George IV

George IV (reigned 1820-30) was 48 when he became Regent in 1811. He had secretly and illegally married a Roman Catholic, Mrs Fitzherbert. In 1795 he officially married Princess Caroline of Brunswick, but the marriage was a failure and he tried unsuccessfully to divorce her after his accession in 1820 (Caroline died in 1821). Their only child Princess Charlotte died giving birth to a stillborn child.

An outstanding, if extravagant, collector and builder, George IV acquired many important works of art (now in the Royal Collection), built the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, and transformed Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. George's fondness for pageantry helped to develop the ceremonial side of monarchy. After his father's long illness, George resumed royal visits; he visited Hanover in 1821 (it had not been visited by its ruler since the 1750s), and Ireland and Scotland over the next couple of years.Beset by debts, George was in a weak position in relation to his Cabinet of ministers. His concern for royal prerogative was sporadic; when the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool fell ill in 1827, George at one stage suggested that ministers should choose Liverpool's successor. In 1829, George IV was forced by his ministers, much against his will and his interpretation of his coronation oath, to agree to Catholic Emancipation. By reducing religious discrimination, this emancipation enabled the monarchy to play a more national role.

George's profligacy and marriage difficulties meant that he never regained much popularity, and he spent his final years in seclusion at Windsor, dying at the age of 67.