|George IV |
From La Belle Assemblée (1830)
George IV died at Windsor on 26 June 1830. He had ruled as Regent for nine years and King for ten. His father’s ill health had led him to anticipate coming to the throne for most of his adult life, but in the event, he did not become King until 1820 at the age of 57. By the time he succeeded George III, he was already suffering the effects of years of overindulgence.
Cause of death
The surgeon Sir Astley Cooper reported that George had died from a ruptured blood vessel in the stomach. According to the report in La Belle Assemblée, “The original disease consisted of the ossification of the valves of the aorta, which must have existed for many years, and which impeded the current of blood flowing from the heart.”
A chamber of mortality and woe
George’s body was placed in a coffin of Spanish mahogany lined with white satin, which was then placed in a leaden coffin bearing his details on an engraved silver plate. His body was prepared for the lying in state under the superintendence of a Mr Marsh and the coffin was placed in the King’s drawing room, under a rich, purple canopy. The body lay in state for two days where it was viewed by the public, all dressed in decent mourning.
Huish records that: “The mourners stood perfectly motionless, and like statues upon a sepulchre. The atmosphere of the apartment rose at times to a stifling heat. It was the chamber of mortality and woe. The public passed through in one continuous stream from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon.”
From Memoirs of Queen Charlotte
by WC Oulton (1819)
The funeral took place on Thursday, 15 July. During the day, guns were fired regularly in mourning but the town of Windsor was bustling with the large numbers of people who had descended on it for the funeral and in Huish’s opinion “the group resembled more the characters of a masquerade, than spectators hastening to a funeral”.
Huish states that there was a great rush getting into the chapel for the funeral, but then a long wait for the procession, so that people began to chatter rather than wait in silence. “We did not hear any one word of praise of his late Majesty, nor one syllable of regret. Much was said of the procession; many conjectures were formed as to the ceremony; but as to him in whose honour it was supposed to be all got up, not one word was said. The show interested the people, the dead King was an object of complete indifference.”
The funeral procession
The funeral procession set out at about half past eight to the sound of the King’s band playing “The Dead March in Saul”, with William IV as chief mourner, followed by his royal relatives, the Dukes of Sussex, Cumberland and Gloucester, and Prince Leopold. The Duke of Wellington bore the sword of state. The soldiers held flambeaux in the failing light which La Belle Assemblée noted “presented a striking yet a solemn effect”.
|The Royal Mausoleum, Windsor |
From Memoirs of George IV
by Robert Huish (1830)
The funeral service was read in St George’s Chapel by the Dean of Windsor. It has been suggested that William was so excited about becoming King that he did not behave with decorum at the funeral; reports would certainly suggest that there was considerable noise that did not accord with the solemnity of the occasion.
The coffin was lowered into the passage leading to the royal vault at about half past ten. The ceremony was finished by Sir George Nayler proclaiming the style and titles of the late King, ending with the words, “God save King William IV.” A rocket was then let off and the band played God save the King.
Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (1830, London)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of George IV (Thomas Kelly, 1830, 1831, London)
Huish, Robert, History of the life and reign of William the Fourth (William Emans, 1837, London)
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819, London)