A little before the decease of George III., the heir apparent was in a state of health that made his chance of succession problematical—of long possession of the crown more doubtful still. He was attended by Sir William Knighton, who was in his chamber when intelligence arrived from Windsor of his venerable parent's demise; and we are assured that "The fatal tidings were received by the Prince with a burst of grief that was very affecting." He was quite unable to be present at the funeral, and the Duke of York acted as chief mourner.
The skill and solicitude of George IV.'s confidential physician were rewarded, and the new Sovereign recovered sufficiently to apply himself to the business of government with his customary attention; but from that time Sir William so completely fixed himself in the affections of his patron, that the latter was uneasy if he remained away from the Palace, and was sure to send pressing messages for his return. A letter has been preserved, which indicates that services were rendered by him that were not strictly professional. Indeed, he was often employed as an adviser in affairs of peculiar delicacy and importance, and his judgment and tact in their arrangement were invariably acknowledged and appreciated.
This conclusion of the Regency, though for some time anticipated as a mere matter of course, was accompanied by events of so startling a nature as to cause considerable disquietude in the minds of many good citizens and earnest politicians. A feverish excitement existed among the lower classes, that continually threatened to break out in violent manifestations against the Government; but though the Ministers of the Crown were the principal objects of this ill feeling, it was directed with equal animosity against all wealth and influence; and there can be no doubt that, had the designs of their more enterprizing leaders been realized, a complete revolution little less violent than that which had swept over France more than thirty years before, would have overturned law, property, and order through the length and breadth of the land.
"The expectation and the fear of change" kept the public mind in a state of violent agitation; and a great political party was on the alert to take advantage of any popular movement this effervescence might create. It was well known to various influential partizans that events of unusual gravity were "looming in the distance," by which they hoped to be able to raise themselves to power. Rumours of a sinister import were in constant circulation; the more alarmed looked hourly for some mischievous demonstration, and the more reckless displayed increasing confidence and audacity. That reports should be circulated of an immediate change of Government, must have been only natural under such circumstances; the wide-spread discontent of the masses of the population, swelling and surging like a storm-driven sea, had nothing else sufficiently prominent to direct itself against, but the authorities who appeared to them responsible for the evils under which they laboured; and those persons who feared, or pretended to fear, the threatened storm, caught at the idea of removing the unpopular Ministers as affording the only chance of re-establishing the public tranquillity. Such, however, had long before been the tactics of opposition, and such, we are afraid, they are likely to remain.
DR. PHILLIMORE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Feb. 15, 1820.
My dear Lord,
As your Lordship desired me to write if there was any news of any description in circulation, I take up my pen merely to inform you that there is a report most generally disseminated both throughout the West-end of the town and the City, that the Ministers have resigned....