RepositoryRoyal Archives
CollectionGeorge IV Calendar as Prince, Regent and King
Record TypeCorrespondence
ReferenceGEO/MAIN/38043-39402, 39407-39589, 39592-39741, 39745-39780, 39782-39858, 39860-39893, 39895-40261, 40264-40504
TitleGeorge IV Calendar as Prince, Regent and King
DescriptionThis collection contains the official correspondence and papers of George IV, as Prince of Wales. Later papers, including those of George IV as Prince Regent and King, will be added at a later stage.
Many letters are addressed to Captain John Willett Payne (1752-1803), the Prince's close friend and advisor, who was his Private Secretary from 1785-1795, and his Keeper of the Privy Seal until 1796. Thomas Tyrwhitt succeeded as Private Secretary to the Prince in 1795, and was in turn succeeded by Captain John McMahon in 1803. Tyrwhitt and McMahon both sat in the House of Commons and represented the Prince's interest, and many letters in the collection are addressed to or written by these figures.
Extent1413 documents
Admin HistoryGeorge IV was born on 12 August 1762, the first child of George III and his consort Queen Charlotte. As a young adult, the Prince of Wales began to rebel against his strict upbringing and education, and developed a reputation for wild and extravagant behaviour, and accumulated significant debts. The Prince frequently appealled for parliamentary assistance with his debts, and sought the support of his friends in the Whig party, including Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. On the 15 December 1785 the Prince undertook a secret marriage ceremony with Maria Fitzherbert, a Catholic widow, in contravention of the Act of Settlement (1701) and the Royal Marriages Act (1772). In 1788 George III suffered a period of mental illness, which created the prospect of the Prince becoming Regent. William Pitt and the Administration expected that if Regent, the Prince would replace them with his own supporters from the Whig party, and they therefore sought to set conditions on the regency which would restrict the Prince's control over patronage. The idea of a 'restricted Regency' was rejected by the Prince, and the King began to show signs of recovery in February 1789, which postponed the question, and made the Prince anxious to show his behaviour during this crisis in a positive light.
The Prince would become Prince Regent in 1811 during the King's final period of illness, but until this date the Prince did not have an official role. After being made a Colonel of the 10th Regiment of Dragoons in 1793, the Prince was denied any further military promotion, or prospect of engaging in the fighting taking place during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). George III's determination that the Prince would not pursue a military career, and his reluctance to give the Prince any official role, was a consistent source of tension between them.
On 18 April 1795, motivated by the prospect of parliamentary assistance in paying his debts, the Prince married his first cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Although a legitimate heir Princess Charlotte was born 7 January 1796, the marriage was a disaster, and the pair separated unofficially in 1796.
Custodial HistoryThese records are believed to have been part of the original acquisition from Apsley House.
ArrangementThese letters have previously been arranged chronologically following their accession into The Royal Archives. This chronological order has been kept, and documents are arranged by year following 1781. Fully catalogued 2017-2018. From autumn 2018 these documents have been listed only and their contents not catalogued in detail.
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