William IV (United Kingdom)

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Wilhelm IV. (Portrait from 1830) Signature of Wilhelm IV.

Wilhelm IV. - engl. William IV ; formerly HRH The Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews , Earl of Munster - (born August 21, 1765 in Buckingham House , London , † June 20, 1837 at Windsor Castle , Berkshire ) was King of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1837 of Great Britain and Ireland as well as King of Hanover in personal union . He was the direct successor of his older brother Georg IV. They belonged to the House of Hanover , a branch line of the Welfs .

William IV first made a career in the Royal Navy and, after the death of his niece Charlotte Augusta of Wales in 1817 and his brother Friedrich August, Duke of York and Albany , in 1827, unexpectedly became the direct heir to the throne of his eldest brother, three years before his death. Since his six children born in wedlock had all died very young by 1824, his niece Queen Victoria succeeded him on the British throne. Wilhelm IV was the last monarch to unite the British and Hanover royal thrones; With his death, the British-Hanoverian personal union, which had existed since 1714, ended .

Origin and early years

The young Prince Wilhelm (painting by Allan Ramsay , 1767)

The Prince William Henry ( dt. Wilhelm Heinrich ) was born on August 21, 1765 as the third son of the British King George III. and his wife Sophie Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz born in Buckingham House . The couple had a total of fifteen offspring, nine sons (two of whom died early) and six daughters. As a third-born, Wilhelm stood behind his two older brothers Georg and Frederick Augustus in third position in the line of succession and had little chance of assuming the office of king. As head of the House of Hanover , Georg III. in personal union both King of Great Britain and Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg ( "Kurhannover" , from 1814 Kingdom of Hanover ).

On September 20, 1765, William was baptized in the Great Council Chamber of St James's Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury . Godparents were his two paternal uncles William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn , as well as his paternal aunt Augusta von Hannover .

George III and his wife preferred a simple, unassuming way of life to court life in London. Wilhelm spent his childhood years with his siblings in the residences of Kew Palace , Windsor Castle and the White Lodge in Richmond Park . The king personally laid down the guidelines for bringing up his children and emphasized not only a sense of duty but also fear of God. Up to the age of seven nannies were responsible for the upbringing of the royal princes, from 1772 the education of Wilhelm and his younger brother Edward Augustus was subordinate to the Swiss General Budé. In keeping with the spirit of the times, he exhibited strict, military educational methods that also included flogging. School instruction was under clergy George Majendie, who taught the princes French , Latin , mathematics , religion and history .

In the Royal Navy

William in 1782 (painting by Thomas Gainsborough )

Due to the bad relationship with George III. to his eldest son, Prince George, the monarch endeavored to withdraw his younger sons from the influence of the heir to the throne. A use in the Royal Navy , the traditional career of born princes, was intended to discipline the rebellious William. Accompanied by his tutor , he entered the Naval Academy in Portsmouth as a midshipman in June 1778 .

In 1779 Wilhelm was assigned to the HMS Prince George , the flagship of Admiral Robert Digby, and took part in the victorious naval battle at Cape St. Vincent on January 12, 1780 . During the American War of Independence , Wilhelm was stationed in New York for five months in 1781/82 , and from 1782 he served on the HMS Barfleur under Admiral Samuel Hood in the Caribbean and the West Indies . In Jamaica and Cuba he took on representation duties for the British crown and made the acquaintance of Horatio Nelson . During his employment in the Royal Navy, Wilhelm acquired affable, rustic manners as well as open and honest seaman qualities. However, he was always noticed by indiscipline, was not averse to alcohol consumption and fights and was a regular guest in brothels .

In June 1783 Wilhelm was sent by his father to the court of his brother Frederick Augustus , who resided in Osnabrück as Prince-Bishop , for further training purposes . With no real field of activity, Wilhelm spent two unhappy years in Osnabrück and Hanover between 1783 and 1785 , mainly devoting himself to gambling and hunting . He also took on the side of his tutor educational trips to Switzerland , to Prussia and Silesia , met the Prussian King Frederick II. And Emperor Joseph II. On his return to London he put on 15 June 1785 in front of a College of Admiralty his officer exam . Although he had not gone to sea for two years, Wilhelm received his officer license and was appointed lieutenant , a rank which he would probably not have achieved without his royal origins. On April 10, 1786, Wilhelm was given command of the frigate HMS Pegasus and was used in the Caribbean and North American waters until December 1787 . Wilhelm, who had been promoted to captain despite insufficient training , led his crew with severe disciplinary measures (e.g. flogging ), which resulted in a very bad relationship with his ship's officers. In 1788/89 he commanded the HMS Andromeda .

From George III. Wilhelm was appointed Duke of Clarence and St Andrews and Earl of Munster on May 16, 1789 . This title gave him a seat in the House of Lords , an apartment in St James's Palace and an annual allowance of £ 12,000 . Wilhelm, meanwhile promoted to Rear Admiral , has now retired from active service.

Life until 1830

Wilhelm in admiral's uniform (painting by Martin Archer Shee , around 1800)
Wilhelm as Duke of Clarence (painting by Thomas Lawrence , 1827)

After his departure from the Royal Navy in 1790, Wilhelm was not to return to active service. Rather, he devoted himself mainly to private life on his country estate Bushy House, a property in the extensive Bushy Park southwest of London. Between 1791 and 1811 he had an improper relationship with his mistress , the Irish actress Dorothea Jordan . Wilhelm gave them a total of ten illegitimate children who were given the family name FitzClarence and who were excluded from the British line of succession . As a result of increasing alienation, after almost twenty years of relationship, Wilhelm separated from his mistress in 1811, who died impoverished while fleeing from her creditors in France. He retained his full paternal affection for his children, who achieved high positions in the administration and the aristocracy through office or marriage.

Wilhelm, who was politically close to the Whigs , joined the opposition to the royal government of William Pitts in the House of Lords . At first he spoke out against the participation of Great Britain in the coalition wars against revolutionary France , but changed his stance in 1794 by vehemently advocating participation in the war. Due to his changeable attitude, Wilhelm was no longer transferred to active naval command. In addition, he fought slave emancipation ( abolitionism ) in parliament with his overseas experience and called their advocates fanatics or hypocrites. He advocated the extravagance of his eldest brother, whose debt burden kept Parliament busy. Wilhelm, who was perceived by contemporaries as not very witty and only moderately educated, was given the nickname "Silly Billy" during these years because of his bad manners .

From 1811, Wilhelm's eldest brother, Georg, Prince of Wales practiced as Prince Regent for King George III, who was incapable of government. the official business. On December 23, 1811, Georg appointed Wilhelm Admiral of the Fleet , an honorary rank that could only be given to members of the royal family.

The death of the presumptive heir to the throne, Charlotte of Wales , the only daughter of the Prince Regent, triggered a crisis in 1817 due to the lack of eligible heirs of the House of Hanover. The still unmarried royal princes set out on the European continent in search of suitable marriage candidates. On the mediation of his mother, the German princess Adelheid von Sachsen-Meiningen gave in to Wilhelm's wooing and agreed to marry the Duke of Clarence. He was heavily indebted - his debts amounted to about 50,000 pounds - and hoped that a proper marriage would increase his pension. On July 11, 1818, the 53-year-old Wilhelm married the only 25-year-old princess in The Queen's Drawing Room of the Kew Palace in a double wedding, as his younger brother Edward Augustus married Victoire von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld at the same time . Despite the age difference, the marriage was described as happy and Adelheid had a positive influence on her husband's lifestyle. This improved his manners and looked after his health, but the couple could not give birth to a surviving heir to the throne. The debt burden could not be reduced at first, which is why the couple lived temporarily in Hanover in 1819, 1822 and 1825 for financial reasons, as the cost of living there was much lower than in Great Britain. It was not until 1822 that William accepted Parliament's offer to increase his pension by £ 6,000, as he had initially hoped for a much larger sum.

The death of his older brother Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany in January 1827 made Wilhelm the direct heir to the throne of George IV at the age of 61, which was the reason for his return to the public. After years of political passivity, Wilhelm took over the office of Lord High Admiral on May 2, 1827 and moved with his wife into the newly built Clarence House in the City of Westminster . However, Wilhelm acted increasingly arbitrarily and due to ongoing conflicts with Admiral George Cockburn and the government of the Duke of Wellington , he was removed from his post in August 1828.

As a monarch

Wilhelm IV in coronation regalia (painting by Martin Archer Shee , 1830)
Wilhelm IV. (Painting by David Wilkie , around 1837)

George IV died on June 26, 1830 without legitimate descendants, which is why Wilhelm succeeded him as King of Great Britain and King of Hanover . At the age of 64 he was the oldest British monarch when he took office and chose the ruler name William IV. On September 8, 1831, he was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley , in Westminster Abbey . Wilhelm's aversion to any ceremony had led him to initially refuse a formal coronation. Compared to the coronation of his lavish, ostentatious brother, which had cost the sum of 240,000 pounds in 1821, Wilhelm finally reduced the effort and, for example, foregoing the particularly expensive coronation banquet in Westminster Hall , which is why his expenses amounted to about 30,000 pounds.

Even contemporaries saw the king as a temporary solution and observers of the coronation ceremony noticed that his gait was very weak and bent. Wilhelm was not considered a royal ruler and never gave up his sometimes coarse seaman's manners, such as public spitting. He was prone to outbursts of anger, was harsh to the point of rudeness and informal to the point of vulgarity. He rejected distance from his subjects as well as excessive luxury or pomp. The king could be seen walking informally through Brighton or London, which is why he enjoyed enormous popularity among the population at the beginning of his reign, and was given nicknames like "Sailor King" or "Sailor Bill" .

As king, at the end of 1834 he made the last attempt by a monarch in English constitutional history to set up a government under Robert Peel and Lord Wellington against the will of the House of Commons majority. As early as 1835 the king had to bow and entrust Lord Melbourne with forming a government . He achieved lasting political importance, however, when he paved the way for the electoral reform of 1832 with his support.

After Wilhelm's death, his niece Victoria , the only daughter of his next brother Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn , became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Since the succession to the throne in Hanover was governed by the Welf inheritance law similar to Salic , which excluded female succession to the throne if there was an inheritance in the male line of the Braunschweig-Lüneburg Welfs, his brother Ernst August became King of Hanover. This ended the 123-year personal union between Great Britain and Hanover.

Fort Wilhelm , built in Bremerhaven in 1834 , was named after him, as was Mount William in Antarctica and the former Wilhelmsbrücke in Lower Saxony .

As rector of the University of Göttingen , he donated the auditorium for the secular celebration in 1837 . As a thank you, the space in front of the auditorium was renamed Wilhelmsplatz . In addition, the people of Göttingen erected a memorial to the king on this square, which is still the only memorial on German soil for a British king, who was also King of Hanover.

Marriage and offspring

Dorothea Jordan in a painting by the court painter John Hoppner
Queen Adelaide (painting by William Beechey , 1831)

The relationship with his mistress Dorothea Jordan resulted in a total of ten illegitimate descendants:

Through these children Dorothea and Wilhelm have a number of prominent descendants , including a. David Cameron (former British Prime Minister ), William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle , Andrew Bertie , John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich and Johnny Dumfries

No surviving descendants emerged from the marriage with Adelheid:

  • Charlotte Augusta Louisa (* / † March 27, 1819 in Hanover )
  • Elizabeth Georgiana Adelaide (* December 10, 1820 in St James's Palace , † March 4, 1821 ibid)
  • Twin sons (* / † 1822)
  • Twin pair (* / † 1824)

Title and coat of arms

  • Aug 21, 1765 - May 1, 1789: His Royal Highness The Prince William Henry
  • May 1, 1789 - June 26, 1830: His Royal Highness The Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, Earl of Munster
  • June 26, 1830 - June 20, 1837: His Majesty William the Fourth, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith

( Title in Hanover: His Majesty Wilhelm the Fourth, by the grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, etc., and also King of Hanover , Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneburg , etc. )

Coat of Arms of William Henry, Duke of Clarence, svg Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (1816-1837) .svg Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom in Scotland (1816-1837) .svg
Duke of Clarence (1801-1830) King Wilhelm IV. King William IV (Scotland)


Pedigree of King Wilhelm IV.
British St. Edwards Crown
King George I
⚭ 1682
Sophie Dorothea of ​​Braunschweig-Lüneburg
Johann Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach
⚭ 1681
Eleanor of Saxony-Eisenach
Friedrich I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
⚭ 1669
Magdalena Sibylle of Saxe-Weissenfels
Karl Wilhelm von Anhalt-Zerbst
⚭ 1676
Sophia von Sachsen-Weißenfels
Adolf Friedrich I of Mecklenburg
⚭ 1635
Marie Katharina von Braunschweig-Dannenberg
Christian Wilhelm von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
⚭ 1673
Antonie Sibylle von Barby and Mühlingen
Ernst of Saxony-Hildburghausen
⚭ 1680
Sophia Henriette von Waldeck
Georg Ludwig I of Erbach-Erbach
⚭ 1664
Amalia Katharina von Waldeck-Eisenberg
British St. Edwards Crown
King George II
⚭ 1705
Caroline von Brandenburg-Ansbach
Friedrich II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1676–1732)
⚭ 1696
Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst (1679–1740)
Adolf Friedrich II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
⚭ 1705
Emilie von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
Ernst Friedrich I of Saxony-Hildburghausen (1681–1724)
⚭ 1704
Sophia Albertine of Erbach-Erbach
Crown of the Prince of Wales
Prince Friedrich Ludwig (1707–1751)
⚭ 1736
Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1719–1772)
Duke Karl of Mecklenburg (1708–1752)
⚭ 1735
Elisabeth Albertine of Saxony-Hildburghausen (1713–1761)
parents British St. Edwards Crown
King George III (1738–1820)
⚭ 1761
Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818)
British St. Edwards Crown
King Wilhelm IV (1765–1837)

See also


Web links

Commons : William IV (United Kingdom)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jane Robins: Rebel Queen - How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution, Pocket Books, London 2007, ISBN 0-7434-7826-6
  2. weber-habenausgabe.de
  3. weber-habenausgabe.de
  4. Heinrich Zoepfl: Principles of the common German constitutional law, with special consideration for general constitutional law and the most recent times , first part. CF Winter'sche Verlagshandlung, Leipzig / Heidelberg 1863, p. 126.
predecessor Office successor
George IV King of the United Kingdom
George IV King of Hanover
Ernst August I.
New title created Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews
Earl of Munster
Title merged with crown