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George IV
George IV
199

lesley. That the prince had before him any definite plan would be too much to assume; he wavered in his preferences almost from day to day; but as time went on two facts became apparent: his close reliance on Wellesley, and his personal dislike of Grey and Grenville. Yet his liking for Eldon and his objection to the catholic claims were a barrier to complete confidence in Wellesley, and public opinion was steadily growing in favour of some combination which would restore the whig leaders to the service of their country. The prince's principal interest in the arrangements seems to have been to secure the best terms that he could for himself. To his indignation Perceval had withdrawn from his original proposal of 150,000l. to defray the extra expenses of the regency, and had reduced it to 100,000l. The prince employed Wellesley to urge upon the cabinet that the king should have a suitable but modest establishment, the queen and princesses separate allowances, and that he should himself take over the entire civil list and state of the sovereign. To this Perceval would not consent (see Life of Perceval, ii. 227; Wellington's Supplementary Despatches, iii. 257; M'Cullagh Torrens, Marquis Wellesley, p. 465).

When parliament met on 7 Jan. 1812 the public mind was in an excited condition. The catholic question was brought forward by the opposition, and this was inconvenient alike to the prince and his ministers; it produced a division between Wellesley and the rest of the cabinet, and placed the prince, who had on many occasions expressed his agreement with the catholic claims, in the difficult position of having to choose between his preferences and his consistency. To add to his troubles he was out of health. He had become very fat; he suffered from symptoms in the head that seemed to threaten paralysis; and in the previous November, while teaching his daughter the highland fling at the Duchess of York's ball at Oatlands, he had struck against a sofa and severely sprained his ankle and broken two tendons. He bore his pain with little fortitude, refusing to attend to business, and resorting to laudanum every three hours to such an extent that he took as much as seven hundred drops a day. Naturally, therefore, in January 1812 he was in a state of body highly disordered. With some dexterity, however, he induced the cabinet to agree to treat the catholic question as an open one. The defeat of the catholics being thus assured, the Marquis Wellesley resigned on 17 Jan. The prince now had to consider how to deal with Lords Grenville and Grey, and he appears to have conceived an adroit plan to fulfil popular expectations by inviting them to enter his service, and yet so to frame the invitation that they must necessarily refuse it on grounds which would appear punctilious and unaccommodating. He addressed a letter to his brother the Duke of York, dated 13 Feb. 1812, intended to be communicated to the two lords, in which he expressed the gratification he should feel 'if some of those persons with whom the early habits of my public life were formed would strengthen my hands and constitute a part of my government.' The two lords wrote to the duke two days later to say that on grounds of 'honour and duty' they were unable to unite with the present government. They insisted upon a total change in the system of administration and upon concession to the catholic claims. For the present Perceval and his colleagues remained undisturbed, as indeed, secure in the support of the Marchioness of Hertford, they had all along felt certain of being. But the regent was very unpopular. As he went in state on 23 Feb. to the Chapel Royal, his first appearance as sovereign, 'not a huzza was heard, not a hat was raised.' The ministerial negotiations were brought before the House of Lords on 19 March, and Lord Grey openly accused the prince of having broken express promises made to the catholics, and of being dominated by the influence of his favourite. Among other lampoons upon him was the attack in the 'Examiner,' describing him as a 'libertine' and a 'corpulent gentleman of fifty,' for which the Hunts were indicted and imprisoned. But unexpectedly the whole imbroglio was revived after the lapse of only a few weeks by the assassination of Perceval on 11 May 1812.

Personally the prince was anxious to retain in office a ministry which would follow the lines of Perceval's policy, and he asked the cabinet whether they would be willing to go on under a prime minister whom he would choose from among them. They returned a doubtful assent, and wished overtures to be made either to Wellesley and Canning or to Grenville and Grey. On 17 May Lord Liverpool opened communications with Canning. But on the 21st the prince's hand was forced. Matters being still unsettled, Stuart Wortley moved an address to the prince regent praying him to cause a firmer administration to be formed, and carried it against ministers by a majority of four. It was presented to the prince next day by Lord Milton and Stuart Wortley, and the ministry resigned. They remained, however, during the ensuing crisis in temporary discharge of their duties, and were in so little doubt that with