George IV

George IV

A Life in Caricature

  1. Kenneth Baker
  • ISBN 9780500251270
  • 25.00 x 25.00 cm
  • Hardback
  • 224pp
  • 211 Illustrations, 206 in colour
  • First published 2005
‘A beautiful and splendidly written volume’ – Ronald Harwood’s Book of the Year, The Sunday Telegraph
'… immensely enjoyable and stunningly produced …
a welcome present for anybody interested in art, politics, satire and sex’
– The Spectator
‘Packed with scabrous depictions of the royal family and political elite, 'George IV' is a total joy’ – The Independent
‘A gloriously amusing album … Baker is an erudite and eloquent guide’ – Country Life
'This is the sort of book that should be on school history syllabuses’ – The Independent on Sunday

George IV was a gift to cartoonists, and had the misfortune to live during the golden age of their art. The merciless lampoons of Gillray and the Cruikshanks, drawn mainly from Kenneth Baker’s unique collection, make many of today’s cartoons seem almost respectful.

George IV was larger than life. A gambler and a drunkard, he married a widow older than himself, illegally and in secret, dabbled in the politics of opposition and amassed fantastic levels of debt. His legitimate union with Caroline of Brunswick ended in an acrimonious and lengthy divorce; all the while mistress followed mistress, each one seemingly fatter and greedier than the last.

Yet as Prince Regent he gave his title to an elegant style of architecture and design. He was London’s best town-planner – with legacies that include Regents Park, Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, and – outside London – the Brighton Pavilion and a modernized Windsor Castle.

George made the Royal Collection one of the finest collections in the world and kept copies of Jane Austen’s novels in each of his houses. His handling of major political crises – so different from his predecessors' – paved the way for today’s constitutional monarchy. He organized splendid celebrations open to ordinary men and women and he invented the state visit. By the time of his death the monarchy had become less mysterious, distant and secret.

Kenneth Baker draws on a lifetime’s experience of high politics to scrutinize the changing figure of George, setting his extraordinary life in the context of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Peterloo Massacre, Wellington, Pitt and Fox, providing a skilful and thoroughly enjoyable understanding of the period's most colourful character.

Kenneth Baker, in his long political career, served in the Cabinet as Environment Secretary, Education Secretary, Chairman of the Conservative Party and Home Secretary. He now sits in the House of Lords. Well known for his contributions to television and the press, and his association with the Man Booker Prize (he chaired the panel of judges in 2001), Lord Baker is the author of a number of books, including various anthologies of poetry, his memoirs of life under Mrs Thatcher, The Turbulent Years, and The Prime Ministers: An Irreverent Political History in Cartoons and its companion, The Kings and Queens: An Irreverent Cartoon History of the British Monarchy.