The Prince Regent didn’t much enjoy his regency. “Playing at King”, as he called his time standing in for his father, the “mad” George III, was less fun than it sounded, though the prince bravely made the most of it.
He got drunk, took laudanum and squandered his money on matronly mistresses, diamond-buttoned breeches and enormous breakfasts. He eventually became so fat that by 1822, by which time he had been crowned George IV, he looked, in the words of one portraitist, “like a great sausage stuffed into the covering”.
Monarchies don’t like regencies. Not without reason. They spoil the royal myth, for one thing. If it is tough persuading people that you are God’s chosen representative on Earth, it is tougher yet to persuade them that you are just standing in for God’s choice, for a bit, while the other one is indisposed.
And regencies rarely go well. Among other things England’s regents and royal stand-ins have managed to lose their nation vast amounts of wealth, the king they were supposed to be looking after and, on one notably careless occasion, dominion in France.
England’s regencies, says Tracy Borman, author of “Crown & Sceptre”, have “pretty much always [been] a disaster”.