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During the first part of 19th century, after his naval career had ended, the Duke of Clarence spent considerable time in the House of Lords. He took a controversial stance on the slave trade, although illegal in Britain it was still legal in many of their colonies. The Duke did not think freedom would be beneficial to the slaves. He mentioned that in his travels he had seen many freemen in utter poverty. At one point, in a speech concerning the abolitionists, he directed an insult to the leading abolitionist “the proponents of the abolition are either fanatics or hypocrites, and in one of those classes I rank Mr. Wilberforce“.

In 1817 tragedy struck the British royal family. Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of the Prince of Wales (who had become the Prince regent in 1811) died in childbirth along with her stillborn son. This left no legitimate heir in the generation beyond the 12 surviving children of George III. With the succession in jeopardy many of the royal dukes bade farewell to their mistresses in an effort to secure the succession to the throne.

The Duke of Clarence’s relationship with Mrs Jordan ended in 1811. Mrs Jordan was paid a handsome financial settlement and kept custody of her daughters under the condition she did not resume her stage work. She did however, resume her work as an actress to help pay of some debts of one of her son-in-laws (husband to one of her daughters prior to her relationship with William). This resulted in losing her payments from the Duke of Clarence. She retired to Paris and died in poverty in 1816.

William was 52 in 1817 and his choices of suitable women of childbearing age were slim. William’s brother, Prince Augustus, Duke of Cambridge, found   Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, for William to marry but her father, Landgrave Friederich III of Hesse-Cassel, refused the match. In the end the Duke of Cambridge ended up marrying Princess Augusta himself. William eventually found a suitable princess to marry him, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen the daughter of Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. They were married on July 11, 1818 at Kew Palace in double ceremony along with his brother, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

The union of William and Adelaide was a happy one despite the age difference, and despite the fact that she had to be step-mother to her husband’s illegitimate children. Motherhood, however, would be denied as only two children, Charlotte and Elizabeth, were born but lived only months.

On January 1820 King George III died after a long reign of 59 years. The Duke of Clarence became second in line to the throne . His eldest brother was now King George IV. George was estranged from his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, and she was past child bearing years. The next in line to the throne was William’s brother, Prince Frederick, Duke of York. The Duke of York was married to the eccentric Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia. This union was childless and the couple were estranged. This increased the likelihood that William would one day become king. Because of that awareness William began to take better care of himself and stopped drinking alcohol.

In 1827 William moved a step closer to the throne with the death of his brother, Frederick, Duke of York. William was now 62. He also returned to navy life that year when the Prime Minister, George Canning, appointed William to the office of Lord High Admiral. The office of had been in commission and while it had been in commission the office was exercised by a board. The last time an individual held the office was in 1709. His tenure in the post was short lived and tumultuous. His council consisted of Admiralty officers and they were often in conflict. The conflicts came to a head in 1828 when William put out to sea a squadron of ships that were gone for 10 days without word of where they were heading and for how long they would be gone. His brother, George IV communicated through the Prime Minister,  Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, that his brother should be relieved of command and he demanded his resignation; the Duke of Clarence complied.

William spent the next three years back in the House of Lords and supported the Catholic Emancipation Act which would remove the restrictions placed on Roman Catholics. William supported the bill while his brothers, the Duke of Cumberland and the King, did not. As rumors of Civil War in Ireland grew over these religious restrictions support for the Bill increased and it was passed in 1829. By that time it was clear that the king was in bad health and would not live long. On the morning of June 26, 1830 King George IV died leaving his brother, HRH the Duke of Clarence, king. 

I will post again on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day here in the US and complete my look at William IV and cover his reign as king.

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