Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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George Iii

GEORGE III (1738–1820)

His most gracious majesty King George the Third / painted by Sr. Wm. Beechey R.A.; engraved by Benjamin Smith. London: Published by J. & J. Boydell at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall & at 90 Cheapside, c1804 Decr. 1., LC-USZ62-51. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington,

George III was king of Great Britain from 1760 until his death. He was born on May 24, 1738, in London. His parents were both educated in Germany and spoke German. George, however, was the first Prince of Wales to be born in England in three-quarters of a century. While some historians have claimed that George was slow-witted, he was probably a child of average intelligence and ability. Later in life he amassed a large library, had a keen interest in scientific experiments, and was a great lover of music. He married a German princess, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in 1761 and they had fifteen children. He bought for her the mansion that when later expanded became Buckingham Palace. During the early years of his reign, during which Britain won the Seven Years' War, George III was very popular in the colonies. In the years immediately preceding the American Revolution, the colonists appealed to the king to intervene on their behalf in opposition to Parliament's imposition of taxes on the people in North America, but George III sustained the right of Parliament to enact laws governing his North American colonies. After the king declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion late in 1775, and Thomas Paine attacked the monarchy in January 1776 in his popular pamphlet, Common Sense, public opinion for independence from the Crown and government of Great Britain grew rapidly.

As he aged, George III suffered physically and mentally. Beginning in the 1780s he suffered from a recurring disorder, probably porphyria, a debilitating affliction that made him appear insane. In 1811 he was incapable of governing, and Parliament created a regency, by which the king's eldest son exercised the royal power in the name of the king. The king's last ten years of life were spent in seclusion, growing increasingly blind, deaf, and out of touch with reality. George III died on January 29, 1820, and was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Suggested Reading:

Lloyd, Alan. The King Who Lost America: A Portrait of the Life and Times of George III. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.