A History Lesson - William IV

A brief look at the man behind the name.

William_IV_by_Sir_Martin_Archer_SheeWilliam IV

Born at Buckingham Palace in London on 21 August 1765. He was the third son of George III and Queen Charlotte and as such was not expected to succeed to the throne. At the age of 13 he began a career in the Royal Navy. He enjoyed his time at sea, seeing service in America and the West Indies and becoming admiral of the fleet in 1811. In 1789, he was created Duke of Clarence.

From the early 1790s until 1811, William lived with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan. They had 10 children who took the surname Fitzclarence.

As a young man, William was at times over enthusiastic and lacking in tact which led to him being given the nickname of “Silly Billy”. He was a blunt man, who had a tendency to use strong language, but his friendly manner made him popular with the public.

After retiring from the navy in 1790, William lived at Bushy Park with his mistress, the actress Dorothea Jordan, by whom he fathered ten illegitimate children who took the name Fitzclarence. He left her in 1811 when he was forced to marry in order to solve his financial problems.

William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen at Kew Palace on 11 July 1818. The marriage was a happy one, but she was unable to provide William with an heir; she had two daughters who died as infants.

Clarence House, which stands beside St James’ Palace, was built for William between 1825 and 1827, whilst still the Duke of Clarence, to the designs of John Nash. The interior of the house was plainly decorated and the final costs were around £22,000. William lived here as king between 1830 and 1837. William chose to live here rather than at Buckingham Palace.

William was much more frugal than his brother George IV had been and this gained him popularity; he insisted on a coronation that cost a tenth of what his brother’s had cost.

William died on 20 June 1837, without surviving children. His niece Victoria succeeded him.


William IV Fun Fact: All of our burgers are named after the people in this story except the The Billy Whizz (we will leave you guessing on that one)!