King George III of Great Britain in 5 Minutes

King George III of Great Britain

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_III_of_the_United_Kingdom#/media/File:Allan_Ramsay_-_King_George_III_in_coronation_robes_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Moving forward with the Georgian period, it’s time to look at the first Georgian king born in Great Britain. King George III was the grandson of George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Ansbach, the eldest son of their eldest son Frederick, Prince of Wales. Here’s a look at his life and death in this 5 Minute History post.

The Early Life of George III of Great Britain

Born at Norfolk House on June 4, 1738, George William Frederick was second in the line of succession, behind his father Prince Frederick. Born two months early, many did not expect him to survive and he was baptized on the day of his birth in private. Just a month later, his parents had him baptized publicly, and he soon beat the odds by being a healthy child. His flaw was his shy and reserved nature.

When he was older, he moved to Leicester Square and was educated by private tutors, along with his brother Prince Edward. His parents ensured that he could read and write in English and German, due to his family coming from Hanover. While studying many of the common subjects monarchs needed to learn, he also learned chemistry and physics; becoming the first British monarch to learn them. He was also taught math, astronomy, music, geography and history, among many other subjects. Despite learning so much, he did get to enjoy social and sporting events.

Unfortunately, George III never spent much time with his grandfather. George II and Frederick, Prince of Wales had a strained relationship. Because of that, George was not welcome at his grandson’s birth and took little interest into the lives of all his grandchildren. It was only after Frederick’s death in 1751 that George took some interest in the new heir to the throne. Prince George was created the Prince of Wales three weeks after his father’s unexpected death.

George William Frederick as Heir Apparent

While being heir to the throne, much more was expected of the teenager. When he turned 18 in 1756, he was offered St. James’ Palace as his establishment. Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, George’s mother, encouraged him not to take up the offer. She wanted to keep him at home, where she could have more control over his education and values.

It also meant that he would build up a relationship with a future prime minister, Lord Bute. Bute was a close friend and confidant of Augusta.

Now was also the time to start thinking about marriage. Again, George’s mother and Lord Bute helped to encourage him to marry politically, rather than for love. By 1759, George had fallen for the Duke of Richmond’s sister, Lady Sarah Lennox. He desperately wanted to marry her, but was advised not to.

George II started looking overseas for a good match for his grandson. There was the option of Princess Sophie Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, but Augusta didn’t want this. The option soon disappeared when Sophie married another. George never had the chance to arrange his grandson’s marriage. On October 25, 1760 George II of Great Britain died suddenly. George William Frederick found himself George III of Great Britain.

George III Marries Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Now that George was king, marriage was even more important. He needed to provide the country with legitimate heirs. He intensified his search and by September 8, 1761 he was married to Princess Charlotte ofMecklenburg-Strelitz. They only met on the day of their wedding, and werecrowned together two weeks later.

Despite only meeting on the day, the two did have a happy marriage. Unlike his grandfather and his own sons, George was extremely loyal to his wife. He never had a mistress and all his children were legitimate. Together they had 15 children!

It is clear that the two trusted and eventually likely loved each other. During George’s later years, Charlotte helped to run the country.

George III’s Reign: The Ups and Downs

At first, politicians welcomed the new king. It was seen as a new start, considering his predecessor had had no influence in his views. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for politicians to struggle with support for their new king. It didn’t help that the Seven Years’ War followed the start of George’s start of his reign, and the Whigs viewed him as a Tory supporter.

With the lands from the Crown producing so little income, George decided to give Parliament control over the Crown Estate. This did lead to some income, but many claimed he used the money for bribes or to carry favor. Historians now disagree with these claims, but it did cast a shadow over his reign. Parliament did have to pay more than £3 million in debts over the king’s reign. That did not stop George from giving most of his personal income to charities and aid the Royal Academy of Arts with grants from his own income.

Various unpopular Acts were passed, but they were nothing as serious as losing the colonies. The American War of Independence took place during George III of Great Britain’s rule, and he has gone down as the monarch who lost the Americas. However, evidence has supported George’s claim that he was not directly responsible for the loss. He was not the tyrant the Americans viewed him as at the time.

George III Struggles With Poor Mental Health

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George’s mental health took a downward turn during the later Napoleonic Wars with the French. He became deranged, and Parliament started to worry. It could mean that George’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, could act as regent. They wanted to restrict his powers and the House of Commons passed a bill. Before it was ratified by the House of Lords, George III recovered from his initial issues.

After his recovery, his popularity grew but there were some who still disagreed with him. There was an attempt on his life in 1800, with James Hadfield identified and apprehended. By this time, Great Britain was also the only country fighting against Napoleon’s Republic French army. There was also an issue with the Irish as the Act of Union was passed between the British and Irish governments. The problem was linked to religion, as George wanted to avoid emancipating the Catholics, as it would violate his oath as king. This led to unpopularity with the Catholic population.

George also dropped the King of France title, and was offered the title Emperor of the British Isles. He chose not to take that title, and was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

As problems with the Irish and French intensified, George III had another mental breakdown.  It was left to the Parliament to negotiate terms with the French to bring about peace, meaning the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. That did not last, as George viewed the peace as an experiment and a year later the war resumed. This, of course, did lead to the famous naval victory led by Admiral Lord Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar.

Yet again, George’s illness returned once more but he recovered again. Various decisions and military successes did lead to his popularity growing until 1810. By this point, his mental and physical health were deteriorating. He suffered from rheumatism and cataracts had made him blind. He blamed the death of his youngest daughter—also his favorite—Princess Amelia.

By 1811, his mental health was so bad that he had to accept the Regency Act of 1811, where his son would become regent. George, Prince of Wales, acted as regent until George’s death, especially due to George III becoming permanently insane by the end of 1811. George remained in seclusion and developed dementia and became deaf. His mental health had deteriorated so much that he didn’t even understand that his wife Charlotte had died in 1818.

He died on January 29, 1820, now unable to walk. He was accompanied by Frederick, Duke of York, his favorite son. His eldest son, George, became King of Great Britain. He became the longest-reigning and longest-living monarch at the time. Only Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II have succeeded him in these two accomplishments. Despite this, he is best known for his mental illness and is often referred to as Mad King George.


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