Search This Blog

Thursday, 26 March 2015

George III of the United Kingdom

George was born in London at Norfolk House on June 4, 1738. He was the grandson of King George II, and the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.

As Prince George was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive, he was baptized the same day by Thomas Secker, who was both Rector of St James's and the Bishop of Oxford.


George III was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 until 1801. He was then King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. George was also Elector of Hanover, making him a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

George succeeded to the throne at the age of 22 when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on October 25, 1760, He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors he was born in Britain and spoke English as his first language.

Upon his accession, George III agreed to surrender the revenues of the Crown Estate to Parliament, in return Parliament was to provide fixed “civil list” payments, to meet royal expenses, and also meet the full costs of civil government. This action was the first by a Sovereign acknowledging parliamentary control over royal income and expenditure, although the “Military List”, the army and navy, had long been funded only by taxes sanctioned by Parliament. George's original civil list was £723,000; the sum reached over £1,000,000 by the end of his reign.

He reigned for 59 years and 2 months, which was longer than any other British monarch before him

During George III's reign, his kingdom lost thirteen of its colonies in North America as a result of the American War of Independence (they became the United States).

In 1776 New Yorkers tore down a George III statue and melted it in to 42,088 musket balls to fire at his troops.

His two kingdoms Great Britain and Ireland were merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland by the 1800 Acts of Union.


George was brought up at Kew Palace and later on he made it his summer residence.

Full-length portrait in oils of a clean-shaven young George by Allan Ramsey 

As king, in 1761, George asked John Stuart 3rd Earl of Butee for a review of all eligible German Protestant princesses "to save a great deal of trouble," as "marriage must sooner or later come to pass." He chose the 17-year-old plain, dull but sweet-natured, pious and modest Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to be his bride.

Their marriage took place on September 8, 1761 in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace. At the royal wedding, Charlotte was speechless with nerves and was barely able to stand under the weight of her cloth of silver dress.

Though the marriage was entered into in the spirit of public duty, it lasted for more than 50 years, due to the King's need for security and his wife's strength of character.

George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with his grandfather and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a genuinely happy marriage.  They had 15 children—nine sons and six daughters.

George III, Queen Charlotte and their Six Eldest Children

George III brought a mansion, Buckingham House (later enlarged to become Buckingham Palace) as a gift for his newly wed wife, Queen Charlotte leaving St James Palace to be the official royal residence.

George III created with the help of Capability Brown fantastic landscaped gardens with Palladian bridges, grottos and other assorted trimmings. His wife, Queen Charlotte, was also a fanatical gardener.

The king spent a lot of his time at Windsor Castle and at his agricultural holdings at his model farm at Windsor.

Because of "his plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes", George III was nicknamed Farmer George.

George was always on the move, despite never travelling beyond southern England. It was a compulsion. He liked to conclude every meal with a long ride on his horse, whatever the weather. His constant rotating between the royal residences in London, Kew and Windsor infuriated his family. "Our life is nothing but hurry," Queen Charlotte complained.

George III by Allan Ramsay, 1762

George III and his queen eat sparingly. The king preferred plain fare such as bread and potatoes for supper whilst Queen Charlotte ate gruel.

On seeing workmen tucking into plates of beans the king decided to try some. He was so impressed
that he has decreed there should be an annual "bean-feast".

Rather than drinking wine, George III preferred  a lemonade called "cup." Queen Charlotte drunk barley water.

As a child George had violin lessons but only had half a mind for it and was neither a diligent nor apt pupil.

Queen Charlotte, when she wasn't busy bringing up their 15 children, was an accomplished harpsichord player and for a time George employed Bach's nephew, Johan Christian, as her Music Master.

The royal couple enjoyed musical weekends at Kew Palace and during weekday evenings, concerts were held every day at 9.00 pm in the Concert Room. At the end of the previous century he encouraged massive concerts to commemorate Handel.

In his old age the king often played the harpsichord himself, on one occasion interrupting a royal concert with a vigorous demonstration of his own mastery of the instrument.


In the later part of his life, George III suffered from recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. It has since been suggested that he suffered from the genetic blood disease porphyria, which causes epilepsy, excessive hair growth, psychotic disorder, stomach pains, sleeplessness and racing pulse and speech. It is known as the "Royal Disease." and is the same illness that Mary Queen of Scots suffered from. Porphyria is possibly the basis for vampire and werewolf stories.

One treatment King George had for his madness was by means of Dr Francis Willis, the rector of St John’s Wapping. The therapy, which involved iron clamps, rope and a straitjacket was so brutal that it caused the king to have a virtual nervous breakdown. Despite this King George had a remission for which Willis claimed full credit. A grateful Parliament voted Willis a huge annual pension for life.

A visit to Cheltenham made their waters fashionable but they failed to cure George's attacks.

At the peak of his madness attacks  George was gently wrapped in a strait jacket. During these times the king often talked to himself with his hat over his eyes.

King George III’s madness attacks, which got worse as he grew older, generally lasted about six months. During one fit of madness King George insisted on ending every sentence with the word "peacock". This was a grave embarrassment to his ministers whenever he spoke in public. Eventually one of them thought of telling him the story that "peacock" was a particularly royal word and should therefore be whispered. The king took this on board and order was restored.

Once when driving through Windsor Great Park, George commanded his carriage driver to stop. The king walked over to an oak tree, shook hands with one of its branches and talked to it for several minutes believing he was conversing with the king of Prussia.

George was frequently seen during his madness attacks dressed in a velvet cap and purple dressing gown wondering from room to room of his castle.

After the death of his beloved daughter, the Princess Amelia in November 1810, George III broke down completely. Doctors acknowledged that he was violently insane and on top of this he was completely blind and growing increasingly deaf. They continued to hope for recovery from his madness, but Parliament enacted in 1811 the regency of the Prince of Wales and decreed that the Queen should have the custody of her husband.

Engraving by Henry Meyer of George III in later life


For the last few weeks of his life, King George III was unable to walk. He died at Windsor Castle at 8:38 pm on January 29, 1820, six days after the death of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him.

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 those of any of his predecessors. Only Victoria and Elizabeth II have since lived and reigned longer.

On George III's death in 1820, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV.

Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III became The Madness of King George for the movie version as the distributors feared the U.S. audiences might have thought it was the third in a series.

Sources Food For Thought, Encyclopedia Brittanica

No comments:

Post a Comment