Signature of William IV (1765–1837), and card initialled by Adelaide, Queen Consort to William IV (1792–1849), dated 1840. Mounted in album B.1, ‘City of Dunedin Autographs, Alfred and Isabel Reed Collections’ with calligraphic notes and decoration by A. H. Reed.
William IV was the third son of George III and successor to George IV. His two elder brothers died without legitimate issue, and William inherited the throne on 26 June 1830 when he was sixty-four years old. In his youth, William served in the Royal Navy and was, both during his reign and afterwards, nicknamed the ‘Sailor King’. His reign saw several reforms, such as the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, which changed the British electoral system, and the abolition of slavery in nearly all corners of the empire.
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen married William IV, then Duke of Clarence, on 11 July 1818. As Queen Consort, she was generally loved by the public for her modesty, piety and charity, and much of her household income went to charitable causes. The late David Williamson, co-editor of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, noted that the ‘moderating influence and sweetness of [Adelaide’s] character’ served to balance out William’s ‘down-to-earth bluffness and heartiness’. On William IV’s death in 1837, Adelaide became the first Queen Dowager since Catherine of Braganza was given the title in 1685 upon the death of Charles II.