1 - The Sovereigns of King George IV (1820-1830)
George IV came to the throne on 29th January 1820 upon the death of George III, From 1811 until his accession, he served as Prince Regent during his father's final mental illness. This effectively meant that there wasn't a great deal of change to the new monarchs powers. George IV led a somewhat extravagant lifestyle and was a major contributor to the trends and fashions of the Regency period. He also commissioned John Nash to build the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and remodel Buckingham Palace, and Sir Jeffry Wyattville to rebuild Windsor Castle. His charm and culture earned him the title "the first gentleman of England", but he had a poor relationship with both his father and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick.
The kings overindulgence, earned him the contempt of the people and harmed the prestige of the monarchy. He actually forbade Caroline to attend his coronation and asked the government to introduce the unpopular Pains and Penalties Bill in a desperate, unsuccessful attempt to divorce her.
Although George III died in January of 1820 the use of the his dies continued throughout that year with the first George IV sovereign not struck until 1821. Benedetto Pistrucci engraved both the obverse and reverse of the new sovereign, using his original Laureate head design first used on the Kings Coronation medal. A slightly altered reverse with St George slaying the dragon with a sword and streamer now omitted from his helmet and the Legend GEORGIUS IIII D:G:BRITANIAR:REX F:D: The Laureate Head sovereigns were struck from 1821-1825 when upon the Kings instructions a complete redesign of coinage took place introducing a somewhat more flattering image of himself.
In 1822, Benedetto Pistrucci's refusal to copy the depiction of another artists work Francis Chantrey of a much more flattering effigy of the King, sparked the end of his work on coinage. However having already been paid the vast sum of £1700 to engrave the Waterloo Medal commissioned in 1819, he remained at the Mint until its completion in 1849. Howard Linecar in his book on British coin designs and designers noted that by then "all the great men to whom it was intended that a specimen of the medal should be given were dead.
Before we have a close look at the sovereigns of King George IV, a quick word on why the new King is facing left, as opposed to his predecessor facing right on coinage. It has been a tradition still followed today that the succeeding monarch faces the opposite direction to that of their predecessor. With the only exception to the rule being King Edward VIII who had coins issued depicting his portrait facing to the left, as he thought it was his best side, and refused to follow the royal tradition.