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William IV,1765–1837, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1830–37), third son of George III. He went to sea in 1779, served under Admiral George Rodney in action off Cape St. Vincent (1780), and by 1786 was a captain. William became duke of Clarence in 1789 and was advanced by 1799 to the rank of admiral, but he saw little active service after 1790. Meanwhile in the House of Lords he opposed the antislavery movement and supported the extravagances of his oldest brother (later George IV). About 1791 he formed a liaison with Mrs. Jordan, an actress, with whom he lived for over 20 years. He married (1818) Adelaide, daughter of the duke of Saxe-Meiningen, and on the death (1827) of the duke of York, second son of George III, he became heir presumptive to the throne. Made lord high admiral in 1827, he tried to run naval affairs without his council, contrary to law, and was forced to resign (1828). In 1830 he succeeded George IV as king. His most important public act was his promise, given most reluctantly, to the 2d Earl GreyGrey, Charles Grey, 2d Earl,
1764–1845, British statesman. Elected to Parliament in 1786, he was one of those appointed to manage the impeachment of Warren Hastings.
..... Click the link for more information. that he would, if necessary, create enough Whig peers to pass the Reform Bill of 1832 (see under Reform ActsReform Acts
or Reform Bills,
in British history, name given to three major measures that liberalized representation in Parliament in the 19th cent. Representation of the counties and boroughs in the House of Commons had not, except for the effects of parliamentary
..... Click the link for more information. ). This bill and such reforms as the education act, the new poor law, the municipal corporations act, and the abolition of slavery in the empire marked his reign, but he maintained the generally passive attitude toward politics formed during his many years as younger son and later younger brother of the king. Political leadership was left to the duke of WellingtonWellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st duke of,
1769–1852, British soldier and statesman. Military Achievements
..... Click the link for more information. , Earl Grey, Viscount MelbourneMelbourne, William Lamb, 2d Viscount
, 1779–1848, British statesman. He entered Parliament as a Whig in 1805, was (1827–28) chief secretary for Ireland, and entered (1828) the House of Lords on the death of
..... Click the link for more information. , and Sir Robert PeelPeel, Sir Robert,
1788–1850, British statesman. The son of a rich cotton manufacturer, whose baronetcy he inherited in 1830, Peel entered Parliament as a Tory in 1809.
..... Click the link for more information. . Good-natured but eccentric and given to ill-considered public utterances, William was only moderately popular. He was succeeded by his niece, Victoria.
See biographies by W. G. Allen (1960) and P. Ziegler (1971).
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known as the Sailor King. 1765--1837, king of the United Kingdom and of Hanover (1830--37), succeeding his brother George IV; the third son of George III
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005