Who was George IV? What were his Regency achievements?

The Prince Regent, Later George IV, in Field-Marshal’s Uniform by Sir Thomas Lawrence
The Prince Regent, Later George IV, in Field-Marshal’s Uniform by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Credit: National Trust Images/John Hammond

King George IV loved the arts, architecture, fashion and furniture, presiding over the Regency era. He reigned from 1820-1830

George IV was Prince Regent since 1811 during his father’s illness. He was eventually crowned king aged 57 – 16 years above the average life expectancy in that era. He threw himself into the role with aplomb, becoming the first monarch to make state visits to Ireland and Scotland since 1399 and 1651, respectively.

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton
The Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Credit: VisitBritain / Britain on View

This willingness to embrace the pageantry of the role came as no surprise to followers of his previous princely exploits. Such was George IV’s commitment to the arts, architecture, fashion and furniture that the period from 1811 to 1837 (the end of his brother William IV’s reign) is known as the Regency era. Working with the architect John Nash, he commissioned major projects including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the King’s Opera House in London’s Haymarket (now Her Majesty’s Theatre), and Regent Street, now one of the capital’s most popular shopping streets.

Key dates

  • 1823 – William Webb Ellis invents the game of rugby by picking up a football during a match
  • 1825 – The Stockton and Darlington Railway opens, the world’s first to use steam locomotives
  • 1828 – ZSL London Zoo, the world’s first scientific zoo, opens