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William IV, King of the United Kingdom (1765-1837)

Detail of William IV portrait by WIlkie
William IV (1765-1837, by David Wilkie, RCIN 404931 ©

William IV, later Duke of Clarence, was the third son of George III and Queen Charlotte. ‘The Sailor King’, he spent much of his early life at sea. In 1818 he married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen; sadly none of their children survived to adulthood. William succeeded his brother, George IV.

William had plainer tastes than his brother George IV. He was less interested in Buckingham Palace and did not wish to continue collecting on such a large or expensive scale. However, he did like Windsor Castle and continued his brother's work there, with architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville. The present Royal Library at Windsor was created under William. He brought together the various small libraries of his predecessors and what remained in the royal collection after George IV's gift of George III's Library to the nation. He oversaw Wyatville's plans for the library in a suite of rooms that included Elizabeth I's Long Gallery. He also added important volumes to the collection himself.

William was also interested in English ceramics and commissioned several services around the time of his coronation, most notably the Rockingham Coronation service and services from Worcester and Davenport. Another celebration of the coronation was the commission for the Coronation Procession of William IV from Richard Barrett Davis, with several preparatory works for the horses now in the collection also.

William's early youth in the navy is reflected in his interest in marine paintings, several of which were either given to him or acquired by him during his relatively short reign. George Chambers also painted a view of Greenwich and a view of Dover for Queen Adelaide, William's consort. William's interest in military matters also led to a commission for Alexandre-Jean Dubois Drahonet to paint one hundred pictures illustrating the uniform of the Army and the Navy in 1832.

Before he married Adelaide, William had been involved with Dorothy Jordan, a talented actress of her time. They had ten children together. William commissioned Sir Francis Chantrey to make a sculpture of Mrs Jordan several years after her death; he may also have acquired the portrait of her as the Comic Muse, painted by Hoppner.

William commissioned David Wilkie, better known as a genre painter, for a formal full-length portrait in 1832 and also Sir Martin Archer Shee to make another full-length portrait in 1833-4 in Garter Robes with Windsor Castle in the background. These works would join the portrait hangs at Windsor, to celebrate the military and political achievements of Britain in the first quarter of the nineteenth century and the continuing power of the monarchy.

Reigned: 1830–37


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