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George IV, King of the United Kingdom (1762-1830)

George IV was the eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte. He ruled as Prince Regent from 1811 when his father's illness was judged to be permanent and acceded to the throne in 1820. Passionate about art, George's love of French furniture and works of art, and his prolific picture collecting, have given the Royal Collection some of its greatest treasures.

At the age of eighteen, George was granted a household of his own at Carlton House. Far from the strictures and serious-minded family household of George III and Queen Charlotte, George began to indulge his tastes for French interiors, appointing Henry Holland to remodel Carlton House. In 1787 George also engaged Holland to remodel his lodgings in the seaside town of Brighton into a more exuberant Marine Pavilion, decorated with Chinese wallpaper and works of art.

George's friends at this time, popularly known as the 'Carlton House set', included artists such as Richard Cosway as well as Whig politicians and actresses. Early portraits display an interest in dress, fashion and military matters.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, George began to collect Old Master pictures, with a particular preference for Dutch and Flemish paintings. He bought at auction and from dealers and agents, assembling a top-quality collection of works, particularly during the period of his Regency 1811-20. He was also an avid collector of contemporary prints and drawings, with a fascination for military subjects and dress.

In the wake of the French Revolution, a huge amount of French furniture and porcelain had been sold abroad, particularly to the London market. George collected this in vast quantities, to furnish his houses. As a result the Royal Collection has an unparalleled number of superb French works of art and, in particular, Sèvres porcelain. Added to this was the unprecedented amount of silver and silver-gilt objects commissioned and bought from the royal goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, to form the so-called 'Grand Service'. The same firm produced much of the splendid regalia for the coronation of George IV - the ceremony and banquet afterwards a theatre of magnificence and display of national, royal and personal splendour.

George was a keen supporter of British contemporary art, patronising George Stubbs, Thomas Gainsborough, David Wilkie and the sculptors Canova, Francis Chantrey and Nollekens. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, George commissioned Thomas Lawrence to make a series of portraits of the allied European military and political leaders involved in the victory and establishing the subsequent peace. These works now hang in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle.

During his time as King, George IV continued to collect but was also keen to develop the spaces for the display of his magnificent collection. He ordered the rebuilding of Buckingham House into a palace, with the remodelling overseen by John Nash, who had also worked for George at Brighton. Carlton House was demolished. Much of the way we see Windsor Castle today, with its Gothic style architectural detail and taller Round Tower, is due to George IV's patronage and the designs of Sir Jeffry Wyatville.

The exhibition George IV: Art and Spectacle tells the story of his collecting more fully.


The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.