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Chapter 46

GEORGE IV. A.D. 1820--1830.


George IV. was not much under sixty years old when he came to the throne, and had really been king in all but the name for eight years past. He had been married to the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, much against his will, for she was, though a princess, far from being a lady in any of her ways, and he disliked her from the first moment he saw her; and though he could not quite treat her as Henry VIII. had treated Anne of Cleves, the two were so unhappy together that, after the first year, they never lived in the same house. They had had one child, a daughter, named Charlotte--a good, bright, sensible high- spirited girl--on whom all the hopes of the country were fixed; but as she grew up, there were many troubles between her love and her duty towards her father and mother. As soon as the peace was made, the Princess of Wales went to Italy and lived there, with a great many people of bad characters about her. Princess Charlotte was married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and was very happy with him; but, to the great grief of all England, she died in the bloom of her youth, the year before her grandfather.

George IV., though he was much alone in the world, prepared to have a most splendid coronation; but as soon as his wife heard that he was king, she set off to come to England and be crowned with him. He was exceedingly angry, forbade her name to be put into the Prayer-book as queen, and called on the House of Lords to break his marriage with one who had proved herself not worthy to be a wife. There was a great uproar about it, for though the king's friends wanted him to be rid of her, all the country knew that he had been no better to her than she had been to him, and felt it unfair that the weaker one should have all the shame and disgrace, and the stronger one none. One of Caroline's defenders said that if her name were left out of the Litany, yet still she was prayed for there as one who was desolate and oppressed. People took up her cause much more hotly than deserved, and the king was obliged to give up the enquiry into her behavior, but still he would not let her be crowned. In the midst of all the splendor and solemnity in Westminster Abbey, a carriage was driven to the door and entrance was demanded for the queen; but she was kept back, and the people did not seem disposed to interrupt the show by doing anything in her favor, as she and her friends had expected. She went back to her rooms, and, after being more foolish than ever in her ways, died of fretting and pining. It is a sad history, where both were much to blame; and it shows how hateful to the king she must have been, that, when Napoleon died he was told his greatest enemy was dead, and he answered, "When did she die?" But if he had been a good man himself, and not selfish, he would have borne with the poor, ill brought up, giddy girl, when first she came, and that would have prevented her going so far astray.

George IV. made two journeys--one to Scotland, and the other to Ireland. He was the first of the House of Brunswick who ever visited these other two kingdoms, and he was received in both with great splendor and rejoicing; but after this his health began to fail, and he disliked showing himself. He spent most of his time at a house he had built for himself at Brighton, called the Pavilion, and at Windsor, where he used to drive about in the park. He was kind and gracious to those with whom he associated, but they were as few as possible.

He was vexed and angry at having to consent to the Bill for letting Roman Catholics sit in Parliament, and hold other office--the same that his father had stood out against. It was not that he cared for one religion more than another, for he had never been a religious man, but he saw that it would be the beginning of a great many changes that would alter the whole state of things. His next brother, Frederick, Duke of York, died before him; and the third, William, Duke of Clarence, who had been brought up as an officer in the navy, was a friend of the Whigs, and of those who were ready to make alterations.

Changes were coming of themselves, though--for inventions were making progress in this time of peace. People had begun to find out the great power of steam, and had made it move the ships, which had hitherto depended upon the winds, and thus it became much easier to travel from one country to another and to send goods. Steam was also being used to work engines for spinning and weaving cotton, linen, and wool, and for working metals; so that what had hitherto been done by hand, by small numbers of skilful people, was now brought about by large machines, where the labor was done by steam; but quantities of people were needed to assist the engine. And as steam cannot be had without fire, and most of the coal is in the Northern parts of England, almost all of these works were set up in them, and people flocked to get work there, so that the towns began to grow very large. Manchester was one, with Liverpool as the sea-port from which to send its calico and get its cotton. Sheffield and Birmingham grew famous for works in iron and steel, and so on; and all this tended to make the manufacturers as rich and great as the old lords and squires, who had held most of the power in England ever since, at the Revolution, they had got it away from the king. Everyone saw that some great change would soon come; but before it came to the point George IV. fell ill, and died after a reign of twenty years in reality, but of only ten in name, the first five of which were spent in war, and the last fifteen in peace. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel were his chief ministers--for the duke was as clear-headed in peace as he was in war.


Charlotte M. Yonge