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George III

George III

George III, 1738-1820, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1760-1820); son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, and grandson of George II, whom he succeeded. He was also elector (and later king) of Hanover, but he never visited it.

Early Reign

After his father's early death (1751), young George was educated for his future role as king by his domineering mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by John Stuart, earl of Bute. He succeeded to the throne at the age of 22 and earnestly set himself to cleanse politics of corruption and to curb the arrogance of the aristocratic Whig leaders, who he believed had weakened the royal powers. George, for his part, was viewed with suspicion by those who resented Lord Bute's influence over the young king. This suspicion appeared justified when the successful and popular William Pitt, later earl of Chatham, was allowed to resign (1761) and was replaced by Bute. Bute, however, could not muster parliamentary support and resigned in 1763, and George, who matured rapidly in office, quickly outgrew his dependence on him.

Political instability marked the first 10 years of the reign, for the king's lack of faith in most of the available ministers and increasing factionalism led to a rapid turnover of ministries and inconsistency of policy. The ministry of George Grenville (1763-65) initiated prosecution of John Wilkes and imposed the unpopular Stamp Act on the American colonies; that of the marquess of Rockingham (1765-66) repealed the Stamp Act; that of Lord Chatham (1766-68) levied new duties in America with the Townshend Acts; while that of the duke of Grafton (1768-70) renewed prosecution of Wilkes. Thwarted in his unrealistic attempts to break the system of patronage and connection by which political groupings were formed, George himself resorted to the lavish use of patronage to establish in Parliament a group of supporters known as the "king's friends."

Ministries of North and the Younger Pitt

Only in 1770 did George find in Frederick, Lord North, a chief minister who was able to manage Parliament and willing to follow royal leadership. Although North achieved financial consolidation at home and imposed closer government control over the East India Company by the Regulating Act (1772), his 12-year ministry is remembered chiefly for his policy of coercion against the American colonists that led finally to the American Revolution. This policy of course reflected the views of the king, whose refusal to accept the loss of the colonies prolonged the war. Opposition in Parliament to what was regarded as increasing royal influence finally forced George to accept the resignation (1782) of North and the formation of ministries first by Lord Rockingham and then by the earl of Shelburne, who concluded the Treaty of Paris (1783), granting independence to the United States.

Shelburne's ministry was brought down (1783) by the surprising coalition of George's old friend Lord North and his leading Whig opponent Charles James Fox. This alliance so incensed the king that he exerted his influence in the House of Lords to secure defeat of Fox's East India Bill (1783) and thus forced the ministry out, replacing it with one formed by the younger William Pitt. Despite the furious reaction to the king's action among Whigs, Pitt won control of Parliament in the 1784 election and was to retain power until 1801 and then hold it again from 1804 to 1806.

After Pitt's appointment George retired from active participation in government, except for taking an interest in such major issues as Catholic Emancipation, which he defeated in 1801. Pitt was able to improve trade, reform the governments of Canada and India, and unite the kingdoms of Ireland and England (1800). He also managed the wars with France (see French Revolutionary Wars; Napoleon I).

England in the Reign of George III

Before George died in 1820 the fabric of English life had been vastly altered from the stable society of 1760. Despite the loss of the American colonies there had been a great expansion of empire and trade, and the ground for further expansion had been laid by the explorations of James Cook. At home, the population almost doubled, improved agricultural methods increased productivity, and advances in technology and transportation marked the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Social reform, although much discussed, made little headway, and all attempts to effect an extension of the suffrage or a redistribution of parliamentary representation failed. The Church of England, fettered by apathy and patronage, failed to move into the new factory towns, but Methodism spread rapidly to fill the gap. Science made great strides with the work of Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley, John Dalton, and Sir Humphrey Davy. In English literature 18th-century neoclassicism declined, and the romantic movement had its rise. A revolution in social and economic thinking, assisted by the spread of literacy and learning through a wider distribution of books and periodicals, promoted theories of utilitarianism and laissez-faire. Among important thinkers of the period were Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Jeremy Bentham, and Edmund Burke. Through all these developments George patronized the arts, especially portraiture, and founded the Royal Academy of Arts. He was a friend of Josiah Wedgwood and other industrialists.

Later Life and Character

George, who had suffered a short nervous breakdown in 1765 and a more serious one in 1788-89 (which caused a fierce conflict between Pitt and Fox over the powers to be vested in the regency), became permanently insane in 1810. It has been suggested that he was a victim of the hereditary disease porphyria. He spent the rest of his life in the care of his devoted wife, Charlotte Sophia, whom he had married in 1761, and the prince of Wales (later George IV) was made regent (see Regency). Unlike the first two Georges, George III had a tranquil domestic life, although scandal touched his brothers and sons. George was an honest and well-intentioned man, but his stubbornness and limited intellectual power confounded his efforts to rule well and made him a somewhat tragic figure.

Bibliography

See editions of George III's correspondence by J. Fortescue (6 vol., 1927-28; additions and corrections by L. B. Namier, 1937) and by A. Aspinall (5 vol., 1962-70); biographies by J. C. Long (1961), S. E. Ayling (1972), J. Brooke (1972), and J. C. Clarke (1972); studies by H. Butterfield (1949, repr. 1968; rev. ed. 1959), J. S. Watson (1960), J. H. Plumb (1985), R. Pares (1953, repr. 1988), and C. Hibbert (1999).

George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820 [N.S.]) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, formed by the union of these two countries, until his death. He was concurrently Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and thus prince-elector of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire, and then King of Hanover from 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, and the first of Hanover to be born in Britain and speak English as his first language.

George III's long reign was marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdom, much of the rest of Europe, and places further afield in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Early in his reign, Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War, becoming the dominant European power in North America and India. However, many of its American colonies were soon lost in the American Revolutionary War, which led to the establishment of the United States. A series of wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France, over a twenty-year period, finally concluded in the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.

In the latter half of his life, George III suffered from recurrent and, eventually, permanent mental illness. This baffled medical science at the time, although it is now generally thought that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria. The poison arsenic can trigger porphyria, and recent studies have shown high levels of arsenic in locks of King George's hair. After a final relapse in 1810, his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. On George III's death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV. Historical analysis of George III's life has gone through a "kaleidoscope of changing views" which have depended heavily on the prejudices of his biographers and the sources available to them.

Early life

George was born in London at Norfolk House, the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and grandson of King George II. Prince George's mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. As Prince George was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive, he was baptised the same day by the Rector of St James's. He was publicly baptised by the Bishop of Oxford, Thomas Secker, at Norfolk House on 4 July 1738 (New Style). His godparents were the King of Sweden (for whom Lord Baltimore stood proxy), the Duke of Saxe-Gotha (for whom Lord Carnarvon stood proxy) and his twice-paternal great-aunt, the Queen of Prussia (for whom Lady Charlotte Edwin, a daughter of the late Duke of Hamilton, stood proxy).

George grew into a healthy child but his grandfather, King George II, disliked the Prince of Wales and took little interest in his grandchildren. However, in 1751 the Prince of Wales died unexpectedly from a lung injury, and Prince George became heir apparent to the throne. He inherited one of his father's titles and became the Duke of Edinburgh. Now more interested in his grandson, three weeks later the King created George Prince of Wales. In the spring of 1756, as George approached his eighteenth birthday, the King offered him a grand establishment at St James's Palace, but George refused the offer, guided by his mother and her confidante, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister. George's mother, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, preferred to keep George at home where she could imbue him with her strict moral values.

Marriage

In 1759 George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but Lord Bute advised against the match and George abandoned his thoughts of marriage. "I am born for the happiness and misery of a great nation," he wrote, "and consequently must often act contrary to my passion." Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophia Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother.

The following year, George succeeded to the Crown when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760 at the age of 76. The search for a suitable wife intensified. On 8 September 1761, the King married in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he met on their wedding day. A fortnight later, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with both his Hanoverian predecessors and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a genuinely happy marriage. They had 15 children—nine sons and six daughters. In 1762, the King purchased Buckingham House (now Palace) for use as a family retreat.

Early reign

Although George's accession was at first welcomed by politicians of all parties, the first years of George's reign were marked by political instability, largely generated as a result of disagreements over the Seven Years' War. The favouritism which George showed towards Tory ministers led to his denunciation by the Whigs as an autocrat in the manner of Charles I. In May 1762, the incumbent Whig ministry of the Duke of Newcastle was replaced with one led by the Scottish Tory Lord Bute. Bute's opponents worked against him by spreading the calumny that he was having an affair with the King's mother, and by exploiting anti-Scottish prejudices amongst the English. In 1763, after concluding the Peace of Paris which ended the war, Lord Bute resigned, allowing the Whigs under George Grenville to return to power. Later that year, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 placed a boundary upon the westward expansion of the American colonies. The Proclamation's goal was to force colonists to negotiate with the Native Americans, and therefore to reduce the costly frontier warfare that had erupted over land conflicts. While the Proclamation Line, as it came to be known, did not bother the majority of settled farmers, it was unpopular with a vocal minority of Americans and ultimately became another wedge between the colonists and the British government that would eventually lead to war. With the American colonists generally unburdened by British taxes, the government found it increasingly difficult to pay for the defence of the colonies against native uprisings and the possibility of French incursions. In 1765, Grenville introduced the Stamp Act, which levied a stamp duty on every document in the British colonies in North America. Since newspapers were printed on stamped paper, those most affected by the introduction of the duty were the most effective at producing propaganda opposing the tax. Meanwhile, the King had become exasperated at Grenville's attempts to reduce the King's prerogatives, and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade William Pitt the Elder to accept the office of Prime Minister. After a brief illness, which may have presaged his illnesses to come, George settled on Lord Rockingham to form a ministry, and dismissed Grenville.

Lord Rockingham, with the support of Pitt, repealed Grenville's unpopular Stamp Act, but his government was weak and he was replaced in 1766 by Pitt, whom George created Earl of Chatham. The actions of Lord Chatham and George III in repealing the Act were so popular in America that statues of them both were erected in New York City. Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, allowing the Duke of Grafton to take over the government, although he did not formally become Prime Minister until 1768. His government disintegrated in 1770, allowing the Tories to return to power.

The government of the new Prime Minister, Lord North, was chiefly concerned with discontent in America. To assuage American opinion most of the custom duties were withdrawn, with the exception of the tea duty, which in George's words was "one tax to keep up the right [to levy taxes]". In 1773, a Boston mob boarded the tea ships moored in Boston Harbor and threw the tea overboard as a political protest, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. In Britain, opinion hardened against the colonists, with Chatham now agreeing with North that the destruction of the tea was "certainly criminal". Lord North introduced measures, which were called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists: the Port of Boston was shut down and the constitution of Massachusetts was altered so that the upper house of the legislature was appointed by the Crown instead of elected by the lower house. Up to this point, in the words of Professor Peter Thomas, George's "hopes were centred on a political solution, and he always bowed to his cabinet's opinions even when sceptical of their success. The detailed evidence of the years from 1763 to 1775 tends to exonerate George III from any real responsibility for the American Revolution.

On George's accession, the Crown lands produced relatively little income; most revenue was generated through taxes and excise duties. George surrendered the Crown Estate to Parliamentary control in return for a Civil List annuity for the support of his household and the expenses of Civil Government. It is claimed that George used the income to reward supporters with bribes and gifts, though this is disputed by others who say such claims "rest on nothing but falsehoods put out by disgruntled opposition". Debts amounting to over £3 million over the course of George's reign were paid by Parliament, and the Civil List annuity was increased from time to time.

American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War began when armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out in New England in April 1775. After a year of fighting, the colonies declared their independence from the Crown as "free and independent States" in July 1776, and listed grievances against the British King, legislature, and populace. Amongst George's other offences, the Declaration charged, "He has abdicated Government here ... He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." George was indignant when he learned of the opinions of the colonists. The British captured New York City in 1776, but the grand strategic plan of invading from Canada failed with the surrender of the British Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. In 1778, France (Great Britain's chief rival) signed a treaty of friendship with the newly independent American States. Lord North asked to transfer power to Lord Chatham, whom he thought more capable. George, however, would hear nothing of such suggestions; he suggested that Chatham serve as a subordinate minister in Lord North's administration. Chatham refused to cooperate, and died later in the same year. Great Britain was then at war with France, and in 1779 it was also at war with Spain.

George III obstinately tried to keep Great Britain at war with the revolutionaries in America, despite the opinions of his own ministers. Lord Gower and Lord Weymouth both resigned rather than suffer the indignity of being associated with the war. Lord North's opinion matched that of his ministerial colleagues, which he appears to have told George III, but he stayed in office. The King was determined "never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy by the indefinite prolongation of a war which promised to be eternal. His plan was to keep the 30,000 men garrisoned in New York, Rhode Island, Canada, and Florida; other forces would attack the French and Spanish in the West Indies. To punish the Americans the King planned to destroy their coasting-trade, bombard their ports, sack and burn towns along the coast (like New London, Connecticut), and turn loose the Indians to attack civilians in frontier settlements. These operations, the King felt, would inspire the Loyalists, splinter the Continental Congress, and "keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse". They would beg to return to his authority. The plan, however, meant destruction for the Loyalists and loyal Indians, and indefinite prolongation of a costly war, as well as the risk of disaster as the French and Spanish were assembling an armada to invade Britain and seize London.

In 1781, the news of Lord Cornwallis's surrender at the Siege of Yorktown reached London; Lord North's parliamentary support ebbed away and he resigned the following year. Afterward, Lord North persuaded the king against abdicating, George III finally accepted the defeat in North America, and authorised the negotiation of a peace. The Treaty of Paris, by which Britain recognised the independence of the American states, and the associated Treaty of Versailles, which required Great Britain to give up Florida to Spain and to grant access to the waters off Newfoundland to France, were ratified in 1783. When John Adams was appointed American Minister to Britain in 1785, George had become resigned to the new relationship between his country and the States. He told Adams, "I was the last to consent to the separation; but I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.

Constitutional struggle

With the collapse of Lord North's ministry in 1782, the Whig Lord Rockingham became Prime Minister for the second time, but died within months. The King then appointed Lord Shelburne to replace him. Charles James Fox, however, refused to serve under Shelburne, and demanded the appointment of the Duke of Portland. In 1783, the House of Commons forced Lord Shelburne from office and his government was replaced by the Fox-North Coalition. The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister; Fox and Lord North, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively, really held power, with Portland acting as a figurehead.

George III was distressed by the attempts to force him to appoint ministers not of his liking, but the Portland ministry quickly built up a majority in the House of Commons, and could not easily be displaced. He was, moreover, extremely dissatisfied when the government introduced the India Bill, which proposed to reform the government of India by transferring political power from the Honourable East India Company to Parliamentary commissioners. Immediately after the House of Commons passed it, George authorised Lord Temple to inform the House of Lords that he would regard any peer who voted for the bill as his enemy. The bill was rejected by the Lords; three days later, the Portland ministry was dismissed, and William Pitt the Younger was appointed Prime Minister, with Temple as his Secretary of State. On 17 December 1783, Parliament voted in favour of a motion condemning the influence of the monarch in parliamentary voting as a "high crime" and Temple was forced to resign. Temple's departure destabilised the government, and three months later the government lost its majority and Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave Pitt a firm mandate.

William Pitt

For George III, Pitt's appointment was a great victory. It proved that he was able to appoint Prime Ministers on the basis of his own interpretation of the public mood without having to follow the choice of the current majority in the House of Commons. Throughout Pitt's ministry, George supported many of Pitt's political aims and created new peers at an unprecedented rate to increase the number of Pitt's supporters in the House of Lords. During and after Pitt's ministry, George III was extremely popular in Britain. The public supported the exploratory voyages to the Pacific Ocean that he sanctioned. George also aided the Royal Academy with large grants from his private funds. The British people admired their King for remaining faithful to his wife, unlike the two previous Hanoverian monarchs.

However, by this time George III's health was deteriorating. He suffered from a mental illness, now widely believed to be a symptom of porphyria. A study of samples of the King's hair published in 2005 revealed high levels of arsenic, a possible trigger for the disease. The source of the arsenic is not known, but it could have been a component of medicines or cosmetics. The King may have previously suffered a brief episode of the disease in 1765, but a longer episode began in the summer of 1788. George was sufficiently sane to prorogue Parliament on 25 September 1788, but his condition worsened and in November he became seriously deranged, sometimes speaking for many hours without pause. With his doctors largely at a loss to explain his illness, spurious stories about his condition spread, such as the claim that he shook hands with a tree in the mistaken belief that it was the King of Prussia. When Parliament reconvened in November, the King could not, as was customary, communicate to them the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. According to long-established practice, Parliament could not begin the transaction of business until the King had made the Speech from the Throne. Parliament, however, ignored the custom and began to debate provisions for a regency.

Charles James Fox and William Pitt wrangled over the terms of which individual was entitled to take over government during the illness of the Sovereign. Although both parties agreed that it would be most reasonable for George III's eldest son and heir apparent, the Prince of Wales, to act as Regent, they disagreed over the basis of a regency. Fox suggested that it was the Prince of Wales's absolute right to act on his ill father's behalf; Pitt argued that it was for Parliament to nominate a Regent. Proceedings were further delayed as the authority for Parliament to merely meet was questioned, as the session had not been formally opened by the Sovereign. As was well-established at the time, the Sovereign could delegate many of his functions to Lords Commissioners by letters patent, which were validated by the attachment of the Great Seal. Pitt proposed that the custodian of the Great Seal, the Lord Chancellor, affix the Seal without the consent of the Sovereign. Although such an action would be unlawful, it would not be possible to question the validity of the letters patent, as the presence of the Great Seal would be deemed conclusive in court. George III's second son, the Prince Frederick, Duke of York, denounced Pitt's proposal as "unconstitutional and illegal". Nonetheless, the Lords Commissioners were appointed and then opened Parliament. In February 1789, the Regency Bill, authorising the Prince of Wales to act as Prince Regent, was introduced and passed in the House of Commons. But before the House of Lords could pass the bill, George III recovered from his illness under the treatment of Dr Francis Willis. He confirmed the actions of the Lords Commissioners as valid, but resumed full control of government.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

After George recovered from his illness, his popularity, and that of Pitt, continued to increase at the expense of Fox and the Prince of Wales. His humane and understanding treatment of two insane assailants, Margaret Nicolson in 1786 and John Frith in 1790, contributed to his popularity. The French Revolution of 1789, in which the French monarchy had been overthrown, worried many British landowners. France declared war on Great Britain in 1793; George allowed Pitt to increase taxes, raise armies, and suspend the right of habeas corpus in the war attempt. The First Coalition to oppose revolutionary France, which included Austria, Prussia, and Spain, broke up in 1795 when Prussia and Spain made separate peace with France. The Second Coalition, which included Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, was defeated in 1800. Only Great Britain was left fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul of the French Republic.

A failed attempt to assassinate the King on 15 May 1800 was not political in origin but motivated by the religious delusions of James Hadfield, who shot at the King in the Drury Lane Theatre.

A brief lull in hostilities allowed Pitt to concentrate effort on Ireland, where there had been an uprising in 1798. The British and Irish Parliaments passed the Act of Union 1800, which, on 1 January 1801, united Great Britain and Ireland into a single nation, known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George used the opportunity to drop the claim to the Throne of France, which English and British Sovereigns had maintained since the reign of Edward III. It was suggested that George adopt the title "Emperor of the British and Hanoverian Dominions", but he refused.

As part of his Irish policy, Pitt planned to remove certain legal disabilities that applied to Roman Catholics. George III claimed that to emancipate Catholics would be to violate his coronation oath, in which Sovereigns promise to maintain Protestantism. The King declared,

"Where is the power on Earth to absolve me from the observance of every sentence of that oath, particularly the one requiring me to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion? … No, no, I had rather beg my bread from door to door throughout Europe, than consent to any such measure. I can give up my crown and retire from power. I can quit my palace and live in a cottage. I can lay my head on a block and lose my life, but I cannot break my oath."
Faced with opposition to his religious reform policies from both the King and the British public, Pitt threatened to resign. At about the same time, the King suffered a relapse of his previous illness, which he blamed on worry over the Catholic question. On 14 March 1801, Pitt was formally replaced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington. Addington opposed emancipation, instituted annual accounts, abolished income tax and began a programme of disarmament. In October 1801, he made peace with the French, and in 1802 signed the Treaty of Amiens.

George did not consider the peace with France as "real"; in his view it was an "experiment". In 1803, the two nations once again declared war on each other but public opinion distrusted Addington to lead the nation in war, and instead favoured Pitt. An invasion of England by Napoleon seemed imminent and a massive volunteer movement arose to defend England against the French. One of the best-attended royal events during this time was George's review of 27,000 volunteers in Hyde Park, London on 26 and 28 October 1803, during the height of the invasion scare. An estimated 500,000 people turned up on each day to watch. The Times described it as:

"...a glorious day for Old England. It displayed the youth of the first city of the universe, assembled in military array round the person of their beloved and venerable Sovereign, and ready to devote themselves on the altar of their country ... The enthusiasm of the multitude was beyond all expression. When his MAJESTY entered the Park, a burst of exultation seemed involuntarily to break forth".

George prepared to resist Napoleon. A courtier wrote on 13 November: "The King is really prepared to take the field in case of attack, his beds are ready and he can move at half an hour's warning". George wrote to his friend Bishop Hurd on 30 November:

"We are here in daily expectation that Bonaparte will attempt his threatened invasion; the chances against his success seem so many that it is wonderful he persists in it. ... Should his troops effect a landing, I shall certainly put myself at the head of mine, and my other armed subjects, to repel them".

The possibility of invasion was extinguished after Admiral Lord Nelson's famous naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

In 1804, George was again affected by his recurrent illness; after his recovery, Addington resigned and Pitt regained power. Pitt sought to appoint Fox to his ministry, but George III refused as the King disliked Fox, who had encouraged the Prince of Wales to lead an extravagant and expensive life. Lord Grenville perceived an injustice to Fox, and refused to join the new ministry. Pitt concentrated on forming a coalition with Austria, Russia, and Sweden. This Third Coalition, however, met the same fate as the First and Second Coalitions, collapsing in 1805. The setbacks in Europe took a toll on William Pitt's health. Pitt died in 1806, once again reopening the question of who should serve in the ministry. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, and his "Ministry of All the Talents" included Charles James Fox. The King was conciliatory towards Fox, after being forced to capitulate over his appointment. After Fox's death in September 1806, the King and ministry were in open conflict. To boost recruitment, the ministry had proposed a measure whereby Roman Catholics would be allowed to serve in all ranks of the Armed Forces. George instructed them not only to drop the measure, but also to agree never to set up such a measure again. The ministers agreed to drop the measure then pending, but refused to bind themselves in the future. In 1807, they were dismissed and replaced by the Duke of Portland as the nominal Prime Minister, with actual power being held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval. Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave the ministry a strong majority in the House of Commons. George III made no further major political decisions during his reign; the replacement of the Duke of Portland by Perceval in 1809 was of little actual significance.

Later life

In 1810, at the height of his popularity but already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George III became dangerously ill. In his view the malady had been triggered by the stress he suffered at the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. The Princess's nurse reported that "the scenes of distress and crying every day…were melancholy beyond description. He accepted the need for the Regency Act 1811, and the Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III's life. By the end of 1811, George III had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death.

Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812 (the only British Prime Minister to have suffered such a fate) and was replaced by Lord Liverpool. Liverpool oversaw British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The subsequent Congress of Vienna led to significant territorial gains for Hanover, which was upgraded from an electorate to a kingdom.

Meanwhile, George's health deteriorated, and eventually he became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He never knew that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or of the death of his wife in 1818. Over Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. On 29 January 1820, he died at Windsor Castle. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. His death came six days after that of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. George III was buried on 15 February in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

George was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to their niece, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover and the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent.

Legacy

George III lived for 81 years and 239 days and reigned for 59 years and 96 days—both his life and his reign were longer than any of his predecessors. Only George's granddaughter Queen Victoria exceeded his record, though Elizabeth II has lived longer.

While very popular at the start of his reign, by the mid-1770s George had lost the loyalty of revolutionary American colonists (about a third of the population in the American colonies). The grievances in the United States Declaration of Independence were presented as "repeated injuries and usurpations" that he had committed to establish an "absolute Tyranny" over the colonies. The Declaration's wording has contributed to the American public's perception of George as a tyrant. Contemporary accounts of George III's life fall into two camps: one demonstrating "attitudes dominant in the latter part of the reign, when the king had become a revered symbol of national resistance to French ideas and French power" and the other "derived their views of the king from the bitter partisan strife of the first two decades of the reign, and they expressed in their works the views of the opposition". Building on the latter of these two assessments, British historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Trevelyan and Erskine May, promoted hostile interpretations of George III's life. However, in the mid-twentieth century the work of Lewis Namier, who thought George was "much maligned", kick-started a re-evaluation of the man and his reign. Scholars of the later twentieth century, such as Butterfield and Pares, and Macalpine and Hunter, are inclined to treat George sympathetically, seeing him as a victim of circumstance and illness. Butterfield rejected the arguments of his Victorian predecessors with withering disdain: "Erskine May must be a good example of the way in which an historian may fall into error through an excess of brilliance. His capacity for synthesis, and his ability to dovetail the various parts of the evidence … carried him into a more profound and complicated elaboration of error than some of his more pedestrian predecessors … he inserted a doctrinal element into his history which, granted his original aberrations, was calculated to project the lines of his error, carrying his work still further from centrality or truth. Today, the long reign of George III is perceived as a continuation of the reduction in the political power of monarchy, and its growth as the embodiment of national morality.

There are many cities and towns in former British colonies named Georgetown in honour of George III or his son, George IV. Statues of George III include one in the courtyard of Somerset House in London and one in Weymouth, Dorset, which he popularised as one of the first seaside resorts in England. A gilded equestrian statue of George III was pulled down in New York at the beginning of the War of Independence in 1776. Engravings of its destruction are wholly inaccurate.

George III was dubbed "Farmer George" by satirists, at first mocking his interest in mundane matters rather than politics but later to contrast his homely thrift with his son's grandiosity and to portray him as a man of the people. Under George III, who was passionately interested in agriculture, the British Agricultural Revolution reached its peak and great advances were made in fields such as science and industry. There was unprecedented growth in the rural population, which in turn provided much of the workforce for the concurrent Industrial Revolution.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 4 June 1738 – 31 March 1751: His Royal Highness Prince George
  • 31 March 1751 – 20 April 1751: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh
  • 20 April 1751 – 25 October 1760: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
  • 25 October 1760 – 29 January 1820: His Majesty The King

In Great Britain, George III used the official style "George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." In 1801, when Great Britain united with Ireland, he took the opportunity to drop his claim to the French Throne. He also dispensed with the phrase "etc.," which had been added during the reign of Elizabeth I. His style became, "George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith."

Arms

On 27 July 1749, George was granted use of the arms of the kingdom (as he later inherited), differenced by a label azure of five points, the centre point bearing a fleur-de-lys or. Upon his father's death, and along with the dukedom of Edinburgh and the position of heir-apparent, he inherited his difference of a plain label argent of three points.

From the time of his coronation until 1800, George's arms were: Quarterly, I Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England) impaling Or a lion rampant within a double-tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); II Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or (for France); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland); IV tierced per pale and per chevron (for Hanover), I Gules two lions passant guardant Or (for Brunswick), II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure (for Lüneburg), III Gules a horse courant Argent (for Westfalen), overall an escutcheon Gules charged with the crown of Charlemagne Or (for the dignity of Archtreasurer of the Holy Roman Empire).

Following the Act of Union 1800, his arms were amended, dropping the French quartering. They became: Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland); overall an escutcheon tierced per pale and per chevron (for Hanover), I Gules two lions passant guardant Or (for Brunswick), II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure (for Lunenburg), III Gules a horse courant Argent (for Westfalen), the whole inescutcheon surmounted by an electoral bonnet. In 1816, two years after the Electorate of Hanover became a Kingdom, the electoral bonnet was changed to a crown.

Issue

Name Birth Death Notes
George IV 12 August 1762 26 June 1830 married 1795, Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; had issue; died aged 67
Frederick, Duke of York 16 August 1763 5 January 1827 married 1791, Princess Frederica of Prussia; no issue; died aged 53
William IV 21 August 1765 20 June 1837 married 1818, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen; no legitimate surviving issue; died aged 71
Charlotte, Princess Royal 29 September 1766 6 October 1828 married 1797, Frederick, King of Württemberg; no issue; died aged 62
Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent 2 November 1767 23 January 1820 married 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; had issue (Queen Victoria); died aged 52
Princess Augusta Sophia 8 November 1768 22 September 1840 died aged 71
Princess Elizabeth 22 May 1770 10 January 1840 married 1818, Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg; no issue; died aged 69
Ernest Augustus I of Hanover 5 June 1771 18 November 1851 married 1815, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue; died aged 80
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex 27 January 1773 22 April 1843 married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, (1) 1793 Lady Augusta Murray; had issue; marriage declared void 1794; (2) 1831, Lady Cecilia Underwood (later 1st Duchess of Inverness); no issue; died aged 70
Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge 24 February 1774 8 July 1850 married 1818, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel; had issue; died aged 76
Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester 25 April 1776 30 April 1857 married 1816, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester; no issue; died aged 81
Princess Sophia 3 November 1777 27 May 1848 died aged 70
Prince Octavius 23 February 1779 3 May 1783 died aged 4
Prince Alfred 22 September 1780 20 August 1782 died aged 23 months
Princess Amelia 7 August 1783 2 November 1810 died aged 27

Ancestors

See also

Notes

References

  • Butterfield, Herbert (1957). George III and the Historians. London: Collins. online edition
  • Caretta, Vincent (1990). George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press.
  • Hibbert, Christopher (1999). George III: A Personal History. London: Penguin Books.
  • Pares, Richard (1953). King George III and the Politicians. Oxford University Press. online edition
  • Reitan, E. A. (editor) (1964). George III, Tyrant Or Constitutional Monarch?. Boston: D. C. Heath and Company. A compilation of different essays encompassing the major assessments of George III up to 1964.
  • Röhl, John C. G.; Warren, Martin; Hunt, David (1998). Purple Secret: Genes, "Madness" and the Royal Houses of Europe. London: Bantam Press.
  • Trevelyan, George (1912). George the Third and Charles Fox: The Concluding Part of the American Revolution.
  • Watson, J. Steven (1960). The Reign of George III, 1760–1815. London: Oxford University Press. online edition
  • Weir, Alison (1996). Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, Revised edition. Random House.

Further reading

  • Black, Jeremy (2006). George III: America's Last King. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Ditchfield, G. M. (2002). George III: An Essay in Monarchy. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
    • See also:Conway, Stephen Book Review. Institute of Historical Research. (2003). Retrieved on 2008-02-25..
  • May, Thomas Erskine (1896). The Constitutional History of England Since the Accession of George the Third, 1760–1860. 11th ed., London: Longmans, Green and Co.

External links

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