British History 2:
From the French Revolution to World War II
Topic: "Majesties and Royal Highnesses"

by Laura Cenicola & Mareike Aumann

Glossary: William IV

Political Career:

William IV never supported the political views of his father George III, who preferred the Tories. William supported the Whigs and at one time even considered becoming a member of parliament. In the House of Lords, as the Duke of Clarence William supported the Catholic Emancipation and also favored the parliamentary reform. When his older brother George IV died William took the throne in 1830. At first William IV was rather popular with the people when he announced he would try to keep royal spending to a minimum unlike his brother who was known for his extravagance. In November 1830 Lord Grey and the Whigs came to power, and the king told them he would not interfere with the parliamentary reform. When Lord Grey asked William IV to dissolve parliament so the Whigs could secure a majority in the House of Commons, William agreed. However, after Lord Grey´s election victory the Lords still refused to pass the bill for a parliamentary reform. William soon started to doubt the parliamentary reform. He asked Sir Robert Peel, the leader of the Tories, to reform a new government, but the Tories were unwilling to join cabinet with the opposition. In fact the Tories argued if the William IV and Peel went ahead there was an enormous danger for a civil war in Britain. William failed to get significant people back into cabinet and had to ask Grey to return to office which cost him his popularity. In the end, the Lords passed the Reform Act after William IV created a large number of Whig Peers. The Reform Act of 1832 abolished some of the worst abuses of the electoral system. In November 1834 William dismissed the Whig government and appointed the Tory Sir Robert Peel Prime Minister but since there were more Whigs than Tories in the House of Commons, Peel found government very difficult. After he resigned from office in 1835 the Tories were replaced by a Whig government and William once again had to give in to reforms he did not agree with.

Personal Life:

William IV was born at Buckingham Palace, London, on August 21st in 1765. He was the third son of King George III and Queen Charlotte and therefore was not actually expected to take the throne. Still a teenage boy at the age of 13 he joined the Royal Navy. William enjoyed his career at sea very much, serving in America, as well as in the West Indies. At age 21 he was made captain of a frigate and was later appointed admiral of the fleet in 1811. His father created William Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews and Earl of Munster in 1789. He retired from the navy in 1790. From about 1791 till 1811 he lived with his mistress, an actress named Mrs. Dorothy Jordan. They had ten children together, the family was known as the Fitzclarences. William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818; both of their two daughters died in infancy.
Like his father and brother William tended to exhibit strange behavior. For example, the day he became king he raced through London in a open carriage, removing his hat and bowing to the people, and even offering people lifts in his royal carriage.
William IV died on June 20th in 1837.

 


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