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 William IV 
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Post King William IV - The Sailor King
King William IV, the Sailor King, is another historical figure that pops up in fiction as well as actual naval history since he was a real officer in his father's (George III's) navy.

I located a copy of Tom Pocock's "The Sailor King" but does anyone know of a more interesting treatment of his life than Pocock's? Anyone want to comment on Pocock's book?

From the bits and pieces in some of the books I've read, William seems to have thought of himself as a better officer than he actually was.

Don


Wed Feb 01, 2006 5:38 am
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Don,

Since William IV was a naval officer, I thought he deserved his own thread.

Why do you think Pocock's book is uninteresting? I usually find his biographies quite readable in terms of his writing style.

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Thu Feb 02, 2006 1:08 am
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susan wrote:
Don, Why do you think Pocock's book is uninteresting? I usually find his biographies quite readable in terms of his writing style.

I guess I phrased my question in a funny way. Sorry about that. I just ordered Pocock's book so I haven't read it yet. I just thought that maybe I jumped the gun in ordering that book and that someone else might have written a superb one about such a colorful character. I was willing to buy a second book if someone had a suggestion.

I own Pocock’s book about SSS and Hoste as well as several others and like his work.

King William IV popped up in the book I am currently reading about the Siege of Gibraltar 1779-1783 by McGuffie. He seems to appear quite a bit in naval fiction of the period. When Admiral Sir George Rodney made the first relief (re-supply) of the Rock after his "Moonlight Battle" William, then HRH Prince William Henry, was a midshipman on Rodney’s flagship. Later, as Duke of Clarence, William "floats" through a number of other books. I guess authors like to add him to their fictional accounts since there is the "Royal" connection.

Don


Thu Feb 02, 2006 3:19 am
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I just finished "Sailor King: The Life of King William IV" by Tom Pocock

William was a complex man and you will need to read Pocock’s book to appreciate just how complex. Here are a few snippets that might wet your appetite. William was the third son of George III and as such, he could be sent into danger as a naval officer. His two older brothers were the "heir and a spare" needed for succession.

The navy was William’s lifelong love. When he was without a command, even late in life, he shared his friend Nelson’s desire to return. To return to sea, he depended on the patronage of his father, the Admiralty, and the government. His womanizing (as a young man) offended his parents, his politics offended his father as well as the government, and his treatment of subordinate and superior officers (see the Isaac Schomberg thread) offended the Admiralty and his fellow officers. His lavish spending, which exceeded his income, offended the nation. The London Times savaged him and his older brothers. The cartoonists of the day "had him for breakfast" (copies of some of these are in the book). However, by the time of his death in 1837, the Times lauded him in its obituary as "William IV, the good, the kind, the affable, the companion and commander of his people…" After two long early assignments, mainly in the Americas, William was not allowed any further commands except for a few limited specialized tasks. His one fleet action was as a midshipman, age 13, at Rodney’s "Moonlight Battle" while relieving Gibraltar before sailing to America. At 20 he was made a lieutenant (spent years in Germany which should have made him ineligible). At 21, he was a post-captain. At age 25, he was promoted to rear-admiral after his last serious cruise. He spent the following decades wearing his uniform at official functions, accepting short naval assignments from the King, and longing for actual combat assignments. He had to find interests outside of the navy.

After lobbying relentlessly for fleet command, he was appointed Lord High Admiral in 1827 at age 62. This position was created for him. He was directed by the King and the government, orally and in writing, that he could take no actions without approval by the Admiralty Board. He agreed and then promptly ignored this restriction. In this position, he launched reforms limiting flogging, embracing steam power, requiring gunnery practice, more humane treatment of sailors, and many others. The following year he was forced to resign by his brother, King George IV, because he wanted to remove certain members of the Admiralty who disagreed with him. Upon his removal, his progress toward steam was halted and his gunnery reforms were stopped. He succeeded his brother as King in 1830.

Pocock writes: Surprisingly, he gave rough treatment to Captain Frederick Marryat a man of his own humour, with whom he had never served because his conventional naval career had been ended sixteen years before Marryat had gone to sea. While he himself had introduced social reforms when Lord High Admiral, he was suspicious of officers with similar ideas; in Marryat's case it was his opposition to the use of the press-gang for forcible recruiting. So when the King was asked to give him permission to wear the order of the Legion d'Honneur in recognition of his advice to the French on a new signal code, he first replied, `You best know his services; give him what you please.' Then he remembered, and exclaimed, `Marryat! Marryat! Bye the bye, is not that the man who wrote a book* against the impressment of seamen?" 'The same, your Majesty.' `Then he shan't wear the order; he shall have nothing.'

*The Naval Officer, or Scenes and Adventures in the Life of Frank Mildmay, pub. 1829

Don


Sun Feb 26, 2006 5:08 pm
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Extract from a "letter from Portsmouth," The Times, December 15 1785

"... I saw Prince William at the Assembly. He wore his uniform as a Lieutenant of the navy, without the decorations of the Order of the Garter. He is rather above the middle stature - well made - is handsome, with a fair complection...there is not the least appearance of effeminacy in his countenance....his manners are very engaging...his dancing elegant, though with sufficient vivacity ...his appearance gave me so favourable an opinion of him that I became solicitous for a more perfect knowledge of his character...."

It goes on to say " .....as lieutenant of the Hebe, he performs all the duties of his office, and his perfect conformity to the rules of discipline, and the amiableness of his disposition, render him equally respected by his Captain and his brother officers ..."

The letter has much more detail which, through a need for brevity and respect for its source, I will curtail here. I wonder if the writer was a lady?!!

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Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:40 am
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Mil Goose wrote:
...there is not the least appearance of effeminacy in his countenance....

That's an interesting comment to make. Was he thought of as effeminate at some point?

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Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:20 pm
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The Times, June 17th, 1785:

" ... Wednesday. Commodore Leveson Gower kissed the King's hand on his promotion, and at the same time was honoured by the King with the care and protection of Prince William Henry, who is going on a cruise with a fleet of Observation, under the coomand of the above experienced officer, into the Mediterranean.

Yesterday morning the baggage of Prince William Henry was sent off from St Jame's Palace to Portsmouth; it was expected that his Royal Highness would follow immediately, but it is since supposed that he will make a few days longer stay. ...."



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Thu May 14, 2009 12:39 pm
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I rather liked the following extract because it is about places I know.



The Times, July 9th, 1785:

" .... Yarmouth, July 4. On Thursday evening last arrived in our roads, the Hebe frigate, with Prince William Henry on board, who on Firday afternoon, about half after four o'clock, landed here, accompanied by Commodore Gower, Capt. Rogers, &c. with whom he took a view of the town, in a Yarmouth cart; afterwards drove to Caister and Gorleston, and returned on board the same evening. On his landing, he was received by a numerous asembly of the inhabitants, who shewed the greatest respect to his Royal Highness, who on his re-embarking, expressed the highest satisfaction at the polite treatment he received, and the pleasing prospect of the town and neighbouring country, which he observed was not to be exceeded by any sea-port or watering-place in the kingdom. ...."


Scroll down for a Yarmouth cart



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Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:44 pm
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Post Re: William IV
The Times, September 14th, 1785:

" ...... On the return of Prince William Henry from sea, he is to be appointed a Post Captain, and is to appear in that uniform on the next drawing-room day at St James's, which be on Thursday fortnight, to celebrate the anniversary of their Majesties Coronation, which has not been observed these past ten years as a court day. ......"

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Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:45 pm
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Post Re: William IV
I'm currently reading a non-naval book (shock!) about Prince William's mistress, Mrs. Jordan. (Mrs Jordan's Profession by Claire Tomalin) It's interesting to read about the domestic side of the Prince's life before he became King.

Does anyone know if there has ever been a fair assessment of Prince William's abilities as a naval officer? If he had been allowed to have more command responsibilities, I wonder how successful he would have been. He certainly wanted to return to sea, but seemed a bit spoiled (no surprise).

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Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:44 pm
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Post Re: William IV
Some months ago (12th November 2010, to be exact,) the London Times had an interesting article on the sale of letters written by George III to Prince William (later George 1V) when he joined the navy. William's older brother was already well on the way to debauchery and debt, and the King was anxious to steer William from a similar path.

These are his words to William in 1779 when he was a midshipman:

'You are now launching into a scene of life where you may either prove and Honour or a Disgrace to your Family; it would be very unwelcoming of the love I have for my children if I did not at this moment give you advice [on] how to conduct yourself dictated from no other motive than the anxious feelings of a Parent, that his Child may be happy, and deserve the approbation of Men of worth and integrity.

'Though when at home a Prince, on board of the Prince George you are only a Boy learning the naval profession; but the Prince so far accompanies you that what other boys do, you must not: It must never be out of your thoughts that more Obedience is necessary from You to Your superiors in the Navy; more Politeness to your Equals, and more good nature to your Inferiors than from those who have not been told that these are essential for a gentleman.'


Alas, after a fairly good start, when the King notices that 'your conduct has changed much to your advantage' he soon revealed he had difficulties working with others and fell into the typically Hanoverian pattern of rebelliousness and womanising. The King laments his 'unhappy disposition to resist control', bitterly condemns his 'love of improper company' and expresses anger at his mounting financial problems.

Thomas Venning, a manuscript specialist at Christie's, where the letters were sold, noted that they give a 'fascinating personal perspective on the dysfunctional 18th century Royal Family...[the King] gets more disapproving of his conduct but you can tell it is going in one ear and out the other'.


Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:49 pm
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Post Re: William IV
William IV served with Nelson and continued to correspond with him until Nelson's death.

Here is an interesting anecdote about the naming of Trafalgar Square. The original plan was that it should becalled William IV Square, but George Ledwell Taylor claimed credit for the name ‘Trafalgar Square.’

He was a distinguished architect responsible for some of the buildings around Trafalgar Square, and having business about some architectural plans, went to St James’s Palace where he had an audience of the new king, William 1V. He records in his autobiography, published by Longman’s in 1870, that while awaiting his reception into the King’s presence:

‘I found other officers waiting, among them Sir Thomas Hardy.

‘Ah, Taylor, what are you here for?’

‘A private matter, Sir Thomas.’

However, while we were waiting, a thought struck me if I could get Sir Thomas, to moot this subject, in whose arms Nelson died. [Sentence structure and historical fact seem both somewhat confused here] So I addressed Sir Thomas, and told him my object, adding: if he would be so kind as to make the suggestion to His Majesty’.

‘What?’ said he, ‘What do you take me for?. To ask the King, who has consented to its being called after his own name? Are you mad? I wish you well through it. I will have nothing to do with it.’

Notwithstanding this unpropitious opinion, I awaited my time and was before the King. I had some difficulty in opening my case, but His Majesty took most kindly to my arguments and said, ‘I like the idea. Let it be called Trafalgar Square. Go and tell Lord Duncannon so from me.’

Here was an awkward situation. I said, ‘Your Majesty, I am but a humble man, unauthorised to convey such an order.’

‘I see,’ said His Majesty. ‘Give me your plan – pen and ink.’ He wrote: ‘Trafalgar Square – William Rex’.


Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:37 am
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Post Re: William IV
The Captain's Order Book for HMS Pegasus when HRH William was in command was printed in Brian Lavery's Navy Records Society volume on 'Shipboard Life and Organisation, 1731-1815'. It gives the impression that he was a potentially oppresssive martinet who was obsessed with detail. Hardly the qualities needed for high command.

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Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:56 pm
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Post Re: William IV
The Times, January 5th, 1788:



" ...... Prince William will not leave Plymouth; but notwithstanding, he will not proceed to sea again in the Pegasus; a ship of 44 guns being intended to be equipped for his Highness.

Admiral Graves, Commissioner Laforey, and other Gentlemen of Plymouth and its neighbourhood, will be honoured with his Highness's company till his new ship is ordered for sea. ...."

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Fri May 06, 2011 5:43 pm
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Post Re: William IV
The Times, April 21st, 1788:

".....His Royal Highness Prince William Henry has received his sailing orders, and will proceed to Halifax in the course of next week.

The Andromeda frigate has been fitted up in a stile of superior elegance for the accommodation of the Royal sailor, who takes with him all the officers and company of his late ship the Pegasus. ......"


The transfer of the entire crew of the Pegasus was also mentioned in the thread dedicated to the subject.

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Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:08 pm
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