George IV


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E.A. Smith

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This engrossing biography of George IV, king of England from 1820 to 1830, gives a full and objective reassessment of the monarch’s character, reputation, and achievement. Previous writers have tended to accept the unfavorable verdicts of the king’s contemporaries that he was a dissolute, pleasure-loving dilettante and a feeble and ineffective ruler who was responsible for the decline of the power and reputation of the monarchy in the early nineteenth century. Now E.A. Smith offers a new view of George IV, one that does not minimize the king’s faults but focuses on the positive qualities of his achievement in politics and in the patronage of the arts.

Smith explores the roots of the king’s character and personality, stressing the importance of his relationship with his parents and twelve surviving siblings. He examines the king’s important contributions to the cultural enhancement of his capital and his encouragement of the major artistic, literary, and scholarly figures of his time. He reassesses the king’s role as constitutional monarch, contending that it was he, rather than Victoria and Albert, who created the constitutional monarchy of nineteenth-century Britain and began the revival of its popularity. Smith’s biography not only illuminates the character of one of the most colorful of Britain’s rulers but also contributes to the history of the British monarchy and its role in the nation’s life.

E.A. Smith, formerly reader in history at the University of Reading, is the author of A Queen on Trial: The Affair of Queen Caroline, among other books.

“[A] well-written, balanced account of the life of George IV. . . . Smith’s word has certainly succeeded in providing a picture of George IV’s life that will do much to restore a balanced view of a man who has been more vilified than is entirely just.”—Paul H. Scherer, Albion

"Smith’s . . . sympathetic account portrays a king’s grand indulgences as decorative flourishes of a darker political era."—Kirkus Reviews

"Smith opens a new window into the king’s effect on the nation, finding that his political role had much more significance than has been generally realized. Recommend this biography for its comprehensiveness and professional exactness."—Brad Hooper, Booklist

"A delightfully written and stimulating contribution to English royal history."—Derek Turner, Literary Review

“Smith has written a magisterial biography.”—Andreas Fahrmeir, German Historical Institute

“A valuable tool for future historians and a ‘good read’ for anyone interested in one of our most colourful and exasperating monarchs.”—Contemporary Review

“E. A. Smith has written a splendid biography reassuring the life and reign of a king, traditionally pictured as a pleasure loving, dissolute dilettante, interested only in wine and women. . . . Smith’s excellent revisionist study of George IV, while not avoiding his sins, throws new light on his troubled relationship with his father.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

“This well-written, thoughtful, and scholarly biography of one of the most fascinating of British monarchs is at once a major work of history and a re-evaluation that sets a standard for sympathetic biography. . . . Smith’s biography is the best available treatment of his fascinating subject.”—Jeremy Black, Notes and Queries

ISBN: 9780300088021
Publication Date: January 11, 2001
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b/w illus.
The English Monarchs Series
George I

Ragnhild Hatton; With a new foreword by Jeremy Black

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Henry VI

Bertram Wolffe; With a new foreword by John L. Watts

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Queen Anne

Edward Gregg; With a new preface by the author

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James II

John Miller

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Edward VI

Jennifer Loach; Edited by George Bernard and Penry Williams

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