Roberts, Erie (Illinois Wesleyan University)
Constructing the Past: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 6 (2005)
This paper re-examines the portrayal of George IV of England in contemporary sources and modern scholarship by looking at his relationship with his secret first wife, Maria Fitzherbert, and her adopted daughter, Minney. It argues for a reinterpretation of the one-sided portrayal of George as a licentious, selfish person.
Two years ago, I read a book. Usually this would not be a notable occurrence, but the book was different. It was entitled The Secret Wife of King George IV and it was a fictionalized account of the illegal, illicit, and secret marriage between King George IV of England and Maria Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic twice-widowed woman six years his elder. It was engrossing, captivating, and, of course, distorted. The facts ofthe story are simple. The two first met in early 1784 while attending the opera. A little less then two years later, the couple defied the law and married in a private ceremony in Maria’s house. The semi-secret relationship was a happy one for three years, until politics intervened, in the form of George’s failed attempt to become Regent, and the couple separated due to George’s resulting drinking, gambling, and womanizing. In 1795, he married for duty, while still married for love, and less than a year later, George began what would be come a four-year long re-wooing of Maria. The two reunited in mid-I800 and remained happily together for 11 years, until politics, this time in the form of a successful appointment to the Regent, and Maria’s pride drove them apart for good.