Portrait of George IV standing, in white outfit with blue cape

George IV, when Prince of Wales c.1796, RCIN 405412 ©

Contained with the Georgian Papers collections are 41 boxes of accounts detailing purchases made by, and on the behalf of, George IV (including as Prince of Wales and Prince Regent) from 1783 to 1830. George IV’s accounts demonstrate his wide ranging interests, including his passion for amassing expensive works of art and his extravagant tastes in furniture and furnishings, as well as his purchases of books, musical and optical instruments and prints. These Privy Purse accounts were meticulously kept and amount to thousands of documents, providing a thorough record of the King’s purchases throughout his life. The entire collection of these accounts will be digitised and catalogued as part of the Georgian Papers Programme. So far two boxes from this collection have been catalogued, scanned and made available on Georgian Papers Online, namely:

This first box of accounts covers his expenditure on furniture, lustres, lamps, clocks, linens etc., and contain bills issued by individuals and companies, receipts of payment and also correspondence concerning the installation of gas lighting at Brighton Pavilion and Carlton House. Amongst these documents are bills, which record purchases made by his estranged wife Caroline, Princess of Wales. This series covers purchases made between 1783 and 1830.

This second box of accounts concerns his expenditure on a variety of items including: sheet music, musical instruments, guns, fishing tackle, toys, canes, umbrellas, spectacles, scientific/mathematical instruments etc., between 1783 and 1830. The box also contains expenses incurred by his private band, and also band expenses for his role as Colonel of the 10th Regiment of the Light Dragoons. The documents comprise bills issued by individuals and companies, either directly to the King or a member of his household, and in most cases include a receipt of payment.

Bill issued by William Fraser for a pedometer in a gilt case with a compass, 1784, GEO/MAIN/29083 Royal Archives/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Some of the highlights from these two series of accounts are as follows:

In 1826, George IV commissioned Edward Thomason to manufacture two wine decanter carriages, with functioning wheels. As George IV was very interested in the events of the Napoleonic Wars, these carriages were engraved with depictions of battles from this conflict. Such was the king’s fascination he commissioned the Waterloo Chamber in Windsor Castle as a lasting monument to the battle of Waterloo.

In 1784, George, Prince of Wales, purchased a pedometer complete with a compass, thereby making him possibly one of the first ever owners of an activity tracker. Not renowned in later life for his svelte figure, this provides an interesting insight into his earlier slimmer years.

The Prince of Wales seems to have inherited his father’s interest in science, purchasing medical equipment and accessories from George Adams, Instrument Maker to George III, between 1783 and 1785.