William IV of the United Kingdom
Birthday: August 21, 1765
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 71
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: William Henry
Born Country: England
Born in: Buckingham House, London
Famous as: King of the United Kingdom
Spouse/Ex-: Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (m. 1818)
father: George III of the United Kingdom
mother: Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
siblings: Charlotte, Princess Royal, Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, George IV of the United Kingdom, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, Princess Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom
children: 7, Amelia Cary, Viscountess Falkland, Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll, George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, Henry FitzClarence, Lady Augusta Gordon, Lady Mary Fox, Lord Adolphus FitzClarence, Lord Augustus FitzClarence, Lord Frederick FitzClarence, Princess Charlotte of Clarence, Princess Elizabeth of Clarence, William Henry Courtnay
Partner: Dorothea Jordan
Died on: June 20, 1837
place of death: Windsor Castle, Windsor, United Kingdom
City: London, England
William IV was king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 to 1837. Under his reign, the revolutionary ‘Reform Act of 1832’ was passed. Born in England, he was the third son of George III, and as such was not expected to succeed to the throne. Brought up since childhood for a naval career, he joined the ‘Royal Navy’ in his teenage years and enjoyed his time at sea, later becoming the captain of a frigate and eventually the admiral of the fleet. Afterwards, he was created the Duke of Clarence, took retirement from his active service, and went to live with his mistress with whom he had ten illegitimate children. He spent the next two decades with them. After the death of prince regent’s only daughter, a race began among the royal dukes to marry and produce legitimate heir for the throne. Therefore, he married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and upon the death of George IV, was crowned the King of England as William IV. Initially very popular among all classes, William’s reign was mostly dominated by the Reform crisis. ‘The Reform Act of 1832,’ passed after much parliamentary debates, abolished some of the worst misuses of the electoral system and extended the franchise to the middle classes. After ruling for seven years, William died without any surviving legitimate children and his niece Victoria succeeded him to the throne.
Childhood & Early Life
William was born on August 21, 1765, in Buckingham House, London, to George III, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and his wife, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg -Strelitz.
He was the third son of the royal couple and was baptized in the Great Council Chamber of St James's Palace in September 1765. With several siblings, including two elder brothers, he was not expected to inherit the Crown.
After receiving most of his early education from private tutors, he joined the crew of Prince George as a midshipman at the age of 13.
In 1785, he was appointed as Lieutenant and the following year, became the Captain of ‘HMS Pegasus.’ In 1788, he was given command of the frigate ‘HMS Andromeda’ and was later promoted to Rear-Admiral in command of ‘HMS Valiant.’
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Accession & Reign
In 1789, William became the Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews and Earl of Munster. Being the third son of the king, he was not expected to figure in the succession and therefore had no legitimacy issues.
In 1790, he retired from active service and subsequently lived with an Irish actress named Dorothea Bland with whom he had ten illegitimate children. The children were given the surname ‘FitzClarence.’ The couple lived together for 20 years, from 1791 to 1811.
In 1817, with the death of Princess Charlotte, daughter of Prince Regent’s only child and second-in-line to the throne, a succession crisis arose in the royal family. Subsequently, the parliament offered William an incentive of paying his large debts if he agreed to marry and produce a legitimate heir to the throne.
After several rebuffs, William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg and Meiningen, daughter of George I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. In 1830, upon the death of his elder brother George IV, William ascended the throne, becoming the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as well as the King of Hanover.
William IV was a good natured king and was received with enthusiasm by all ranks of society. When he ascended the throne, parliamentary reform crisis was in motion. In 1831, upon acquiring majority in the House of Commons, the ‘Whig’ party leader Lord Grey pushed a Reform Bill in the Commons but was defeated in the House of Lords.
In 1832, when William eventually agreed to create enough new ‘Whig’ peers to get the Bill through the House of Lords, the Lords backed down and the Bill was passed in both the chambers. William’s reign also saw several other reforms; the Poor Law was enacted, child labor was restricted, and slavery was abolished in nearly the entire British Empire.
After William’s two short-lived legitimate daughters, William and his wife were unable to produce a child of their own. Subsequently, William's niece, the young Princess Victoria, daughter of William's deceased younger brother Edward, Duke of Kent, came to be accepted as heiress presumptive to the crown.
Upon William’s death, the joint rule of England and Hanover was separated. Princess Victoria ascended the throne of England and the rule of Hanover was passed on to Ernest, the Duke of Cumberland, one of William's younger brothers.
The most significant reform passed under William’s reign was that of the modernizing of British electoral system by the revolutionary ‘Reform Act of 1832.’ ‘The 1832 Reform Act’ extended the voting franchise to middle class land owners and became the basis for further Acts that eventually emancipated all adult subjects.
Personal Life & Legacy
From 1791 onwards, William IV lived with his mistress Dorothea Bland, an Irish stage actress better known by her stage name Mrs. Jordan. The couple remained together for 20 years and had ten illegitimate children; five sons and five daughters. All his illegitimate children were given the surname ‘FitzClarence.’
In 1818, William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg and Meiningen, the daughter of George I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. The couple had two daughters, who died in early childhood and Adelaide suffered several miscarriages.
William IV died on June 20, 1837, in Windsor Castle, Berkshire, leaving behind no legitimate children. His body was buried on July 8, 1837, at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.