George Kingdom
King of the United Kingdom
George Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire until his promotion to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814.
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  • 1820
    He died at Windsor Castle at 8:38 pm on 29 January 1820, six days after the death of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent.
    More Details Hide Details His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. George III was buried on 16 February in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. George was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover. 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. George III was dubbed "Farmer George" by satirists, at first to mock 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, 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. George's collection of mathematical and scientific instruments is now housed in the Science Museum, London; he funded the construction and maintenance of William Herschel's 40-foot telescope, which was the biggest ever built at the time. Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, which he at first named Georgium Sidus (George's Star) after the King, in 1781.
  • 1819
    At Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk.
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  • 1811
    Despite signs of a recovery in May 1811, by the end of the year George had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death. Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812 and was replaced by Lord Liverpool.
    More Details Hide Details 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. He developed dementia, and became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He was incapable of knowing or understanding either that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or that his wife died in 1818.
    He accepted the need for the Regency Act of 1811, and the Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III's life.
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  • 1810
    In late 1810, at the height of his popularity but already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George III became dangerously ill.
    More Details Hide Details In his view the malady had been triggered by stress over 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."
  • 1809
    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.
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  • 1804
    In 1804, George's recurrent illness returned; after his recovery, Addington resigned and Pitt regained power.
    More Details Hide Details Pitt sought to appoint Fox to his ministry, but George III refused. 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 Pitt's health and he died in 1806, reopening the question of who should serve in the ministry. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, and his "Ministry of All the Talents" included 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 proposed a measure in February 1807 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. 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, and the subsequent election gave the ministry a strong majority in the House of Commons.
  • 1803
    George's review of 27,000 volunteers in Hyde Park, London, on 26 and 28 October 1803 and at the height of the invasion scare, attracted an estimated 500,000 spectators on each day.
    More Details Hide Details The Times said, "The enthusiasm of the multitude was beyond all expression." A courtier wrote on 13 November that, "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, "We are here in daily expectation that Bonaparte will attempt his threatened invasion... Should his troops effect a landing, I shall certainly put myself at the head of mine, and my other armed subjects, to repel them." After Admiral Lord Nelson's famous naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, the possibility of invasion was extinguished.
  • 1801
    In October 1801, he made peace with the French, and in 1802 signed the Treaty of Amiens.
    More Details Hide Details George did not consider the peace with France as real; in his view it was an "experiment". In 1803, the war resumed 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.
  • 1793
    France declared war on Great Britain in 1793; in the war attempt, George allowed Pitt to increase taxes, raise armies, and suspend the right of habeas corpus. 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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 brief lull in hostilities allowed Pitt to concentrate effort on Ireland, where there had been an uprising and attempted French landing in 1798. In 1800, the British and Irish Parliaments passed an Act of Union that took effect on 1 January 1801 and united Great Britain and Ireland into a single state, known as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". George used the opportunity to drop the title "king 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 Isles", 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. 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 had 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.
  • 1786
    After George’s recovery, 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 Nicholson in 1786 and John Frith in 1790, contributed to his popularity.
    More Details Hide Details James Hadfield's failed attempt to shoot the King in the Drury Lane Theatre on 15 May 1800 was not political in origin but motivated by the apocalyptic delusions of Hadfield and Bannister Truelock. George seemed unperturbed by the incident, so much so that he fell asleep in the interval. The French Revolution of 1789, in which the French monarchy had been overthrown, worried many British landowners.
  • 1785
    When John Adams was appointed American Minister to London in 1785, George had become resigned to the new relationship between his country and the former colonies.
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  • 1783
    In 1783, the House of Commons forced Shelburne from office and his government was replaced by the Fox–North Coalition.
    More Details Hide Details The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister, with Fox and Lord North, as Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively. The King disliked Fox intensely, for his politics as well as his character; he thought Fox was unprincipled and a bad influence on the Prince of Wales. George III was distressed at having to appoint ministers not of his liking, but the Portland ministry quickly built up a majority in the House of Commons, and could not be displaced easily. He was further dismayed when the government introduced the India Bill, which proposed to reform the government of India by transferring political power from the East India Company to Parliamentary commissioners.
  • 1782
    He was fond of his children, and was devastated at the death of two of his sons in infancy in 1782 and 1783 respectively.
    More Details Hide Details Nevertheless, he set his children a strict regimen. They were expected to attend rigorous lessons from seven in the morning, and to lead lives of religious observance and virtue. When his children strayed from George's own principles of righteousness, as his sons did as young adults, he was dismayed and disappointed. By this time George's health was deteriorating. He had a mental illness, which was possibly a symptom of the genetic disease porphyria, although this has been questioned. 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 had a brief episode of disease in 1765, but a longer episode began in the summer of 1788. At the end of the parliamentary session, he went to Cheltenham Spa to recuperate. It was the furthest he had ever been from London—just short of 100 miles (150 km)—but his condition worsened. In November he became seriously deranged, sometimes speaking for many hours without pause, causing him to foam at the mouth and making his voice hoarse. 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.
  • 1781
    In late 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.
    More Details Hide Details The King drafted an abdication notice, which was never delivered, finally accepted the defeat in North America, and authorised peace negotiations. The Treaties of Paris, by which Britain recognised the independence of the American states and returned Florida to Spain, were signed in 1782 and 1783.
  • 1772
    The subsequent bill was unpopular in Parliament, including among George's own ministers, but passed as the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly afterward, another of George's brothers, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, revealed he had been secretly married to Maria, Countess Waldegrave, the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole. The news confirmed George's opinion that he had been right to introduce the law: Maria was related to his political opponents. Neither lady was ever received at court. Lord North's government was chiefly concerned with discontent in America. To assuage American opinion most of the custom duties were withdrawn, except for the tea duty, which in George's words was "one tax to keep up the right levy taxes". In 1773, the tea ships moored in Boston Harbor were boarded by colonists and the tea thrown overboard, 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". With the clear support of Parliament, Lord North introduced measures, which were called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists: the Port of Boston was shut down and the charter 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.
  • 1770
    In 1770, his brother Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, was exposed as an adulterer, and the following year Cumberland married a young widow, Anne Horton.
    More Details Hide Details The King considered her inappropriate as a royal bride: she was from a lower social class and German law barred any children of the couple from the Hanoverian succession. George insisted on a new law that essentially forbade members of the Royal Family from legally marrying without the consent of the Sovereign.
  • 1767
    Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, and the Duke of Grafton took over the government, although he did not formally become Prime Minister until 1768.
    More Details Hide Details That year, John Wilkes returned to England, stood as a candidate in the general election, and came top of the poll in the Middlesex constituency. Wilkes was again expelled from Parliament. Wilkes was re-elected and expelled twice more, before the House of Commons resolved that his candidature was invalid and declared the runner-up as the victor. Grafton's government disintegrated in 1770, allowing the Tories led by Lord North to return to power. George was deeply devout and spent hours in prayer, but his piety was not shared by his brothers. George was appalled by what he saw as their loose morals.
  • 1766
    Lord Rockingham, with the support of Pitt and the King, 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1763
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Later that year, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 placed a limit upon the westward expansion of the American colonies. The Proclamation aimed to divert colonial expansion to the north (to Nova Scotia) and to the south (Florida). The Proclamation Line did not bother the majority of settled farmers, but it was unpopular with a vocal minority and ultimately contributed to conflict between the colonists and the British government. With the American colonists generally unburdened by British taxes, the government thought it appropriate for them to pay towards the defence of the colonies against native uprisings and the possibility of French incursions. The central issue for the colonists was not the amount of taxes but whether Parliament could levy a tax without American approval, for there were no American seats in Parliament. The Americans protested that like all Englishmen they had rights to "no taxation without representation". 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.
  • 1762
    In 1762, George purchased Buckingham House (on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace) for use as a family retreat.
    More Details Hide Details His other residences were Kew and Windsor Castle. St James's Palace was retained for official use. He did not travel extensively, and spent his entire life in southern England. In the 1790s, the King and his family took holidays at Weymouth, Dorset, which he thus popularised as one of the first seaside resorts in England. George, in his accession speech to Parliament, proclaimed: "Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Britain". He inserted this phrase into the speech, written by Lord Hardwicke, in order to demonstrate his desire to distance himself from his German forebears, who were perceived as caring more for Hanover than for Britain. Although his accession was at first welcomed by politicians of all parties, the first years of his reign were marked by political instability, largely generated as a result of disagreements over the Seven Years' War. George was also perceived as favouring Tory ministers, which led to his denunciation by the Whigs as an autocrat. On his 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. Claims that he used the income to reward supporters with bribes and gifts are disputed by historians who say such claims "rest on nothing but falsehoods put out by disgruntled opposition".
  • 1761
    On 8 September 1761 in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, the King married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he met on their wedding day.
    More Details Hide Details A fortnight later, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. 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.
  • 1760
    The following year, at the age of 22, George succeeded to the throne when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760, two weeks before his 77th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details The search for a suitable wife intensified.
  • 1759
    In 1759, George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox, sister 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 or misery of a great nation," he wrote, "and consequently must often act contrary to my passions."
    More Details Hide Details Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophie Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother; Sophie married the Margrave of Bayreuth instead.
  • 1756
    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 confidant, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1751
    George's 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 George became heir apparent to the throne.
    More Details Hide Details 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 (the title is not automatically acquired).
  • 1738
    Born in 1738.
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