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George III

King of England, 1760-1801; first King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1801-1820

George William Frederick was born in London on June 4, 1738, the first son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. His education was left to a string of barely capable tutors, most of whom's only qualification for the job was influence within the royal family. He became heir to the throne upon the death of his father in 1751, and succeeded his grandfather, George II, on October 25, 1760. He thus became the first Hanoverian monarch to be born and educated as an Englishman, and the first to actually speak English as his first language.

King George III in coronation robes

His Reign

From the very beginning of his reign, George sought to restore the authority of the monarchy over the Council of Ministers in the day-to-day administration of the kingdom. A skillful and astute intriguer, by 1763 he had managed to regain many of the powers that strong Whig ministries had appropriated during the reigns of his grandfather and great-grandfather. No fewer than six men served as Prime Minister before George finally found one he could trust -- Frederick North, Second Earl of Guilford, who assumed the office in 1770. It was Lord North who executed the royal policies that provoked the American Revolution. Unfortunately for North, the loss of the American colonies as a result of that war led to his resignation in 1782.

During the government crisis that followed the war -- when three cabinets came and went in less than two years -- the king was almost induced to abdicate. Stability was restored in 1783, when George placed the government in the hands of William Pitt, the Younger. Although Pitt was able to curtail much of George's power of interference in governmental affairs, he was unable to overcome the king's passionate opposition to emancipation of English Catholics (which Pitt favored with an almost equal fervor), and resigned in 1801.

As early as 1765 George had suffered an apparent dementia, and in 1788 his derangement recurred to such a degree that a regency bill was passed, but he recovered the following year. The dementia recurred in 1801, 1804, and 1810, and he became totally blind in 1808. In 1811 he succumbed hopelessly, and his son, later George IV, acted as regent for the rest of his reign. George III died at Windsor Palace on January 29, 1820.

Major Events of His Reign

The conclusion of the Seven Years' War with France in 1763 left England as the world's greatest colonial power. That distinction was lost, however, when England recognized American indepenence in 1783.

In line with his belief in royal authority, George favored the wars with France (1793-1815) that grew out of the French Revolution.

The Act of Union, which went into effect in 1801, brought Ireland into the kingdom, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The slave trade was abolished in 1807, although slavery itself remained legal in the colonies until 1833.

Britain fought a second war with its former American colonies between 1812 and 1815, this one ending in a virtual stalemate.

George was a passionate patron of the arts, especially portraiture, which led to his founding the Royal Academy of Arts.

British science flourished during George's reign, with Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley, John Dalton, Sir Humphrey Davy and others making important discoveries in their respective fields. British thinkers of note during this period included Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke.

Wife and Children

King George married Pricess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on September 8, 1761, whom he did not meet until the day of their wedding. Despite the fact that the marriage itself had been arranged primarily for political reasons, there is no evidence that either the king or his queen took lovers; rather, all evidence indicates that the two enjoyed a genuinely happy, and probably even loving, marriage. The couple ultimately had 15 children: George IV (August 12, 1762-June 26, 1830); Frederick, Duke of Yoyk (August 16, 1763-January 5, 1827); William IV (August 21, 1765-June 20, 1837); Charlotte, Princess Royal (September 29, 1766-October 6, 1828); Edward, Duke of Kent (November 2, 1767-January 23, 1820; Princess Augusta Sophia (November 8, 1768-September 22, 1840); Princess Elizabeth (May 22, 1770-January 10, 1840); Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland (June 5, 1771-November 18, 1851); Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (January 23, 1773-April 22, 1843); Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (February 24, 1774-July 8, 1850); Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (April 25, 1776-April 30, 1857); Princess Sophia (November 3, 1777-May 27, 1848); Prince Octavius (February 23, 1779-May 3, 1783); Prince Alfred (September 22, 1780-August 20, 1782); Princess Amelia (August 7, 1783-November 2, 1810).

King George III, Queen Charlotte, and six of their children
King George III, Queen Charlotte, and six of their children

Print Sources

Encyclopędia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopędia Britannica, Inc., 1957.
The New Illustrated Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

Internet Sources

Historic Figures BBC
Monarchs of Great Britain Britannia

See Also

American Revolution
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
War of 1812
Henry Cavendish
Joseph Priestley
John Dalton
Edmund Burke
Sir Humphrey Davy
William IV

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The Robinson Library >> England >> 1760-1820

This page was last updated on January 24, 2019.