A circumspect, attractive biography of a most unattractive prince, George Augustus Frederick, first son of George III --...

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GEORGE IV: Prince of Wales

A circumspect, attractive biography of a most unattractive prince, George Augustus Frederick, first son of George III -- from his birth in 1762 to the assumption of the Regency in 1811. It is difficult to say which of the early Hanoverians, with the exception of the occasionally effective George III, was more gormless than the next, and which did most for England's constitutional government by default. This Prince of Wales was weak, given to tantrums and hysteric self-pity, charming when things were going his way, and dearly would he have liked ""to have been of consequence."" Although leading Whigs did at times rally behind him, the Prince was, as Lord Thurlow had said, ""the worst anchoring ground in Europe."" Due to the severity of the ""King's malady"" -- a rare metabolic disorder with symptoms of hysteria, paranoia and schizophrenia -- each reoccurrence in George III brought to the fore the role to be played by the prince within the context of Parliamentary power shifts. But his expectations of grandeur were frustrated and eventually he was compelled to accept a restricted regency. Owing perhaps in part to the rigidity of his childhood under the iron hand of the King (there is a sad little chapter about the lot of his cloistered sisters, ""the four old cats of Windsor"") and to his own stunted maturity, the Prince tended to fall in love with older, supportive women -- he secretly married Mrs. Fitzherbert after forcing the issue with an operatic suicide attempt. He married Caroline, a first cousin (he was forced to deny the Fitzherbert connection) but Caroline was as unstrung as the Prince and reportedly, later, almost as promiscuous. They were separated after one year with vituperation on each side and lively public and press partisanship. The author has focused his extensive scholarship with discernment into an incisive and curiously affective portrait of this unlikely and unhappy prince.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973