Regent Square, WC1H

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Before being crowned George IV (August 12, 1762 – June 26, 1830) in 1820, George Augustus Frederick had already played the role of head of state, stepping in for his seriously ill father King George III, as Prince Regent. He was not to everyone’s taste. As a young man the prince was headstrong, ignoring his father’s demands of duty and service. At 21 he married Maria Fitzherbert, not only a commoner but a Roman Catholic, hence it was an illegal union. This, however, it turned out, was the least of the constitutional problems that were to rock the Crown. By 1788 George III’s mental health had started to deteriorate, possibly the result of the hereditary disease porphyria. Parliament seriously considered replacing him with his son as a caretaker monarch, but the king recovered before any Bill could be enacted. In the meantime, the king in waiting was amassing huge amounts of debt and in 1795, was forced to turn to his father for help. It was given, but on the condition that he marry his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. From the outset it was an unhappy marriage, and the pair formally separated only one year later after the birth of their daughter, Princess Charlotte. When the king’s mental health finally collapsed, overcome by grief following the death of his daughter, Princess Amelia, he formally stepped aside. And so, in 1811 George became Prince Regent. Despite his many faults, the women, the excessive spending, the drinking, he was interested in architecture and design, championing new styles and fashions. When his father died in 1820, the Prince Regent ascended the throne as George IV, sparing no expense on the occasion which cost £243,000… more than 20 times that of his father’s coronation. George’s final years were marked by increasing physical and mental decay and withdrawal from public affairs, he spent most of this time in seclusion at Windsor Castle. Despite many mistresses (and illegitimate children) along the way, his connection with Maria Fitzherbert endured. In June 1830, the King’s doctor, Sir Henry Halford, noted “His Majesty’s constitution is a gigantic one, and his elasticity under the most severe pressure exceeds what I have ever witnessed in thirty-eight years’ experience.” Prior to its development, the area had been fields owned by Thomas Harrison who inherited it in 1783. Harrison gained a formal license to start developing in 1809. The first building leases for this street were granted in 1818, and its houses were first occupied in 1829. Horwood’s plan of 1819 shows the entire course of the street between Gray’s Inn Road east and modern Wakefield Street west as Sidmouth Street. Most of the other original buildings have vanished and been replaced by late 20thCentury blocks of flats.

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