King William

William IV (William Henry; 21 August 1765 – 20 June 1837) ruled over the countries of Great Britain, Ireland, and Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his passing in 1837. William, the third child of George III, followed his older brother George IV as king, making him the last and second-to-last head of the House of Hanover in Britain.


William IV, one of the most unexpected British kings and the oldest to ascend to the throne at age 64, was known by nicknames "Sailor King" and "Silly Billy."


The third son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, William was born early on August 21, 1765, at Buckingham House. He was not expected to inherit the Crown because he had two older brothers, George, Prince of Wales, and Prince Frederick (later Duke of York). However, on September 20, 1765, he was baptised at St. James' Palace's Great Council Chamber. His godparents were Princess Augusta, Hereditary Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, and Prince Henry, later Duke of Cumberland.


William was schooled by private tutors at Kew Palace and spent the most of his early years there. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as a midshipman in Admiral Digby's division at the age of thirteen. Richard Goodwin Keats, with whom he forged a lifelong connection and claimed to owe all of his professional knowledge, served as the lieutenant of his watch for four years. He saw the San Julián strike her colours to his ship at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1780. Although he has been accompanied on board the ship by a tutor, his experiences in the navy appear to have been similar to those of other midshipmen. After a drunken altercation in Gibraltar, he and his shipmates were imprisoned; after his name was revealed, he was swiftly released from custody. He performed his fair share of the cooking.


In 1785, William became a lieutenant; the following year, he was made captain of HMS Pegasus. "In his professional line, he is superior to two-thirds, I am sure, of the [Naval] list," Horatio Nelson wrote of William while stationed in the West Indies in late 1786. "In attention to commands and respect to his superior officer, I rarely know his equal." They frequently had dinner together because they were such close friends. William insisted on giving the bride away during Nelson's wedding. He was granted command of the frigate HMS Andromeda in 1788. While in charge of HMS Valiant the following year, he was promoted to rear-admiral.


William wanted to become a duke like his older brothers and get a parliamentary stipend, but his father was apprehensive about the idea. William vowed to run for the Devonshire seat of Totnes in the British House of Commons in order to exert pressure on him. George III made his son the Duke of Clarence, St. Andrews, and Earl of Munster on May 16, 1789, allegedly adding, "I well know it is another vote added to the Opposition," horrified at the thought of his son arguing his case to the electorate. Like many politicians of the era, William's political career was erratic and cannot be attributed to a particular party. But he publicly sided with the Whigs, just like his older brothers, who were known to disagree with their father's political views.


Momentous changes occurred under his rule, but none more so than the abolition of slavery in the colonies in 1833, a subject he had previously opposed strongly in the House of Lords.

Additionally, the Factory Act, passed in 1833, ultimately imposed more limitations on the then-common practice of using child labour.


The Poor Law Amendment Act was presented the following year as a measure to help provide for the poor through a system that would eventually lead to the establishment of workhouses all around the nation. The Act, enacted with overwhelming support, was considered a means of rectifying the shortcomings of the previous system.


The Reform Act's introduction created a problem that sparked opposition, criticism, and debate. The choice to implement extended suffrage was nevertheless challenging in practice. While some factions advocated for unlimited male suffrage with no constraints on property ownership, others thought it would upset the existing quo.


William IV's reign was very eventful despite being only a few years long. As he drew closer to death, he got into a fight with the Duchess of Kent while trying to develop a stronger bond with her daughter, Princess Victoria of Kent, who was his niece.


As his condition worsened and the end of his reign drew near, it soon became apparent that his young niece Victoria would succeed him as king because he had no living legal children.


At Windsor Castle, on June 20, 1837, William IV passed away with his wife Adelaide by his side. However, he left a rich legacy that included reform, more stability, and a model for constitutional monarchy.