Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Poor George?

So I'm writing books set during the English Regency (or my version of the English Regency). The other day, being far from home and my books on the subject, I needed to look up the date of the Act of Parliament which made the Prince of Wales Regent, so I potched about in Google and found what I needed. I also observed a significant pro-George III or anti-Prince Regent slant to a lot of sources. Or at least, I became aware of my own sympathetic slant regarding his son.

Don't mistake me: George, Prince of Wales (the future George IV) was spendthrift, emotional, autocratic, egocentric, needy, \, frequently irresponsible, and not at all the son his father wanted. On the other hand, the reading I've done suggests to me that none of the children of George III were the children their parents wanted. The king, in his lucid moments, was wont to say that his favorite son was the one who died at age 2; he loved all his kids when they were babies, pre-verbal and (I imagine) pre-independent. So far from making dynastic marriages for his daughters and getting them out of the house, he kept his girls so close to home that at least one of them rebelled in the only way she could--by getting pregnant out of wedlock. And the Prince of Wales, as heir to the throne and first born, was a constant disappointment to him--and was told as much. Given no responsibilities to learn from he was consistently told that he was irresponsible; his brothers were given charge of Army regiments or even kingdoms, but the Prince of Wales, as heir, could not go to war or administer family property (such as Hanover). On several occasions when he tried to do something useful, his father the King regarded it as a sinister attempt to wrest royal power away from him. The Prince is remembered for his love-life, his clothes sense, his preoccupation with architecture--largely, I think, because he was given nothing better to use his considerable intelligence upon. (A little like the current Prince of Wales, in fact: both born to young monarchs who then lived a long time, and both of whose love-lives and interest in architecture are well known.)

George IV was not a good king; by the time he finally attained the crown in 1820 he was sickly and worn out; the progressive ideals of his youth had given way to a tired conservatism. During his life he had seen himself go from being the Bright Hope of Europe to being a coffee-house joke, and that must have been hard. He was not a terrifically good son, although by all reports he was a responsible and loving brother. I wonder, sometimes, what he might have been had his father been willing to repose some trust and responsibility in his eldest son or, failing that, if George III had died or gone permanently mad in 1788. I'm just saying...


Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

There's a new book out (I heard the suthor interviewed on Diane Rhem) about the six girls called Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. I found the knowledge of the tight rein he kept on his family to be an interesting balance on the movie The Madness of King George, which portrays him so sympathetically, and the Prince so unsympathetically.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Apropos of your books, today in CVS I saw the mmpb of _Point of Honour_.

Congratulations, you've hit the mass market!

7:29 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Maureen--I saw a piece on Princesses and added it to my "must get hold of this" list (which is as long as my arm. I enjoyed The Madness of King George, but did keep running aground on my somewhat broader knowledge of the period. But stories (and much history) have to root themselves in one camp or another...Sarcasm Girl is currently reading The Daughter of Time, and we've had some interesting discussions about Who Writes History and Tonypandy.

Kate--cool! I knew POH was coming in mm, but haven't seen it on the actual shelves yet. Must go look.

8:23 AM  

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