Of all the British monarchs who have claimed that they have ruled the seas, only
one, King William IV, has been a truly professional seafarer. Known as the "Sailor
King" in his own lifetime, he saw himself as a naval officer who happened to become
the sovereign rather than a monarch who had been a naval officer. His life presents
an appealing, if sometimes shocking character. His life in the Royal Navy was fraught
with crisis: rivalries, doomed love affairs, extravagance and rebelliousness. Often
he seems a Hogarthian character, or a nautical version of the Regency rake.
Yet, while many mocked or despised him, there were those who loved him. And, when
he came to the throne and was all but swept away by the tide of the Age of Reform,
he faced it with resolution and survived with honour. He had overcome the pressures
and contradictions of a royal upbringing, to end his days a king who was not only
loved but admired for setting an unstable monarchy on an even keel for the long reign
of his niece Victoria which followed his.