Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
GEORGE IV.—THE FIRST GENTLEMAN IN EUROPE
 GEORGE III. died in January 1820 A.D., and was succeeded by
his son George IV. George IV. had already been reigning as
Regent for ten years, for, during that time, his father had
been mad and so unable to rule, and towards the end of his
life he had become blind, and deaf as well.
George III. was called Farmer George, because he liked a
peaceful country life, and would have been a very good
farmer, although he was not a very wise King. He had reigned
sixty years, including the last ten, during which he really did not
George IV. was called "the
first gentleman in Europe," because he was
handsome, and had fine manners, very
different from those of his homely father. He tried to make
friends with all his people through his fine manners. Soon
after he became King he went to Ireland, where the people
received him with great joy. He made speeches to them, and
laughed and cried with them. He wore the order of St.
Patrick on his breast, and great bunches of shamrock in his
cap. He told them that he loved his Irish people, and that
he was Irish at heart, and altogether acted his part very
well. But it was merely acting, for George IV. only cared
for himself, and was not in the least a good king. The
warm-hearted Irish people,
 however, believed in him and,
when he sailed away again, some of them were so eager to
catch a last glimpse of their King, that they fell into the
sea, and were nearly drowned.
George next went to Hanover, for he was King of Hanover, as
well as king of Britain. There he talked German, and wore a
Hanoverian Order, sang German national songs, and told the
people with tears in his eyes that he was truly German at
heart; and perhaps the German people believed him too.
Next he went to Scotland. Since the time of Charles I. no
king had visited Scotland, and the people crowded to welcome
him. The road from Leith to Edinburgh was lined with
gentlemen to do him honour, and as King George drove along
through the lines of cheering people, it was seen that he
was dressed in Stuart tartan, and that he wore the Order of
George had wept and laughed with his Irish subjects, yet
when a chance came for him to prove that he loved them as he
had said he did, he did not willingly take it.
In the fierce old days the Roman Catholics had killed and
tortured the Protestants whenever they had the power and, in
dread of them, an act had been passed forbidding Roman
Catholics to hold any public office. Those days were long
passed. No one was now killed or tortured because of his
religion, yet the laws against the Roman Catholics still
remained. No Catholic might be an officer in the army or
navy, no Catholic might sit in Parliament, or serve his
country in any way.
Yet nearly all the Irish people were Roman Catholics, and
generous men for many years had felt these laws to be
unjust. The younger Pitt had tried in vain to make George
III. do away with them. Now wise men tried to make George
IV. repeal them. But the King, who said he
 was Irish at
heart, refused. "My father," he said, "would have laid his
head on the block rather than yield, and I am equally ready
to lay my head there for the same cause."
The great Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister at this
time, and as he had conquered Napoleon in war, so now he
conquered George IV. in peace. He stood firm, and at last
the King was forced to give way. A bill called the Catholic
Emancipation Act, which means "freeing" Act, was passed by
Parliament. Since then Roman Catholics have been allowed to
sit in Parliament, to be officers, or to hold any other post
which is open to Protestants, although no king may rule in
Britain unless he is a Protestant.
George IV. died in June 1830 A.D., having reigned ten years.
He was an utterly selfish man, and a bad King. Yet the
British nation had grown so strong that even a bad King
could not do much harm, while there were great men around
him to work for their country.