On this day in history : 21st August 1765 – The birth of King William IV, who came to the throne at the age of 64 and is the oldest British monarch to be crowned to date….

William in dress uniform – Sir Martin Archer Shee C.1800 – Public domain

William, who was born at Buckingham Palace, was the third son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz…. He was not expected to become King and at the age of 13 was packed off to join the Royal Navy….something which later earned him the nickname ‘Sailor King’….

NPG D10853; King William IV by William James Ward, published by William Sams, after Abraham Wivell
William, as Lord High Admiral by William James Ward, published by William Sams, after Abraham Wivell, mezzotint, published 1 June 1827 – Public domain

William saw active service at the Battle of St. Vincent in 1780 against the Spanish – and in New York during the American War of Independence…. George Washington even plotted to have him kidnapped but when his intentions were leaked the plan failed…. William was then to serve under Horatio Nelson in the West Indies and by the time he left the Navy in 1790 he had risen to the rank of Rear Admiral…. He was made the Duke of Clarence and later, in 1825, Clarence House in London was designed for him by John Nash….

Clarence House (1874) – Public domain

In 1791 William began living with Irish actress Dorothea Bland, who was also known as ‘Mrs Jordan’…. They were to live as though husband and wife for the next 20 years and had 10 children, 5 girls and 5 boys…. There were those who were less than respectful to the Duke of Clarence and referred to him as ‘Silly Billy’….

Mrs Jordan in the character of Hypolita; mezzotint by John Jones of London 1791 – Public domain

However, William’s destiny was set to change…. Upon the death of his elder brother’s only child, Charlotte, he became heir to the throne…. It was decided he would need a suitable wife and so one was found for him…. In 1818 he married Adelaide of Saxe-Menninger; they had 4 children but none survived beyond infancy….

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen by Sir William Beechey C.1831 – Public domain

When he came to the throne on the 26th of June 1830 he asked “Who’s the Silly Billy now?”…. He was to reign for just 7 years; William died of heart failure on the 20th of June 1837…. Having no surviving legitimate children the throne passed to his niece, Princess Victoria….

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