An Appreciation Of King William Iv And His Reign

TO the letters already given, which cover the seven years of William

IV.'s reign, it seems appropriate to add two public utterances on the

occasion of his death. The cuttings containing them are pasted in a MS.

book belonging to Miss Clitherow's correspondent, himself a writer of

repute,[*] and are preceded by the following notes:

[*] The Rev. Edward Nares, D.D., Rector of Biddenden, Kent, and Regius

Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford.

'No King ever departed this life with less of blame attached to him as

a King, or with more credit as a well-meaning, good-natured,

high-minded man. No King ever more truly acted upon the noble

principles of Louis XII. in forgiving, as King, all offences committed

against him while Duke of Orleans. When the Duke of Wellington was the

Minister of George IV., he saw fit, with a view to retrenchment in the

public interest of unnecessary expenditure, to remove H.R.H. the Duke

of Clarence from the office of Lord High Admiral. When H.R.H. succeeded

to the Crown, not only was this not resented, but nothing could exceed

the attentions the Duke of Wellington was in the way of receiving from

His Majesty on all anniversaries of the Battle of Waterloo. He

constantly honoured the Duke with his company at dinner, and lamented

the necessity of being absent on June 18, 1837, only two days before he


'This striking instance of a greatness of mind highly becoming a King

of Great Britain was alluded to by the Duke of Wellington in the House

of Peers on the first day of their meeting after the King's demise.

There is extant in print what I believe to be a very authentic relation

of the magnanimity with which His Majesty, as King, forgave a bold

attack upon him as Duke of Clarence in his presence in the House of

Lords by the present Chief Justice of England, Lord Denman. I allude to

a memorable speech of the latter at the Queen's trial in 1820.

'Praises and commendations of Kings and Queens are so liable to the

suspicion of flattery that it cannot but be pleasant to a mind

constitutionally loyal to be able to produce testimony to that effect

of indisputable authority. In the course of a speech at the nomination

of candidates for North Lancashire, Lord Stanley, not long since a

member of a Whig Cabinet, said: "The country had just lost a Sovereign

whose virtues and transcendent attributes had earned for him an

immortal name. Those who knew least of His late Majesty did not

hesitate to ascribe to him an ever anxious delight in being kind and

affectionate to his people, attached to their wishes, and determined to

administer to their comforts. He thought little of himself when

promoting the happiness of those around him. Those who had ever an

opportunity of coming into immediate contact with the late Sovereign

could justly appreciate his excellent qualities. His attention to

business, his candour of manner in listening to the arguments of his

advisers, manifested a full knowledge of his constitutional duties. He

(Lord Stanley) had witnessed how His late Majesty had declined

asserting his prerogative when it in the slightest degree seemed to

interfere with public officers in the discharge of their public duties.

In the discharge of his duties as a Minister of the Crown it had

happened on three occasions that His Majesty had felt a deep interest

in the appointment of three individuals to office, and it did so happen

that he could not meet the private wishes of the Sovereign in making

those appointments, and he intimated to His Majesty the public grounds

on which he would rather they were not made. His Majesty immediately

with pleasure declined pressing his own views, which, he said, were

secondary compared with the public business of the country."'

This eulogium is confirmed by several passages in Miss Clitherow's

letters. The next extract is prefaced in her correspondent's MS. as


'Of the King's last moments nobody had a better account to give than

the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was with him, and who had it in his

power to bear undeniable testimony to the affectionate and unwearying

attentions of the Queen to the very last. Before His Majesty's funeral

I had this confirmed to me by the Archbishop himself, who also told me

that he had already seen the young Queen preside in three Councils with

singular propriety, dignity, and decorum, adding much in praise of the

good education she had received.'

Extract from the speech of the Archbishop (Howley) of Canterbury at a

meeting of the Metropolitan Churches' Fund:

'I attended on our late Sovereign during the last few days of his life,

and, truly, it was an edifying sight to witness the patience with which

he endured sufferings the most oppressive, his thankfulness to the

Almighty for any alleviations under his most painful disorder, his

sense of every attention paid to him, the absence of all expressions of

impatience, his anxiety to discharge every public duty to the utmost of

his power, his attention to every paper that was brought to him, the

serious state of his mind, and the devotion manifested in his religious

duties preparatory to his departure for that happy world where we may

humbly hope he has now been called. Three different times was I

summoned to his presence the day before his dissolution. He received

the sacrament first; on my second summons I read the Church Service to

him, and the third time I appeared the oppression under which he

laboured prevented him from joining outwardly, though he appeared

sensible of the consolation I offered him. For three weeks prior to the

dissolution the Queen had sat by his bedside, performing for him every

office which a sick man could require, and depriving herself of all

rest and refection. She underwent labours which I thought no ordinary

woman could endure. No language can do justice to her meekness and to

the calmness of mind which she sought to keep up before the King while

sorrow was preying on her heart. Such constancy of affection, I think,

was one of the most interesting spectacles that could be presented to a

mind desirous of being satisfied with the sight of human excellence.'

William IV.--a good husband, a good father, a good King, a good

friend--was indeed a happy contrast to the selfish, if more gifted,

brother who preceded him on the throne. He was an eminently

constitutional monarch, popular and patriotic. His reign was short,

and, though not free from riot and disturbance, was mainly

characterized by peace, retrenchment, and reform. Its social

legislation included the Reform Bill, the abolition of slavery, the

Factory Acts, the New Poor Law, and the Tithe Commutation Act, while

the modest grant of L20,000 per annum was the first recognition by the

State of its duty respecting the education of the people. At the same

time, the Empire was expanding, the colony of South Australia was

established, and its capital bore the name of the King's devoted and

sympathetic consort.

Thus the first steps were taken in many important movements for the

welfare of the people and the Empire, which, under his great and good

successor, were supported and developed, and the way was made plain for

the young Queen, to whom the nation looked with such well-founded hope,

whose long and glorious reign has been so abundantly blest, and whose

memory will ever be cherished with honour and respect.


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