Hanger, George (1751–1824), army officer, author, and eccentric, was born 13 October 1751 in Co. Londonderry, third son of Gabriel Hanger, 1st Lord Coleraine, MP and merchant, and Elizabeth Hanger (née Bond) of Cowbury, Hereford, England. Educated at Reading School and Eton, he later travelled abroad and studied at Göttingen. In January 1771 he entered the army as an ensign in the Foot Guards, and was promoted to captain in February 1776. He felt, however, that he had been continually passed over for promotion and went on half pay (March), but joined the Hessian Jäger Corps as a captain on the outbreak of the American revolution, served with distinction throughout the war, and was badly wounded at the siege of Charleston, South Carolina (September 1780). He then served as a major in Tarleton's Light Dragoons (1782–3), and at the end of the war retired on half pay as a colonel.
On returning to England, he soon became a noted figure in society. A close friend of the prince of Wales (later George IV), he competed with him in the lavishness of his dress and lifestyle. Dressing in turquoise blues, bright pinks, and oranges, he was a conspicuous figure among the prince's entourage, and once commented that his daily army pay ‘would not have paid my tailor his charges of one single buttonhole to my gala suit’ (quoted in Somerville-Large, Irish eccentrics). He was also an inveterate gambler and lost vast sums of money in wagers, some of them of a bizarre nature. On one occasion, while staying with the prince at Carlton House, he lost a large sum by betting on a turkeys v. geese road race. Not surprisingly, his income could not support such a lifestyle and, although he fled to Paris for some time to escape his creditors, he was made a prisoner at the king's bench for debt (Jan. 1798–Apr. 1799). On his release, friends provided him with enough funds to set up as a coal merchant. He was never thereafter accepted by the prince of Wales into his entourage, because, it was claimed, his manners had become ‘somewhat too free and coarse for the royal taste’ (Times, 1 Apr. 1824). It is ironic that his manners only began to offend the prince once he had become penniless. In 1806 he was appointed captain commissary of the Royal Artillery drivers and lived quietly on the income from this position. In 1814 he succeeded his two elder brothers, both of whom had died childless, as 4th Lord Coleraine, but refused to use the title for the rest of his life. He died at his London home in Regent's Park, 31 March 1824, and was buried at the family seat, Driffield Hall, Gloucester. Sometime before January 1823 he entered into a form of marriage with his housekeeper, Mary Ann Greenwood. They had at least one son, John Greenwood Hanger, who did not succeed to his father's title, the marriage being deemed irregular.
Hanger published several works during his lifetime, including Address to the army on Tarleton's history of the campaign of 1780 and 1781 (1789), Anticipation of the freedom of Brabant (1792), and Military reflections on the attack and defence of the city of London (1795). His military publications were thought to have some merit. In 1801 he published his popular autobiography, The life, adventures, and opinions of Colonel Hanger, in which he gave his opinions on numerous topics such as women's fashions and prostitution, and proposed a public sewage scheme. Alongside his eccentric utterances, he also made some intelligent observations and prophesied, from his experiences in America, that the northern and southern states would one day go to war.
Owing to his association with the prince of Wales and his flamboyant mode of dress, he was caricatured by prominent cartoonists including Cruickshank, Gillray, Rowlandson, and Dighton.