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Sunday, 15 July 2012

The funeral of George IV - 15 July 1830

George IV  from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
George IV
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
The death of George IV

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.”

Windsor Castle  from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte by WC Oulton (1819)
Windsor Castle
from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte by WC Oulton (1819)
Hastening to the funeral

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.”

George IV's funeral from The Mirror 7 August 1830
George IV's funeral from The Mirror, 7 August 1830
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 final resting place of George IV

The Royal Mausoleum, Windsor  from Memoirs of George IV by Robert Huish (1830)
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)

6 comments:

  1. It must have been a really big coffin.

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  2. Did the bearers carry the coffin on there shoulders in them days
    Ann

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    1. I am not sure quite how they carried them as I have not come across any pictures of people carrying coffins at this time, but there were definitely pall bearers - the Duke of Gloucester was one of the pall bearers for Wilberforce who died in 1833.
      http://www.regencyhistory.net/2012/04/william-wilberforce-1759-1833.html

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    2. thanks for reply i did not know Duke of Gloucester was one of the pall bearers for Wilberforce who died in 1833

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  3. I have read many books on The Georgian kings and almost without fail the funerals are chaotic and utterly disrespectful affairs,so demonstrative of "people of quality" as they liked to describe themselves.

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    1. The most solemn occasion would seem to have been the funeral of Princess Charlotte whose death plunged the whole country into mourning.

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