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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

When Pitt came to power the Prince of Wales was


[Sidenote:

1788--Prince George Augustus Frederick]

If the King was at best but a lukewarm supporter of his splendid minister, the heir to the throne was the minister's very warm and persistent enemy. When Pitt came to power the Prince of Wales was, and had been for some time, a conspicuous figure in society, a fitful element in political life, and a subject of considerable scandal to the public mind. George the Third was not the kind of man to be happy with or to bring happiness to his children. Possessed of many of those virtues which are supposed to make for domestic peace, he nevertheless failed signally to attach to himself the affection of his children. One and all, they left him as soon as they could, came back to him as seldom as they could. The King's idea of firmness was always a more or less aggravated form of tyranny, and he reaped in loneliness the harvest of his early harshness. Between his eldest son and himself there soon arose and long continued that feud between the reigning sovereign and his heir which seemed traditional in the House of Hanover.

George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales, has many claims to be regarded as perhaps the worst, and as certainly the most worthless, prince of his House. Something was to be excused in the son of such a father; some wild oats were surely to be sown in the soil of a childhood so dully and so sourly cultivated. But no severity of early surroundings will

explain or palliate the unlovely mixture of folly and of falseness, of debauchery, vulgarity, profligacy, and baseness, which were the most conspicuous {242} characteristics of the Prince's nature. The malignant enemy of his unhappy father, the treacherous lover, the perjured friend, a heartless fop, a soulless sot, the most ungentlemanly First Gentleman of Europe, his memory baffles the efforts of the sycophant and paralyzes the anger of the satirist. Genius has wasted itself again and again in the attempt fittingly to describe him. To Byron he became "the fourth of the fools and oppressors called George." Moore immortalized his "nothingness" as a "sick epicure's dream, incoherent and gross." Leigh Hunt went to prison for calling him a "fat Adonis of fifty." Landor, in an epigram on himself and his royal namesakes as bitter as four biting lines could be, could find nothing more bitter than to record his descent from earth, and thankfulness to Heaven that with him the Georges had come to an end. Thackeray abandoned in despair the task of doing justice to his existence. "I own I once used to think it would be good sport to pursue him, fasten on him, and pull him down. But now I am ashamed to mount and lay good dogs on, to summon a full field, and then to hunt the poor game."

When Pitt became Prime Minister the Prince of Wales was in Opposition, because he was opposed to his father. He imagined himself to


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