On the death of the insane George III on 29 Jan. 1820, the prince regent ascended the throne as George IV. The required general election was held shortly afterwards and confirmed that Lord Liverpool’s Tory administration had a comfortable majority in the Commons. Apart from during the controversial divorce proceedings against Queen Caroline in the Lords later in 1820, the prime minister retained the new king’s confidence, and the Whig opposition was never more than a sometimes persistent irritant. Although a dissolution was widely expected in the autumn of 1825, this Parliament ran to nearly the maximum duration permitted under the Septennial Act.
The general election lasted from 6 Mar. to 13 Apr. 1820. Ninety-three or about a quarter of the 380 constituencies were contested. The turnover of Members was low, with only 87 of the 658 Members having no prior parliamentary experience. Opposition made approximately a dozen gains in English seats, but this was offset by losses in Scotland and Ireland. The government kept a substantial working majority, though a significant minority of Members displayed independent or wayward voting patterns.
By 1820 Liverpool was half-way through his premiership, which continued throughout this Parliament. There were major reshuffles around Christmas 1821, when the Grenvillite ‘third party’ was brought in, and again in August 1822, following Lord Castlereagh’s suicide. As a result, Robert Peel became home secretary (in January 1822) and George Canning foreign secretary and leader of the House (in September 1822). They, with their free trade colleagues William Huskisson and Frederick Robinson, contributed to the ministry’s gradual transition towards ‘liberal Toryism’.