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George, Prince Regent (1811-1820)

This is a legacy story from an earlier version of our website. It may contain some formatting issues and broken links.

On the 5th February 1811,  George became the Prince Regent. To mark the 200th anniversary of the Regency Act, we take a brief look at the life of the Prince of Wales.

George IV

George, Prince of Wales, was born on 12 August 1762. He was the eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte and grew up in a stifled and disciplined royal environment.

He was a vain and extravagant young man and soon started to rebel against his formal youth.  He devoted much of his time to racing and gambling, dining and dancing, music and theatre.

George, at the age of 21, had started to suffer from ill-health (no doubt as a result of his extravagant lifestyle).  He was advised by his physicians to take to Brighton and benefit from the therapeutic properties of the sea.  Brighton was fast becoming  a fashionable seaside resort and with George’s arrival, together with accompanying royal entourage and London society followers, the quiet seaside town quickly grew and was soon nicknamed ‘London by the sea’.

The heady Brighton lifestyle suited George and by the mid 1780s he liked the place enough to rent a farmhouse. He had also secretly (and illegally) married the love of his life Mrs Maria Fitzherbert.

A disastrous arranged marriage in 1795 with Princess Caroline of Brunswick failed to take George’s attentions away from Mrs Fitzherbert and his lavish Brighton lifestyle. Within a year the marriage had collapsed.

During the Regency years (1811-1820) the prince’s heady extravagance at the Marine Pavilion was a constant source of gossip. He would think nothing of spending days riding, promenading and sea-dipping, and nights eating, drinking, partying and entertaining.

George began to outgrow the Marine Pavilion which many viewed as ‘noisy, hot and overfurnished’. In 1815, he hired architect John Nash to help him transform his Brighton home into the extraordinary palace that we see today.

It took eight years for George’s oriental architectural vision to be completed. As his new palace unfolded, and with financial freedom as king, George IV continued to indulge in his architectural, decorative and technological vision.

By the time George was crowned king in 1820, his indulgent lifestyle was starting to take effect on his health.  He was obese at the age of 30 and suffered frequently from gout and digestive problems.

After the interior of the Pavilion was finally completed in 1823, the king made only two further visits (in 1824 and 1827).

George IV died, aged 68, in 1830.

Editor’s note 30 May 2017: corrections to text made following comment below