Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980

As King, William IV was everything that his deplorable brother George was not - conscientious, fair-minded, unceremonious - and he endeared himself to his subjects from the start. He was simple in his tastes, partisan in his political views but just in affairs of state, and ultimately a devoted, faithful husband.

As a young man, his dissolution exasperated his father, and his career in the Navy was distinguished more for enthusiasm than talent. His illegitimate children and his long affair with the actress Dorothy Jordan did nothing to improve his reputation. But when, in 1830, he succeeded to the throne, he responded with diligence as well as alacrity.

His reign saw one of the most important events in British history: the Reform of Parliament, in which vital roles were played by the political giants of the day - Peel, Grey and Melbourne. Though a reactionary Tory at heart, William heeded the advice of his ministers and accepted the radical changes that were made. Scrupulous adherence to his duties as a King characterize the reign of a man who is often ignored or, at best, dismissed as a genial eccentric. In this discerning portrait he is seen to have had considerable influence on the conflicts of his time and also on the future of Britain’s monarchy.

BOOK Reviews

‘The surprising thing about William, and the element which makes him a rewarding subject for a biographer, is that in his confused and often cack-handed way he made a success of his reign... He has some claim to being Britain’s first constitutional monarch and Somerset acknowledges and assesses his contribution with calm good sense... She is lively without stridency, colourful without vulgarity... The reader is left with an impression of the King which is clear, fair and well grounded’. Philip Ziegler, Times Literary Supplement

‘As Anne Somerset makes plain...William had the sort of bluff personality that endears itself to the British people... This biography is a considerable achievement by a 24-year-old graduate’. Bournemouth Evening Echo