Thistle Publishing

Sailor King: The Life of King William IV


Of all the British monarchs who have claimed that they have ruled the seas, only one, King William IV, has been a truly professional seafarer. Known as the "Sailor King" in his own lifetime, he saw himself as a naval officer who happened to become the sovereign rather than a monarch who had been a naval officer. His life presents an appealing, if sometimes shocking character. His life in the Royal Navy was fraught with crisis: rivalries, doomed love affairs, extravagance and rebelliousness. Often he seems a Hogarthian character, or a nautical version of the Regency rake.


Yet, while many mocked or despised him, there were those who loved him. And, when he came to the throne and was all but swept away by the tide of the Age of Reform, he faced it with resolution and survived with honour. He had overcome the pressures and contradictions of a royal upbringing, to end his days a king who was not only loved but admired for setting an unstable monarchy on an even keel for the long reign of his niece Victoria which followed his.

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