ROGER KNIGHT

Author and Historian

William IV : A King at Sea

William IV cover

Penguin have brought together some of the country's best historians to tell the story of our kingdom through these innovative, provocative histories of Britain's rulers. From Athelstan to Elizabeth II (and including Cromwell) each book offers a pacey narrative of the dramatic events and twists of fate that shape our monarchy and an original take on stories we think we know well.

William IV: A King at Sea believed himself to be a great naval commander but is now, perhaps, best known for his riotous life as a young man and for living for twenty years with the actress Mrs Jordan, with whom he had ten children. The naval historian Roger Knight relishes the follies of one of our most unsuitable monarchs.

William IV, the Sailor King, reigned for just seven years. Rash and impetuous as a young man, he was sent to join the navy by his father, George III, to bring him to order, but he was overpromoted at an early age and saw his years of active service marked by a series of calamities. He was also notorious for his mounting debts and his long relationship with the actress Mrs Jordan, with whom he had ten children.

Yet William’s bluff, unpolished exterior made him popular with his people. Inheriting the throne amid strikes, riots and the push for parliamentary reform, he helped see the country through the great constitutional crisis of the era. Despite his many flaws, he became a better king than sailor, leaving the monarchy in a healthier state than he had found it, enabling the smooth succession of his niece, Victoria.