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William IV

1765 - 1837

This person is the subject of ongoing research. We have started by researching their relationship to the enslavement of people.

Biographical notes

King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover.

Slavery connections

According to Dr Brooke Newman, ‘As political debates about the African slave trade escalated in the 1790s and early nineteenth century, Prince William, now the Duke of Clarence, emerged as a vocal defender of colonial slavery and a leading ally of the West India Committee in London. In 1799, in a reprinted and widely circulated pro-slavery speech delivered in the House of Lords, he referenced the long history of European involvement in the African slave trade and drew on his eyewitness knowledge of conditions in the Caribbean islands. According to the Duke of Clarence, the abolitionists had misjudged the effects of the slave trade on Africa and Africans and grossly misrepresented the treatment of enslaved men and women in the British sugar colonies. The abolitionist campaign to end the slave trade, he argued, was not only radical and misguided, like the actions of the fanatical French revolutionaries, but also deeply damaging to Britain’s national interests. Yet while the Duke of Clarence’s impassioned defence of colonial slavery helped to delay abolition, he badly misjudged the mood of the nation and, in the short term, his public image and the reputation of the royal family suffered as a result’. (Brooke Newman, ‘Uncovering Royal Perspectives on Slavery, Empire, and the Rights of Colonial Subjects’, Georgian Papers Programme [online], 21 January 2019 <> accessed 4 August 2021.)

Abolition connections

No known connections with abolition.

National Gallery painting connections

Donor: presented in 1836: NG87, NG90 and NG129 (the latter a portrait of Angerstein by Lawrence, q.v.); NG142–144 (transferred to Tate, N00142–144).


M. Brock, 'William IV', in C. Matthew et al. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 1992-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website

History of Parliament Trust (ed.), The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, London 1964-,
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UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership, London 2020,
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S. West et al., 'Hanover, House of family (5) William IV, King of Great Britain', in J. Turner et al. (eds), Grove Art Online, Oxford 1998-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website