♪♪ -In 1811, the mental health of a British king changed the course of royal history.
-[ Muttering, gasp ] -The madness of King George III forced him to hand power to his son, a prince of excess and extravagance.
Prince George would rule as regent, then as King George IV, in an era remembered for its lavish style and glamour.
We think of the Regency as a genteel, well-ordered age, full of Jane Austen-type balls and beautiful architecture and gallant, red-coated officers thrashing Napoléon at Waterloo.
♪♪ But behind the facade of Georgian elegance, the monarchy was in crisis.
George III and his son lived their lives in the shadow of revolution.
The American colonies had won independence from the British crown.
[ Blast ] [ Gunfire ] And, in France, revolutionaries guillotined their king.
To stop a revolution in Britain, the monarchy used myths... More smoke, please.
...secrets, and political spin.
How was a British massacre airbrushed out of history?
-It becomes very dangerous to attack anyone connected to King George IV.
-Who really won the Battle of Waterloo?
[ Blast ] And was the United Kingdom as united as we think?
-It was the most astounding piece of propaganda in the 19th century.
-Maintaining royal power meant distorting the story, suppressing the story, sometimes even making the story up as you went along.
So what was really going on in the age of the Regency?
♪♪ ♪♪ -In December 1785, a rather unusual royal wedding took place.
-[ Scottish accent ] Can I have the rings, please?
♪♪ -The groom was the Prince of Wales, George, the heir to the British throne.
-I now pronounce you man and wife.
♪♪ -George has just got married to the love of his life, Maria Fitzherbert.
She is six years older than him and she has been married twice before.
These things needn't be obstacles to true love, though.
Yet, there is something a bit strange about this ceremony.
It's all happening so secretly, in Maria's own drawing room.
None of his family have turned up and that chaplain's a bit dodgy.
He's got a criminal record for unpaid debt.
-My most fervent wish is realized, my darling -- you are my wife, the wife of my heart and my soul and in the eyes of heaven will ever be.
-It's a bit sad because, they may be married in the eyes of heaven, but not in the eyes of the law.
Legal impediment number 1?
The king, the prince's father, hasn't given his permission for the marriage.
Legal impediment number 2?
Maria is a Catholic!
This could cause a huge constitutional problem.
Under the act of settlement, the husband of a Catholic could never become king.
So George wanted to keep his wedding a secret from the public and the British parliament.
But that was going to be difficult.
Caricatures were filled with images of the couple cavorting together.
And soon, members of parliament were demanding to know if the prince had forfeited his right to the throne.
♪♪ Whig MP Charles James Fox, a close friend of the prince, stood up in parliament to answer them.
♪♪ Fox said that this rumored marriage not only could never have happened legally, but, in fact, had never happened in any way, whatsoever, and that to suggest otherwise was a malicious falsehood.
George had lied to Fox and told him that the marriage would never happen.
And that's because George wasn't just the Prince of Wales.
He was also the prince of fibs.
♪♪ George's lie helps keep the course of royal history right on track.
The wedding was brushed aside as legally invalid.
George could still, one day, be king.
♪♪ And this wouldn't be the only time royal secrets would be covered up in this volatile era.
♪♪ Three years after the secret wedding, another royal crisis would call for political spin.
♪♪ In November 1788, King George III was brought to Kew Palace to be treated for the first of several periods of mental illness.
The madness of King George has come to define his place in history.
-I must not retreat.
I must not retreat.
More vigorous measures.
[ Muttering ] Illegal.
The king has suffered before some mild spells of mental illness, but now, in 1788, it's got really bad.
He talks to himself for hours, until his throat is hoarse, until foam comes out of his mouth.
And the doctors don't really know what's wrong with him.
All they can do is restrain him and give him freezing cold baths.
-Must not retreat!
[ Muttering ] In years to come, George to III would be thought of as the mad king who lost America.
He'll be seen as a weak and volatile monarch, running amok through the palace corridors in his nightshirt.
But, in the 18th century, that's not how people see him at all.
-Traitors and knaves.
Traitors and knaves.
-George's subjects didn't see much of his madness, and certainly not images of the king in freezing baths or straitjackets.
♪♪ In an age when print shop windows were full of cartoons lampooning figures of authority, images of a mad King George are almost nonexistent.
The public's attention was being diverted to a different royal problem.
♪♪ This is the only known satirical print of King George III during the first period of his mental illness and it's a sympathetic image.
The poor guy's clearly suffering in his bed, unlike his son, who's bursting drunkenly in with his mates.
And he's shouting out, "Damn me...
I'll just see if the old fellow's dead or not..." It's pretty clear that one of these two is out of control and dangerous!
But it's not the king.
It's the prince.
♪♪ The king's son had been a target for the cartoonists for most of his adult life.
Prince George was the perfect subject for satire.
He was a man of excess -- in wine, women, food, and art.
-[ Sigh ] ♪♪ [ Ringing ] [ Grunts ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -Now, this is the image of the Prince of Wales that the popular press have latched onto -- drunken, debauched, in debt.
Clearly, George isn't fit to be the future sovereign.
♪♪ -[ Inhales sharply ] [ Suppresses bile ] ♪♪ -The caricatured version of George didn't leave much room for nuance and, to supporters of King George III, it spelled trouble.
Young George seemed to stand for everything his father hated.
A friend of the Whigs, while his father preferred the Tories.
An exuberant spendthrift, while his father lived a quiet life.
The lover of a Catholic, while his father felt duty-bound to defend the Protestant faith.
♪♪ And the king's mental illness now meant the prince was an even bigger political problem.
The prince might now have to step up and rule in his father's place.
In other words, a regency.
♪♪ And, as regent, the prince would have the right to dismiss the Tory government and hand power to his friends in the Whig Party.
♪♪ Worried Tories fought to avoid a regency and pro-Tory cartoons emphasized the prince's character flaws.
The political crisis helped cement the prince's terrible reputation.
But mental illness had a very different effect on King George III's image.
-What's interesting is that you might think that his image takes, you know, takes a dive or that his image suffers during this period of the original madness.
But, actually, I think historians really think that, in some ways, once he recovers, his image actually improves.
Well, in the period before that first illness, you know, he's not in a particularly good position.
He's lost the American colonies.
People aren't particularly happy about that.
And he sort of struggled through the first period, the first decades of his reign.
But after his illness, his reputation really, actually surprisingly, improves quite a bit.
I think, for the British nation, for the British people, he is seen as ever more resolute and there is a sense of his recovery as being enormously symbolically important.
He seems stronger.
-The popular perception of the king is dangerously out of control.
Didn't really get going until the 20th century.
-The notion of George as mad, in a sense, for me, all comes down to the American bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of American independence, which, in America, was a very big deal.
This 1976 moment brought about a reconsideration of George III.
It also elevated him to American consciousness.
Everything from the way that children in elementary schools are taught about the American Revolution to the way that there are popular film and television shows -- you need an antagonist and George III probably serves that purpose pretty well.
-So, by the time we get to the famous film about the madness of George III, the damage is done.
-George III is out of control.
-He's unable to rule.
-He is clearly the enemy of America.
The American Revolution needs the king to have been, you know, an unsympathetic figure.
-You need an enemy.
-You need an enemy.
He was seen as this kind of antagonist to American liberty and also mad and also, you know, mentally unstable.
And, for Americans, that's very handy, to have it both ways, isn't it?
♪♪ -In February 1789, the king recovered and the political crisis was resolved.
Doctors concerns that it might be a recurring illness were hidden from the people.
Galas, processions, and a huge Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's ensured the public knew that their king was well.
♪♪ [ Playing "God Save the King" ] This image, of a strong and healthy king, would soon become even more important because, just three months after the celebrations, the French would rise up against their monarchy and start their revolution.
♪♪ Across the Channel, the people sent their king to the guillotine.
Rallying public support for the British monarch was now vital.
French revolutionary ideas were spreading across Europe and, in 1793, Britain went to war, with France, to stop them.
This was a fight to secure the system of monarchy across Europe and Prince George wanted a part in it.
Again and again, he had himself painted, in military uniform.
♪♪ These portraits presented the Prince of Wales as a gallant man of action!
About to gallop away on his horse or else leading his troops through the smoke of the battlefield.
♪♪ This was an era of military heroes and, in these paintings, George was one of them.
Except that he wasn't.
George never actually went to a war and the military version of the Prince of Wales is a fib.
♪♪ Why was George so keen on being presented as an action hero?
-I think George wanted desperately to be part of a tradition that had both military, royal, and celebrity association.
He absolutely wanted to be that person, to lead his forces and soldiers, to stand up for the nation.
And he couldn't.
He wasn't allowed.
He wasn't allowed to go, basically, because, to be able to be the next king of England, his safety was paramount.
But I think, if we're really brutally honest about it, he quite liked the military dress as well and I think he also saw that celebrities of the time were often people who were returned fresh from the battlefields and he wanted a little bit of that public glamour as well.
-Who would see all these pictures of the Prince of Wales?
-Well, many of these pictures would have been on the walls of the Royal Academy, in the famous Summer Exhibition.
And it was somewhere that, certainly, annually, had the most popular exhibition in London town.
-As British troops fought the French Republic, these military paintings could strengthen the image of monarchy to people at home.
-He looks to the events of revolutionary France with real horror and real concern for those involved, but also with a real sense that Britain still needs to express monarchy in a way that feels grand and that inspires kind of awe.
And I think it's making sure that, in an age where people were far less frequently exposed to images of monarchy, there were, at least, ways that images could be seen by the public and they could really engage with that image.
Very few people would be likely to see him in real life.
-So, if there was a gap between the image and the reality, most people just wouldn't be aware.
-Yeah, that's right.
-In an age of revolution, the monarchy needed stability.
The king wanted his son to get serious.
The prince was to marry a suitably Protestant wife and produce an heir.
♪♪ The bride at this legal royal wedding was to be George's cousin Caroline of Brunswick.
-George and Caroline have been engaged for ages, but this is the first time that they've actually met each other in person.
They're being introduced by James Harris.
He's the Earl of Malmesbury and he thinks that Caroline lacks decorum.
He thinks that she isn't keen enough on changing her clothes, or even washing herself.
[ Chuckling ] As for Caroline, she's thinking, "He was much more handsome and much less fat in the portrait they showed me."
The marriage isn't getting off to a good start.
♪♪ I'm not very well.
Pray, [ Chuckle ] fetch me a glass of brandy.
♪♪ -I don't think he's very taken with her, either.
♪♪ Pictures painted this like a Jane Austen romance.
But that's nonsense.
♪♪ Caroline and George stayed together just long enough to produce a daughter.
After that, they lived apart.
♪♪ George would soon accuse Caroline of infidelity and, eventually, she left the country.
♪♪ But Britain hadn't seen the last of Caroline of Brunswick.
♪♪ [ Blast ] While the Georgians tried to secure the future of the monarchy in Britain, a military hero was setting himself up as the alternative to monarchy in France.
In 1804, 11 years after the execution of Louis the XVI, Napoléon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor.
And he, too, was using spin to solidify his power.
Napoléon's coronation was really the Napoléon propaganda spectacular.
The whole thing was designed to legitimize his power.
In this painting he commissioned of the event, he hasn't been afraid to ask for a few little tweaks, improvements to reality.
The artist originally painted the Pope with his hands on his knees, but he was told to show him blessing the coronation, instead.
Also, the proportions of the church have been shrunk and that was to make Napoléon look bigger.
The French Revolution was an inspiration to radicals in Britain.
The Georgian people wanted a political voice.
Reformers said that the diadem of Napoléon was dimming the luster of all the ancient crowns of Europe and that, in Britain, the king was losing his hold upon the affections of his people.
But he was also, once again, losing his hold upon his mind.
♪♪ In 1811, King George III's madness finally forced him to hand power to his son.
As prince regent, George now saw himself as Napoléon's nemesis and, in the middle of his regency, the chance came to cut Napoléon down to size, at the Battle of Waterloo.
Waterloo has gone down in history as a great British victory, won by British troops, and it's given its name to a railway station, to a bridge, and to one of London's poshest streets.
But this story of Waterloo as a distinctly British victory is a distortion of the truth.
♪♪ It's true that the troops at the Battle of Waterloo were led by the Duke of Wellington.
But he led an allied army.
Only around a third of Wellington's troops were British.
The rest were Dutch, Belgian, and Hanoverian.
And, in the decisive hours of the battle, Wellington's 68,000 allied troops were joined by 48,000 Prussians.
Most of the soldiers who defeated Napoléon were German!
♪♪ So, how has it come to be remembered as this British victory?
♪♪ The spin started on the night after the battle, when Wellington wrote the first definitive description of Waterloo.
♪♪ The prince regent was dining at a house, here in St James's Square in London, when Wellington's dispatch reached him.
In his report from the battlefield, Wellington graciously acknowledges the Prussians.
He says that they gave "cordial and timely assistance."
But even this first dispatch helps make it sound like a British victory.
♪♪ Wellington's report gave the battle its name.
♪♪ The Prussian General Blucher wanted to call it the Battle of Belle Alliance, a nod to the allied victory.
♪♪ But Wellington wrote his victorious dispatch from a village three miles from the battlefield, called Waterloo.
♪♪ [ "Rule Britannia" plays ] Very soon, parliament was adding its weight to the British version of the story.
♪♪ Within a few days of the victory, the foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, also acknowledged the assistance of the Prussians, but he went on to say that this was a triumph of British arms and that it exulted the military glory of the British nation!
♪♪ Politicians knew that taking credit for the victory would enhance Britain's power and authority in Europe.
And, soon, alternatives to the great British narrative were being silenced.
In 1830, the army commissioned cartographer Lieutenant William Siborne to make a model of Waterloo.
♪♪ Siborne spent eight months surveying the battlefield.
To position his tiny soldiers, he wrote to hundreds of Waterloo veterans, asking them where they were at around 7:00 pm on the night of the battle.
♪♪ When it came to making his model, was accuracy important to Mr. Siborne?
-We have a letter in the collection where he actually says, "All I want is the truth and I'm going to -- -The truth!
-That's a big thing to aim for.
[ Laughs ] -Absolutely.
So he definitely was -- he was very meticulous.
-Siborne's research suggested that the role of the Prussians had been more important than the British had made out.
Partway through the project, he lost his funding.
-During the project, he managed to make an enemy of Wellington, or that's how it seems.
So, losing Wellington's favor actually made it impossible for him to get any government money to finance the project.
-Why would the Duke of Wellington not want there to be a model of the Battle of Waterloo?
You'd think he'd love it.
-Yeah, you would.
But it seems like he was not particularly pleased with the prominence that he thought was given to the Prussian troops on the model.
So there were slight hints, for a long period, that, unfortunately, Siborne didn't get, about the fact that Wellington was not that happy and, by the time he realized that the Prussians were probably an issue, he made public that he would be happy to remove the Prussians and go with what Wellington thought was correct.
It was a little bit too late and Wellington, I mean, he had lost interest.
-So do you, personally, think that there might be a few Prussians [ Laughing ] missing here?
-There should be a few more appearing here.
There aren't that many left.
But there are certain documents that suggest that he removed some of the Prussians from the battlefield.
♪♪ Britain was determined to claim Waterloo as its own, but the real victor appeared to be monarchy itself.
♪♪ With Napoléon defeated, the French monarchy was restored.
The ideals of the French Revolution had been crushed.
But in Britain, revolutionary ideas didn't go away.
♪♪ Fewer than 2% of the people in Regency Britain had the vote.
The people wanted a voice and there were ever-louder calls to extend the franchise.
The regent and his government feared revolution.
On the 16th of August 1819, 60,000 men, women, and children came flooding through here, towards what was then St Peter's Field in Manchester.
They'd come to attend a huge protest rally and to hear the exciting celebrated orator Henry Hunt.
♪♪ The authorities were determined to stamp out any hint of revolution.
So they told a lie.
They said the crowd was armed, violent, and riotous.
In fact, the crowd were keen that this should come across as a patriotic and a peaceful occasion.
A lot of the women in the crowd were wearing white dresses, the color of peace, and the protesters even sang "God Save the King."
[ Playing "God Save the King" ] ♪♪ Magistrates gave the order to arrest the speaker, Henry Hunt.
The local militia charged in on horseback, brandishing sabers.
♪♪ Up to 700 people were injured; 18 were killed, including a two-year-old child.
It became known as the Peterloo Massacre.
♪♪ After 20 minutes of bloodshed, a new battle began -- the battle to control the story of what had happened.
♪♪ Officials continued to claim the militia were provoked by an armed and dangerous crowd.
In the People's History Museum in Manchester is a walking stick that belonged to one of the protesters.
-The magistrates were desperate to find weapons in this crowd.
They believed that this was a violent mob, intent on revolution, really, and an object like this would've been the perfect evidence that this was actually a violent crowd.
So, after Peterloo, you can see an inscription written on it.
"I was one of the dreadful bludgeons seen on the fields of Peterloo."
-There's "PETERLOO"... -Can you see that?
-...in the capital letters there.
-So this is somebody being a bit ironic.
This ordinary walking stick.
-Yeah, it's a kind of mocking reference of the fact that the government is saying this is a violent -- -"A dreadful bludgeon."
I mean, clearly, this is not a violent weapon and it shows the really contested nature of this history, even in the months after Peterloo, that people were fighting over the meaning.
-What would Prince George himself say to us had happened?
-He's briefed by the military and by the government on what's happened and he formally sends his thanks to the yeomanry and to those who have crushed the demonstration at Peterloo.
-To us, the prince regent appears open to criticism.
Did anybody criticize him at the time?
-Well, people did.
So, in 1920, a radical newspaper writes that George is a flippant, callous leader, really, and these words become very dangerous.
Actually, a shopkeeper who sells this newspaper goes to prison for selling these seditious words.
The government brings in six acts.
So, it becomes illegal to meet and to protest against the government, the radical newspapers are clamped down, so the taxes are raised, and the story of Peterloo goes underground, really.
Anyone who tries to talk about what they've witnessed or what they've experienced at Peterloo really has the threat of imprisonment.
-Veering towards a totalitarian state, then, when you cannot publish or even speak criticism of the regime.
-Yeah, I mean there's a huge clampdown on anyone who dares to speak out against the monarchy and those who supported the massacre.
-What do you think the authorities were trying to achieve by all of this censoring, silencing of the story?
-Well, the authorities were panicking at the idea of revolution, that the revolution in France, which was still in living memory, might spread to Britain.
And so they hoped, with these very authoritarian laws, that they might stop that spread of revolution and so there was a desperate attempt to stop any real reforms being given to ordinary people.
-To maintain power, monarchy and parliament had silenced the story of Peterloo.
♪♪ For the voice of the people to be heard, reformers would now start creating their own myths.
On the 29th of January 1820, King George III died.
After nine years of his regency, the prince could finally become King George IV.
But, at the hint of a coronation, George's wife, Caroline, returned from Europe.
She was determined to take her place as queen.
George was having none of it.
He wanted a divorce.
And he asked parliament to grant him on.
He wanted the politicians to find Caroline guilty of adultery.
This was effectively trial by parliament.
If Caroline wanted to be queen, she'd have to put up with her sex life being trotted out and picked over in front of the entire nation.
♪♪ Witnesses told tales of debauchery, stained bedsheets, and a bath shared with an Italian lover.
But Caroline thought of a way of getting the upper hand.
[ Cluck ] Ooh, thanks.
By telling just a little lie, she could reposition herself as the people's radical queen.
♪♪ Caroline was no political radical, but she did want revenge on her husband, so she made an alliance with the people fighting for the vote.
During her trial, the radicals used the press and caricatures to spin Caroline into the figurehead for a wronged people.
Tradesmen, shopkeepers, and women's groups signed petitions of support and Caroline's radical allies scripted replies in her name to fans across the country.
♪♪ To her supporters in Sunderland, Caroline said, "If the highest subjects in the land can be divorced, dethroned, debased by an arbitrary power, then the constitutional liberty of the kingdom will be shaken to its base."
The newspapers loved her.
They called her the "French revolutionary leader."
Caroline's lawyer soon warned MPs that, to save themselves and the crown, they must find her innocent.
-So every day that she goes down for the trial, there is what the government refers to as a mob, waiting to roar support.
It's an extraordinary time.
-It sounds like an unholy alliance between Caroline [ Laughing ] and the radicals.
Why did the radicals want to help Queen Caroline?
-The radicals are, certainly, seeing an opportunity coming after Peterloo and then, these coercive acts following that, by the government.
By focusing on the queen, they can attack the king and the government, but they're not criticizing or saying anything seditious or treasonable because they're saying the queen is a wronged woman.
-So, a cheer for Queen Caroline is secretly a boo for the king and for the Tory government.
-And an unspoken wish that the franchise could be extended.
-Fear of revolution helped to sway parliament's decision to abandon the trial.
♪♪ George's coronation could finally go ahead.
♪♪ [ "Masterpiece" theme, Mouret's "Fanfare-Rondeau," plays ] In July 1821, George IV processed through the streets to Westminster Abbey.
King George hoped that he could use his coronation to stabilize the monarchy and outshine Napoléon as a truly regal leader.
♪♪ But it didn't go entirely elegantly.
There were complaints about the horrendous cost of it all and there was an uninvited guest -- Caroline turned up and she was banging on the door of the abbey, demanding to be let in as queen of England.
But she was kept out and had to slink away, humiliated.
♪♪ Once again, George would turn to art to tell his version of royal history.
♪♪ So, Kathryn, this is George's big moment!
He's finally become king.
[ Laughs ] What's he trying to express through this coronation portrait?
-Obviously, there's been huge political turmoil.
There's been military turmoil in Britain, so this is the moment where he can present himself, in this magnificent way, to his people and show them, "Here we are.
Monarchy is still strong."
-Monarchy is back!
-It summarizes monarchy in every way you can think of, really.
All that gold, the diamonds, everything is showing.
And even just his pose.
He appears, in this portrait, to be this towering figure.
I don't think he was more than 5'7", but Lawrence makes him into this great majestic figure, you can see, this great swagger of monarchy.
-So it's not a portrait of a man.
It's a portrait of an institution.
What are the sort of hidden messages of the painting?
-Well, the key one really is the table, which just appears in the corner of the portrait.
And, in fact, that was a table that was made for Napoléon and, after the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of the monarchy, Louis XVIII presented it to George IV.
And you can just see this lovely gesture that George, just with a single fingertip, is resting upon Napoléon's table.
I think that just sort of sums up his attitude, that sort of slightly insolent nod to his defeat of Napoléon.
-There's a real sense of one-upmanship here, isn't there?
-There is, definitely.
It's "I can do it bigger and better," but also, "I've defeated you."
I think that the political underpinning of that is really in response to what Napoléon's doing and that he's trying to make sure that that's not going to happen again.
-George is clearly excellent at style, some people might say, at the expense of substance, but perhaps, in an age of revolution, it's more important that kings project their majesty.
Do you think?
-I think he's very conscious of how he appears in public.
This great, glittering backdrop, this very sparkling court that he creates is all designed, really, to present the monarchy in the place where he felt it belonged.
George really is trying to protect the monarchy, at that moment, as the leaders of Europe.
-King George wanted to dazzle his people with the spectacle of monarchy, and that meant new bling.
♪♪ George had this diamond diadem created to wear on the way to his coronation.
♪♪ It's still worn by the queen today.
♪♪ George wanted his diadem to contain symbols of all the different bits of the United Kingdom.
So it's got an Irish shamrock, the English rose, and the Scottish thistle.
He's setting out his stall as a unifying monarch.
♪♪ But, to unify the country, he would have to rely on a few myths.
The union between Britain and Ireland had been forged in 1800 to curb rebellion and help discourage an alliance with revolutionary France.
[ Irish music plays ] Part of the deal was the promise of Catholic emancipation.
This would allow Catholics, who made up 80% of the Irish population, to hold public office and become MPs.
♪♪ But that promise had turned out to be a lie.
♪♪ George III had vowed never to allow Catholic emancipation.
He felt it went against the oath he'd made at his coronation, which was to support the Protestant faith.
But his son appeared to think otherwise.
When George IV announced a trip to Ireland a month after his coronation in 1821, it seemed that Catholic emancipation might finally be on the horizon.
♪♪ George IV was welcomed to Dublin by cheering crowds.
After all the negativity of the affair with Queen Caroline, this was a real tonic to him.
He told the people he met, implausibly, but sincerely, that his heart had, in fact, always been Irish.
♪♪ At the center of the festivities was Daniel O'Connell, leader of the campaign for Catholic emancipation.
In the past, O'Connell had publicly criticized George.
Now, he was determined to gain maximum advantage from the king's visit.
♪♪ Patrick, what are both sides hoping to achieve from this visit to Dublin by George IV?
-I think the king was trying to show that he was the king of a United Kingdom and a genuinely United Kingdom, that his subjects in Ireland loved him, that he loved them, and that they were part of this relationship that, really, was only in existence for 20 years.
So I think there was good reason for the king to want to do it.
For Daniel O'Connell, it was more cynical.
It was about making this huge demonstration of Catholic loyalty, so that George IV might be persuaded, might be convinced, that the Catholics could be trusted and that, therefore, emancipation could be granted.
♪♪ -George departed from Ireland, here from the quayside at Dunleary.
The town was renamed Kingstown, in his honor, and, before he went, Daniel O'Connell crowned him with a victorious wreath of laurel.
Full of enthusiasm, George said to the cheering crowd that, if ever the opportunity arose for him to do something to serve Ireland, he would do it!
This didn't turn out to be strictly accurate.
♪♪ Back in England, the king's words proved meaningless.
Over the next seven years, three emancipation bills were defeated in parliament.
Eventually, O'Connell tried a new tactic -- he got himself elected!
The government realized that denying O'Connell his parliamentary seat in London could spark a rebellion in Ireland.
In 1829, the Catholic Relief Act granted emancipation.
King George was finally forced to concede power to the people.
♪♪ -Emancipation was cheered and celebrated by Irish people, who had no ambition to ever sit in parliament, but it was still meaningful for them because it was a campaign for civil rights.
See, emancipation itself has to be understood because it's not just a religious thing and it's not really even a religious thing.
It's a civil rights issue, a campaign to ensure that Catholics who had the right to vote would be able to sit in parliament, would be able to become judges and kings counsels, and also be equal in their own country, no longer feeling that they were inferior, no longer feeling that they were slaves.
And that is why they gave O'Connell the name Liberator and that was why O'Connell became one of the great figures in Irish history, because he had led this mass peaceful movement and he had brought the British Empire to its knees, and he had done it without having to fire a single shot.
♪♪ -A year after his Irish trip, he embarks on another visit to quell rebellion -- to Edinburgh.
In 1820, Scottish workers have called a general strike, under a motto used by American revolutionaries -- "Liberty or death."
The three leaders of the strike were hanged and beheaded.
♪♪ Could a royal visit inspire some loyalist spirit?
♪♪ The Edinburgh George IV visited was a tartan extravaganza!
Everywhere you looked, there were clan chiefs or people holding Highland balls to celebrate the king.
Even George himself had been persuaded to truss himself up into a tartan costume.
But this tartan city was an illusion, a bit like the mythical village of Brigadoon.
[ Bagpipes playing ] Tartan wasn't even an Edinburgh thing.
It was a Highland tradition.
England supporter, are you?
-Eh, no, the other one.
-[ Laughs ] Funny, that.
And it was associated with the Hanoverian's great rivals, the Jacobites.
Just 77 years earlier, the Jacobite Rebellion had fought to put a Stuart king back on the British throne.
But in 1746, George's family had crushed them at the Battle of Culloden and the wearing of Highland dress, a sign of political allegiance to the Jacobites, had been banned for 35 years.
Now, the king's visit would rewrite history.
The man in charge of it all was Sir Walter Scott, the best-selling author of romanticized historical fiction.
This pamphlet was published just before the royal visit and it's called... ...suggesting to them how to behave and what to wear.
The author, here, is given us "An Old Citizen."
Actually, that was Sir Walter Scott himself.
And he says, basically, you can't wear too much tartan.
Scott was a Unionist and he was willing to tweak the truth to support his cause, even if that meant turning Hanoverian George into a Scotsman.
He "comes...as the descendant of a long line of Scottish kings.
The blood of the heroic Robert Bruce -- the blood of the noble, the enlightened, the generous James I, is in his veins."
And he concludes, triumphantly, that, "we are THE CLAN, and our King is OUR CHIEF."
♪♪ 300,000 people turned out to see George in Scotland.
The image of the tartan king was captured by court painters and mocked by cartoonists.
♪♪ What was Scott up to when he stage managed this amazing visit to Edinburgh by George IV?
-In some ways, it was the most astounding piece of propaganda in the 19th century.
The fact that you have a Hanoverian king dressed up as a Jacobite is quite striking, you know, given that, only two generations beforehand, these people were trying to oust his whole family.
But Scott -- Nuance is everything, see?
"George IV is your Jacobite king."
It invokes an idea of loyalty and it was trying to heal divisions between Hanoverian and Jacobite, between English and Scottish.
Scott manages to, somehow, fuse all this together into a cohesive whole that is Scotland, and admits George IV as their king.
-And how did Scottish people themselves react to being encouraged to put on fancy dress?
-It was something which many of the other people, Lowlanders like me, found quite objectionable.
People refer to it as nauseous and, "Sir Walter has made us ridiculous by claiming we're all Highlanders."
They simply didn't like it.
But, it was something that translates.
And I think one can measure the success.
If you look at any kind of cultural depiction of Scotland, nowadays, it's tartan.
-Doesn't matter if it's "The Simpsons" or if it's "Braveheart."
Tartan equals Scotland.
And that's what Scott did.
We had this ancient garb, as he would've called it.
-Ancient garb, that's a great word for it.
-Ancient garbage, some might say.
[ Laughter ] -Did this help neutralize any actual Scottish rebellion that might've been otherwise brewing?
-I think it did.
I think, because there's a certain idea of it all just being a fiction, of it not actually making any difference.
There's a great sense that, "Look, what does it matter?"
And yet, it's so significant that, through this, given that the 19th century will become the age of revolutions and, particularly, nationalist revolutions, from Finland through to Hungary, where doesn't have a revolution?
-Well, the solution, obviously, is just put men into skirts.
-[ Laughs ] -George's Edinburgh visit was a triumph, but winning over his people in person was becoming more of a challenge.
♪♪ The king was now in his 60s, obese and unhealthy.
He began to think of his legacy.
Once again, George was hoping that his lasting image would be as the vanquisher of Napoléon.
In later life, he'd sometimes reminisce about how he himself had been on the battlefield at Waterloo, which left the Duke of Wellington rolling his eyes and muttering about the madness that ran in the royal family.
♪♪ To cement his place in history, George would rely on his favorite spin doctors -- art and architecture.
In 1825, he began transforming London's Buckingham House into a grand palace, suitable to present British monarchy to the world.
♪♪ At Windsor Castle, he raised the height of the round tower, to make it more imposing.
And, inside the castle, he planned to display portraits of the leaders who'd ended the march of French republicanism at Waterloo.
♪♪ The paintings were all to be gathered together into one amazing room, that's still called the Waterloo Chamber.
What's being celebrated here is not so much the fighting on the battlefield.
Instead, these people are the architects of the peace that followed.
These are the builders of a new Europe and this is a pantheon of heroes in which George could take his place.
♪♪ But George wouldn't live to see his version of history completed.
♪♪ He died in 1830.
His dream of leaving a legacy as a great hero seemed a fantasy.
After his death, The Times were scathing -- "There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king.
What eye has wept for him?"
It was the caricature version of George that won out.
He'd made countless attempts to control his own story, but, ultimately, he failed.
George IV was consigned to history as a useless monarch, extravagant and excessive, the subject of satire and ridicule.
♪♪ But was his impact on Britain greater than history remembers?
Georgian myths and secrets were used to maintain power and control and, in many ways, they worked!
Throughout George's regency and reign, the monarchy remained intact, Napoléon was defeated, and there was no revolution in Britain.
George lived through a time when thrones were falling.
The French Revolution had just happened.
Does he bear any credit for seeing things through in Britain, without revolution?
-I think he probably doesn't bear much credit for it, in terms of the actual military victories that kept Napoléon from our shores.
But he certainly was preoccupied with what monarchy might seem or be or embody in his own time period.
He argues for a state of splendor that would, somehow, set Britain on an international stage and give it that kind of credibility for monarchy-led constitution.
I think George's legacy is absolutely the kind of pomp and circumstance that we have, that surrounds monarchy today.
That aspect of the glamour and the splendor of monarchy is something that we still want to see in the 21st century.
♪♪ -Many of George's attempts to spin the story of Great Britain and its monarchy have survived.
♪♪ His version of the United Kingdom, whether that's tartan-clad spectacle or conquerors of Napoléon, is still how the nation presents itself to the world.
♪♪ His palaces are still the seat of monarchy.
His diamond diadem still sparkles on Britain's currency, and queen.
And, maybe, his excessive dazzle still blinds us to the truth, to this day.
This period of history is often remembered as genteel and refined.
We concentrate on the style of it, rather than the substance.
But this was also an age which saw stirrings of revolution, even in Britain, and monarchy had to react to that.
Stories about ridiculous George and his lavish lifestyle tend to crowd out the grittier reality of the age at the Regency.
♪♪ The Russian Revolution.
It made icons of the Bolshevik leaders, martyrs of the Romanov royal family.
[ Gunfire ] But did Lenin really lead the charge?
-Lenin wasn't even in the country.
-And how did the Bolsheviks distort history to mythologize the October Revolution?
This day in October 1917 would be remembered forever.