George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 - 29 January 1820) 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. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two Hanoverian predecessors he was born in Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.
His life and reign, which were longer than those of any previous British monarch, were marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdoms, much of the rest of Europe, and places farther afield in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Early in his reign, Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War, becoming the dominant European power in North America and India. However, many of its American colonies were soon lost in the American War of Independence. He played a minor role in the wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France from 1793, which concluded in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
In the later part of his life, George III suffered from recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. Medical practitioners were baffled by this at the time, although it has since been suggested that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria. After a final relapse in 1810, a regency was established, and George III's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent. On George III's death, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV.
Historical analysis of George III's life has gone through a "kaleidoscope of changing views" which have depended heavily on the prejudices of his biographers and the sources available to them. Until re-assessment in the later half of the twentieth century, his reputation in America was one of a tyrant and in Britain he became "the scapegoat for the failure of imperialism". He is most remembered as "The Mad King" and "The King Who Lost America".
George was born in London at Norfolk House. He was the grandson of King George II, and the 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 baptised the same day by Thomas Secker, who was both Rector of St James's and the Bishop of Oxford. One month later, he was publicly baptised at Norfolk House, again by Secker. His godparents were the King of Sweden, his uncle the Duke of Saxe-Gotha and his great-aunt the Queen of Prussia.
George grew into a healthy, but also reserved and shy child. The family moved to Leicester Square, where George and his younger brother Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany, were educated together by private tutors. Family letters show that he could read and write in both English and German, as well as comment on political events of the time, by the age of eight. He was the first British monarch to study science systematically. Apart from chemistry and physics, his lessons included astronomy, mathematics, French, Latin, history, music, geography, commerce, agriculture and constitutional law, along with sporting and social accomplishments such as dancing, fencing, and riding. His religious education was wholly Anglican. At age 10 George took part in a family production of Joseph Addison's play Cato and said in the new prologue: "What, tho' a boy! It may with truth be said, A boy in England born, in England bred". The historian Romney Sedgwick has argued that these lines appear "to be the source of the only historical phrase with which he is associated".
Prince of WalesEdit
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. 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).
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 confidante, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister. 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.
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." Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Duchess Sophie Caroline Marie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother; Sophia married the Margrave of Bayreuth instead.
The following year, at the age of 22, George succeeded to the crown when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760, two weeks before his 77th birthday. The search for a suitable wife intensified. 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. 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. In 1762, George purchased Buckingham House (on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace) for use as a family retreat. 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, annual holidays were taken at Weymouth, Dorset, which he popularized as one of the first seaside resorts in England.