When King George III went mad and was unable to carry out his duties, his son became Prince Regent in 1811, ruling in his father’s stead until the old king’s death in 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV. As Prince Regent, he led a notoriously dissolute life, with massive debts, multiple mistresses, and rumours of multiple illegitimate children—having separated from his wife, Caroline, after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte. The public sided with Caroline and despised the Prince Regent.
As Jane Austen was about to publish Emma, a representative of the Prince Regent was sent to her, in an apparent attempt to improve the Prince’s reputation, with a request that she dedicate the novel to the Prince Regent. Austen was unhappy, but finally agreed. Here is the dedication:
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
THE PRINCE REGENT,
THIS WORK IS,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S PERMISSION,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESSES’S
. . . Which reminds me of women in an Austen novel, holding their bone china tea cups, backs straight, smiling, and neatly inserting verbal stilettos between the ribs of the ladies on the opposite sofa. Ouch!