George IV - 1820-1830
Like most of the Hanoverian kings, George IV, when Prince of Wales, did not get on with his father. As a young man, the Prince of Wales enjoyed the good life with his mistresses, good food and the arts. In 1785 he went through a form of marriage with Maria Fitzherbert, a Catholic, which would have prevented his succession if the marriage had been made public.
Ten years later, he was forced into marriage with a Protestant princess, Caroline of Brunswick, in order to obtain money from Parliament to pay his debts. The marriage was a disaster almost from the outset and, after the birth of a daughter, the two lived apart. After having tried unsuccessfully to divorce her, George excluded her from his coronation ceremony.
Once he became King, George succeeded in bringing about a measure of Catholic emancipation, and Catholics were given the vote. His political influence was slight, however, for being always in debt, he had to depend on Parliament for financial help. His weak political status was worsened by quarrelling with Charles James Fox and the Whigs, who had voted for him to be PrinceRegent.
When the Tories came to power with ministers like Wellington and Liverpool, George was forced to accept a repeal of religious discrimination against dissenters and Catholics, and his one political achievement, was nullified. (In 1829, Catholics were allowed to become members of Parliament.)
Culturally George did a good deal for the nation. He commissioned work from John Nash, the architect, for a park in London now known as Regent's Park, the colonnaded Regent's Street and, most remarkable of all, the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.
During his reign the British Museum was extended in 1823, the National Gallery established in 1824, and the first rail passenger service in the world was established from Stockton to Darlington. He was the first Hanoverian to visit his Scottish realm, and in 1822 made a triumphant visit to Edinburgh clad in tartan and tights, his reception having been orchestrated by the great Scottish novelist Walter Scott.
Key Events during the Reign of George IV
1820 - George IV acedes to the throne after the death of his father George III. Failure of the Cato Street Conspiracy, a radical plot to murder the Cabinet. Trial of Queen Caroline in which George IV attempts to divorce her for adultery.
1821 - Queen Caroline excluded from George IV's coronation.
1823 - British Museum is extended and extensively rebuilt to house expanding collection.
1824 - The National Gallery is established in London.
1825 - The world's first railway service is opened - Stockton and Darlington Railway. Trade unions are legalized.
1826 - The Royal Zoological Society is founded in London by Sir Stamford Raffles.
1828 - Wellington becomes British Prime Minister.
1829 - Robert Peel sets up the Metropolitcan Police Force. The Catholic Relief Act is passed, permitting Catholics to become Members of Parliament.
1830 - George IV dies at Windsor.