commissioned the first steam warship and advocated for more. William's biographer, Philip Ziegler, points out that holding the office permitted William to make mistakes and learn from them—a process that might have been far more costly had he done so as King.

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As King, William would maintain his interest in the Royal Navy concerning matters great and small. As a former sailor, William was well aware of the limited headroom on the vessels of the day, and he therefore gave the Royal Navy the privilege of drinking to the sovereign's health sitting down while aboard ship. William spent the remaining time during his brother's reign in the House of Lords. He supported the Catholic Emancipation Bill against the opposition of his brother and eventual Hanoverian heir , Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, describing the latter's position on the Bill as "infamous," to the younger Duke's outrage.

When George IV died in without any surviving legitimate issue, the Duke of Clarence ascended to the throne, aged 64, as William IV—the oldest person ever to assume the throne.

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Unlike his extravagant brother, William was unassuming, discouraging pomp and ceremony. In contrast to George IV, who tended to spend most of his time in Windsor Castle , William was known, especially early in his reign, to walk, unaccompanied, through London or Brighton. Until the Reform Crisis eroded his standing, he was very popular among the people, who saw him as more approachable and down-to-earth than his brother. Upon taking the throne, William did not forget his nine surviving illegitimate children, creating his eldest son Earl of Munster and granting the other children the precedence of a younger son or daughter of a Marquess, except where a daughter had attained a higher precedence through marriage as one daughter had by marrying an Earl.

At the time, the death of the monarch required fresh elections and, in the general election of , Wellington's Tories lost to the Whig Party under Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. When he became Prime Minister, Lord Grey immediately announced that he would attempt to reform an electoral system that had seen few changes since the fifteenth century.

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The inequities in the system were great; for example, large towns such as Manchester and Birmingham elected no members though they were part of county constituencies , whilst minuscule boroughs such as Old Sarum with seven voters elected two members of Parliament each. Often, the small boroughs—also known as rotten boroughs and pocket boroughs—were "owned" by great aristocrats, whose "nominees" would invariably be elected by the constituents—who were, most often, their tenants—especially since the secret ballot was not yet used in Parliamentary elections.

When the House of Commons defeated the First Reform Bill in , Lord Grey's ministry urged an immediate dissolution of Parliament and a new general election. At first, William hesitated to exercise the power to dissolve Parliament, elections having just been held the year before. He was, however, irritated by the conduct of the Opposition, which formally requested the passage of an Address, or resolution, in the House of Lords, against dissolution.

Regarding the Opposition's motion as an attack on his power, William IV went in person to the House of Lords, where debate on the Address was raging, and prorogued Parliament. Had he sent commissioners on his behalf, as was and still is normally done, they would have had to await the end of the debate, whereas the arrival of the monarch ended all debate. This forced new elections for the House of Commons, which yielded a great victory for the reformers. But although the House of Commons was clearly in favor of parliamentary reform, the House of Lords remained implacably opposed to it.

The crisis saw a brief interlude for the celebration of the King's Coronation on 8 September At first, the King wished to dispense with the coronation entirely, feeling that his wearing the crown while proroguing Parliament answered any need. He was persuaded otherwise by traditionalists.

He refused, however, to celebrate the coronation in the expensive way his brother had, [2] dispensing with the banquet, and budgeting less than a tenth of what had been expended ten years previously—and the event was brought in well under budget. When traditionalist Tories threatened to boycott what they called the "Half Crown-nation," the King retorted that they should go ahead, and that he anticipated greater convenience of room and less heat. They did not do so. After the rejection of the Second Reform Bill by the Upper House, people across the country began to agitate for reform; some grew violent, participating in several "Reform Riots.

In the face of popular excitement, the Grey ministry refused to accept defeat in the House of Lords, and re-introduced the Bill. It passed easily in the House of Commons, but was once again faced with difficulties in the House of Lords. Bowing to popular pressure, the Lords did not reject the bill outright, but were prepared to change its basic character through amendments. Frustrated by the Lords' recalcitrance, Grey suggested that the King create a sufficient number of new peers to ensure the passage of the Reform Bill.

The King objected—he had already created 15 new peers for Grey in his coronation honors—but reluctantly agreed to the creation of the number of peers sufficient "to secure the success of the bill". Grey and his fellow ministers decided to resign if the King did not agree to an immediate and large creation.

In point of fact, Grey had found few peers willing to bear the expense of having their heirs elevated to the peerage during their lifetimes. In any event, the King refused, and accepted their resignations. The King attempted to restore the Duke of Wellington to office, but first heard of an official resolution of the House of Commons requesting Grey's return. On the Duke of Wellington's advice, and after public mass meetings demanding reform, the King agreed to reappoint Grey's ministry, and to create new peers if the House of Lords continued to pose difficulties.

William the ‘Sailor King’ – General History

Concerned by the threat of the creations, most of the bill's opponents abstained. Consequently, Parliament passed the bill, which became the Reform Act Parliament proceeded to other reforms, including the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire and the restriction of child labor, but William IV had little to do with their passage.

For the remainder of his reign, William interfered actively in politics only once, in ; when he became the last Sovereign to choose a Prime Minister contrary to the will of Parliament. Two years after the passage of the Reform Act of , the ministry had become unpopular and also lost the King's support due to its support for the reform of the Church of Ireland.

The Melbourne administration, for the most part, included the same members as the Grey administration; though disliked by many in the country, it retained an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. Some members of the Government, however, were obnoxious to the King. Because of this, he was forced to relinquish his posts—a member of the House of Lords could, of course, not hold a position in the House of Commons, and traditionally, a member of the Commons was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Sailor King: The Life of King William IV Sailor King: The Life of King William IV
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