GEORGE IV: Regent and King by Christopher Hibbert
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GEORGE IV: Regent and King

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Capping a shaft of jovial couplets, Charles Lamb saluted the then Regent, later George IV: ""This (or else my eyesight fails),/ This should be the Prince of Whales."" George IV, who succeeded the insane George III when he was 57, was indeed corpulent (one of the court observers reported that the king's stomach now ""reached to his knees""), vain, given to frequent frenzies when pressed beyond his emotional stamina or thwarted in a headlong obsession. Yet he was not unintelligent, was educated to the arts, and was essentially kind. Hibbert, in this second volume of his fine biography, does full justice to the domestic embroilments of this unpopular king, but leaves the inherent humor to contemporary commentary for full exploitation -- particularly when miring about the public ""trial"" of George's estranged spouse, the batty Caroline, who became the unlikely heroine of all those appalled by the king. When it wasn't his wife it was his daughter Charlotte, who during her wedding to an impoverished prince was heard to laugh aloud when he endowed her with his ""worldly goods."" The power of the crown was declining. Against the restlessness of a nearly starving working class, controversy over the Corn Law, Catholics, and foreign policy, there was a spread of political awareness and a general ""liberalization"" in government -- slight but perceptible. And at the center of change was the nation's ""millstone,"" a man who in Wellington's words was ""the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy and good feeling."" Hibbert gives George IV an even deeper dimension of frantic courage and gentle pathos.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row