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King George III: Biography, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Thomas Davis

Thomas has taught high school age students for 34 years, undergraduate 12 years, and graduate courses for the last 8 years. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.

George III is most famous in United States History as the King of Great Britain and Ireland who lost the Revolutionary War. His period of rule as was filled with conflict and scandal. There was a reason some people called him 'Crazy George'.

George III, King of the United Kingdom (1801-1820)

As you journey through this lesson imagine the existence of a popularity meter. George III was the first king that ruled over the newly created United Kingdom, following England's unification with Ireland. England was an imperialistic power and the popularity meter reads ten of ten. But because of his immature youth, arrogant attitude, and poor learning skills, his approval rating drops to a nine. It drops to an eight following his unpopular selection of the Earl of Bute as prime minister. From an eight it drops to a five with the loss of the Revolutionary War to the Americans and continues dropping to a two due to his problems with Parliament and his son. Finally, he hits bottom with a one when you factor in his mental instability in later years. This lesson will examine the life, reign and constantly declining success of King George III.

King George III reigned from 1801-1820.
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Immature Development

Born in London in 1738, grandson of George II, his namesake, was George III of England. His father was the Prince of Wales, Frederick Louis. When his father died in 1751, George III was heir to the throne. As a young man, George III was emotionally and educationally immature. George III was not able to read until the age of eleven.

Ascending to the Throne

George III in Coronation Attire
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King George III's dedication to his country was demonstrated when he followed through with an arranged marriage to Charlotte of Micklenberg-Strelitz. George III had fallen in love prior to taking the throne with Sarah Lennox, an acceptable match with lineage back to Charles II. However, a marriage to a German princess would solidify alliances in Europe. George III put his country before his heart. George III and Charlotte had fifteen children.

King George III, Charlotte and Thirteen of their Children
family

Trouble with Parliament

For his first prime minister, George III selected his mentor, the Earl of Bute. The Earl had been a huge influence on George III since the death of his mother, but not a popular choice with Parliament. In the newspaper 'New Briton', John Wilkes accused the king and his associates of lying. In England, Wilkes was considered an icon for free speech and was a member of Parliament. He was arrested for libel and served twenty-two months.

Trouble with Colonists

England used the American colonies as a great source of income. When the colonists began to boycott and protest actions taken by George III and Parliament, something had to be done. George III was provoked into a war with the colonists, one that he could ill afford to fight, let alone lose. He finally settled on Lord North to lead the war effort. This appointment, as with many of the king's other decisions throughout his reign, was met with disapproval from Parliament. William Pitt and Charles Fox consistently spoke out against the revolution and wanted it brought to an end. George III believed if he allowed the colonists to win out, it would prompt other revolutions. He said of the revolution, 'Once vigorous measures appear to be the only means left of bringing the Americans to a due submission to the mother country, the colonies will submit.' This caused him to lose popularity, and lose North, who had to resign after the failed war effort.

More Trouble with Parliament and His Son

George III was now in need of an ally in Parliament. He thought little of Parliament and after delivering a speech once said, 'Lord Chancellor, did I deliver the speech well? I am glad of that, for there was nothing in it.' With this kind of disregard, support would always be an issue. With no allies in Parliament, he chose a critic, William Pitt, to be prime minister. An unusual choice, Pitt was not a popular member of Parliament and George III actually had to use an exceptional amount of his power to keep him in control. This, of course, led to complaints of the monarch using too much of his power over Parliament.

At the same time he was struggling with Pitt, he also had to deal with his son. His eldest son was George, Prince of Wales. In 1788, we don't know why, George III attacked his son and smashed his head into the wall. Those who saw it claimed that the king had foam coming from his mouth and his eyes were deranged. George III had to be restrained with a type of strait-jacket and then moved to an iron chair, to which he was bound. While bound, he was covered with a substance that caused his body blisters. It was believed that the blisters would remove the evil from his body. Five months later he was released and certified that he had recovered from his spell.

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