An Unpopular Prince by Andrew Rowan M.A. (Dec 2014 re-edited May 2015)

The term ‘Regency’ is all too often misunderstood and used to describe art or antiques dating from the 1790s to the 1830s. However, 1811 and 1820 is technically the correct era of the regency when George III suffered his final spell of madness and his son (the future George IV) stepped in as Prince Regent.  He was an unpopular prince because of his huge debts, heavy drinking, excessive eating, general laziness and non-diligence. He got so fat that he could not walk up the stairs. His 54” waist was a sign of over indulgence. The people, already keen for change after the French Revolution, desperate for the vote and union style powers in the workplace, often despised this useless ‘king’. Lucy Worsley refers to the Prince Regent’s existence as a no-rules lifestyle.[1]

When his royal carriage was attacked in 1817, it suited the authorities to use it as an excuse to blame the likes of well-known radicals like Cobbett, Cochrane and Hunt. However, he was so unpopular that this was a ridiculous allegation. These individuals were easily replaceable by thousands of eager revolutionaries keen for change and a fairer society. The hundreds of radical orators at work, in the ale houses, in the coffee shops and in the corresponding societies were equal suspects for attacking the Prince Regent’s transport.

William Cobbett was not an aggressive radical trouble-maker like Henry Hunt. It is unlikely that he would have supported such a volatile and violent attack on the Prince’s carriage. William Hazlitt called Cobbett ‘a powerful political writer’.[2] Cobbett was a lot calmer than Hunt and preferred the educational route to change rather than the aggressive stance. That is not to say that Cobbett did not attend exciting meetings but his calmer manner in demanding change rules him out of planning the attack on the Prince’s carriage. Cobbett’s outlet for expressing his opinions was his own paper, the Political Register and his book Rural Rides. He did cause antagonism in the countryside amongst landowners on his views about fair agricultural existence but he did not have the full anger and crowd stirring arrogance of Henry Hunt. Cobbett’s views were more considered and thought out.



[1] L. Worsley, George IV: the rehabilitation of Old Naughty, 2011, the guardian.com

[2] Hazlitt's Essay on Cobbett, published in his table talk,1821 via williamcobbett.org.uk