Shield of Achilles, part of George IV: Art & Spectacle at The Queen's Gallery

Shield of Achilles © Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Visit the George IV exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery

Debt, adultery and extreme extravagance: a new exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace combines all of these elements in one man – King George IV.

George IV: Art & Spectacle (to 3 May 2020) owes its lavish exhibits to a king who pursued the finer things in life. The Queen’s Gallery displays the treasures of the Royal Collection, which George IV played a major part in establishing.

Ascending to the throne in 1870, George IV’s coronation at Westminster Abbey was a glittering occasion. Look out for the golden Shield of Achilles (pictured top), an impressive dining piece that was displayed at George’s coronation banquet inside Westminster Hall.

George IV coronation portrait, part of George IV: Art & Spectacle at The Queen's Gallery

George IV coronation portrait © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Even before the crown was placed upon George’s head, his expensive habits were changing London’s landscape. That’s because his father, George III, was considered mentally unfit to rule in 1811, so his son was named Regent. While holding this caretaker position, George junior set about creating Regent Street in partnership with architect extraordinaire John Nash – as well as Regent’s Park.

By the time he became king aged 57, George IV was infamous for his colossal spending habits, a messy marriage and gluttony – he had a major public image problem. This is illustrated by the exhibition’s satirical cartoons, some of which George actually collected himself.

Literature fans, meanwhile, will be thrilled by an 1816 edition of Emma, sent to George after a visit from Jane Austen herself.

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife, part of George IV: Art & Spectacle at The Queen's Gallery

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife © Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

George IV also pursued the most celebrated art of the time, including Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (above) and Steen’s A Woman at her Toilet.

Once on the throne, he never travelled further than Europe but, thanks to King George IV’s appetite for finery, the world’s most beautiful objects came to him. This is your chance to see them for yourself.

George IV: Art & Spectacle is open from 15 Nov 2019 to 3 May 2020
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, SW1A 1AA
www.rct.uk | 030-3123 7301

For more displays of royal treasures, visit the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi gallery

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