|King George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1822|
On this day our infamous King George IV finally ate and drank his way into the grave, leaving behind a less than enviable reputation that follows him to this day. His reign was one of opulence, extremes and a life lived in the full gaze of press and public and today, we are a little muted here in the salon as we mark the anniversary of his death.
As the scandals of youth gave way to encroaching age, the once hard-partying George retired to Windsor Castle, where he indulged his love of fine foods and finer wines. Famously the now reclusive king ballooned in size, exceeding 17 stone and squeezing his corpulent bulk into corsets intended to confine a 50-inch waist. With frequent bouts of breathlessness causing near suffocation on occasion, his physicians, led by Sir Henry Halford, toiled to ease the symptoms of gout, dropsy and any number of other problems that plagued the ailing monarch, but there could be no doubt that his time was approaching.
As Spring passed into Summer, the health of the king became a source of great concern to his physicians, who plied him with laudanum in futile efforts to control the pains he suffered in his bladder and lower extremities. The application of leeches made things no easier for George and he began to suffer deep depressions, exacerbated by the fact that he could hardly sleep for the periods of breathlessness that afflicted him and a special chair was built which could double as a partly upright bed for the ailing monarch.
On the night of his death George retired to bed in the company of his friend, Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller, where he slept fitfully. He woke in the early hours of 26th June 1830, breathless and in such pain that Halford was summoned immediately. As the doctor hurried to the room, George gripped Wathen-Waller's hand and told him, "my boy, this is death". At quarter past three that morning, the last King George of the glorious Georgian era passed away.
The last word must belong the his infamous obituary, published in The Times:
"There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? ... If he ever had a friend — a devoted friend in any rank of life — we protest that the name of him or her never reached us."
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)