Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Reading & Historic Royal Palaces's online course, A History of Royal Food and Feasting. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second [CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds George and Charlotte were devoted parents to their large family, but their overprotective regime backfired when their eldest son went wild at 18 with his first taste of freedom. And this night, of self-indulgence wasn’t a one-off. Prince George took to drinking and womanising with a passion. George enjoyed a succession of mistresses. However, his one true love was Maria Fitzherbert. They married in secret. At first, George’s excesses disappeared, but within a few years, he soon returned to his old ways, breaking up with Maria by sending her a note. The Prince was then legally married to Princess Caroline of Brunswick, who he despised, spending his wedding night horribly drunk.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds By 1794, Prince George’s debts had grown to over 250,000 at the time when the average wage was around 10 pounds a year. The country was at war and the Prince became a figurehead for the repressive measures and the high taxes introduced by the government. When the Prince acted as regent during his father’s illness, his entourage endured a period of elegance and refinement. For others, this was a time of extreme hardship and food shortages, making the Prince’s behaviour even harder for the public to tolerate, who much preferred his estranged wife Caroline. Yes, we have a long list of uncomplimentary adjectives for George, Prince of Wales spoiled, gluttonous, selfish, opium addicted. He was even called an odious beast.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds However, after years of his sickly father, people couldn’t wait to have a proper king on the throne. When George IV’s coronation was eventually planned, it was going to be a sumptuous affair. Parliament granted the new king over three times the cost of his father’s coronation and a lavish banquet for peers of the realm was thrown at Westminster Hall. Vast quantities of turtle soup, jellies, pastries, and cream were consumed using gilded cutlery. The poor of London were given dinners of roast beef and plum pudding and the evening finished with fireworks in Hyde Park. Despite this lavish coronation, King George IV remained the butt of public and private criticism.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds Shortly after his death, the Times proclaimed there never was an individual less regretted by his fellow creatures. But we have him to thank for Brighton Pavilion and much of the decoration and art collections of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. He was also instrumental in the founding of the National Gallery. In 1817, the sudden death after child birth of the king’s only daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales, prompted a desperate race among George’s younger brothers to produce an heir. Eventually, a young Princess Victoria was to bring the extravagant Georgian era to an end, and this was the era in which scientific and technological advances would enable this new social class to own their own ovens and bake at home.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds In Victoria’s reign, the idea of the domestic British table was born, the sort of food that would build an empire.

Next week

George III died in 1820. What happened next?

Join Kate in this animated, whistle-stop tour through history, illustrating the events that led to the succession of Queen Victoria, who reigned until 1901.

We hope you enjoyed Week 4 and look forward to meeting you again next week at our final destination; Kensington Palace, for Victoria’s 17th birthday celebrations. We’ll look more closely at how Victoria came to succeed her uncle, William IV.

This animation was created by Louise Jin Yin Lee, Ross Warrington and Benedict Cross, students from the University of Reading’s Typography and Graphic Communication department.

Further reading

For those of you keen to continue your studies on King George III and his food, we’ve compiled a list of suggested further reading material, provided by previous Learners in a PDF at the bottom of this Step.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

A History of Royal Food and Feasting

University of Reading