"the mad old king died, his terrible son came to the throne and Princess Victoria passed her first birthday"

King George III (1738-1820) was king of Great Britain from 1760 until his death, making him the longest-reigning monarch at that time. His reign began well with the defeat of France in the Seven Years War, making Britain the dominant European power, but he is known more commonly as being ‘The King who lost America’ – many of Britain’s colonies were lost in the American War of Independence (1175-1783). In later life, King George suffered from mental illness which confused doctors at the time but is now thought to have been porphyria, a blood disease. Unable to reign, in 1810 a Regency was established in which his son, George IV, was acting king until his father’s death in 1820. King George was criticised heavily until the later half of the twentieth century, seen as a scapegoat for the failure of British imperialism and loss of important colonies. He is still remembered as ‘The Mad King’, although now with a greater deal of sympathy, and was the inspiration for the Alan Bennett play and 1994 film ‘The Madness of King George’.

George IV(1762-1830) reigned from 1820 until his death. He was not a popular king – an extravagant lifestyle and little national leadership made the public contemptuous and angry at the way in which taxpayers’ money was spent.

Although very artistic and cultured – buildings dating from the Regency period

Princess Victoria aged four, by Stephen Poyntz Denning
Public DomainPrincess Victoria aged four, by Stephen Poyntz Denning - Credit: Dulwich Picture Gallery
include the National Gallery, a remodelled Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and Royal Pavilion at Brighton – George IV did much to sink the monarchy in the British public’s estimation; he had poor relationships with his family and country, and during his reign Britain was largely controlled by his Prime Ministers. His daughter, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, died in 1817 and so he was succeeded by his brother, William IV.

Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) was born on 24th May 1819 at Kensington Palace, where she spent her childhood. Granddaughter of George III, her father Edward, Duke of Kent, died shortly after her birth and she was raised by her mother until she became Queen at the age of eighteen in 1837.