George, Prince of Wales|
The Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent and in 1820 King
George IV, was born in 1762 and died in 1830. The position
of Prince of Wales is a difficult one, especially when your
father lives to 82. George was an intelligent child with lots
of promise, but quickly became a cause for concern to his
father and the country.
Unlike most of his brothers, George was denied a military
career which he longed for as a young man. He quickly
fell in with people of whom his father disapproved, such
as the Whig politician Charles Fox and, more importantly
to Freemasons, his uncle, Henry.
Cumberland and his circle introduced George to the pleasures of drink, gambling and the theatre. By 1785 George had
married the Catholic actress Maria Fitzherbert. The marriage
was illegal because of the Royal Marriage Act, which meant
that all Royal marriages needed the consent of both the King
and Parliament and that marriage to Catholics was forbidden.
Mrs Fitzherbert had to be paid off by the government, but
continued to be the Prince's mistress for many years.
In 1787, at a special Lodge meeting held at the Star and
Garter in Pall Mall, George was initiated into Freemasonry
by his uncle Henry. That year, George formed his own
Lodge, The Prince of Wales's Lodge (now No. 259).
Initially the members were a mixture of his friends and
household such as Chevalier Ruspini, his dentist - one
of the founders of the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls -
and Louis Weltje, the Prince's chief cook.
The Lodge attracted other high-ranking Masons such as
Thomas Dunckerley and the Tory Prime Minister George
Canning. At this stage, George was still a popular figure in
Britain and his association with Freemasonry would have
given further respectability to Grand Lodge.
Therefore, it was not surprising that George was elected
Grand Master on the death of his uncle in 1790. George was
not the most active of Grand Masters. He enjoyed the social
side of Freemasonry, and its imagery found its way into some
of the designs at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.
He also had an able Acting Grand Master in the Earl of
Moira. As the Prince of Wales's private and public life became
more complicated, his involvement in the Craft diminished.
He married Caroline of Brunswick in 1795, who provided
him with a daughter, Charlotte, in 1796 and spent the rest
of her life in conflict with her husband.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland elected George as Grand
Master in 1805, but there is no evidence that he ever attended
a Lodge, let alone Grand Lodge, north of the border.
In 1811 the King's illness (porphyria) that had been
troubling him since the 1780s, forced him out of public
life and George became Regent.
By 1813 his involvement with Freemasonry had come
to an end, although he was given the title Grand Patron of
the Order. The Prince Regent became George IV in 1820.
As King he abandoned liberal politics and became very reactionary. In the end he became best known for his indulgences,
his womanising and his girth, although perhaps he should also
be remembered for his patronage of the arts and architecture,
and to Freemasons for being the first of their order to become
King of England.
Mather Brown Freemason's Magazine
1793 (Cartoon featuring George,
Prince of Wales, later George IV,
then Grand Master)
Frederick Lewis, father of George III