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George III of the United Kingdom
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George III of the United Kingdom

George III, George William Frederick (4 June 1738 - 29 January 1820), reigned from 25 October 1760 - 29 January 1820 as the third Hanoverian King of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland. He was concurrently crowned Elector of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Germany. In 1801, following the Act of Union, the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with George III as its monarch. In 1814, Hanover became a Kingdom, with George III as its king.

King George III is famous - or infamous - for losing the American Colonies in the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

Table of contents
1 Reign
2 Family
3 Later years
4 General notes
5 References

Reign

His reign saw the revival of the two-party political system after half-century of Whig dominance, the expansion and subsequent loss of most of Britain's colonies in North America, protracted war with France and the beginning of the most rapid phase of British industrialisation.

Whig political supremacy under the earlier Hanoverians was challenged by the king's promotion of supporters of greater royal control of government, who came to be styled Tories (the name attached to earlier opponents of the Whigs in 1680-1715). The Whigs subsequently became the party increasingly of the country's newer commercial and industrial interests, becoming in the latter stages of the reign the party of limited social and political reform.

During his early reign, George III appointed a succession of Prime Ministers, many of them favorites and not fully qualified. This bureaucratic instability led to denouncements of George by the Whig party as an autocrat in the manner of Charles I of England.

Under William Pitt the Elder Britain won the Seven Years' War (known as the French and Indian War in North America), and Britain acquired all of France's possessions on the North American mainland, including French Canada, and the Ohio Valley. However, winning the war plunged Britain deep into a debt so large that at one point, almost half of the national revenue went toward paying interest on it. The problem of resolving this debt would indirectly lead to the American Revolution, conducted under Prime Minister Lord North.

Partly as a consequence of this, the Government claimed Australia as the new place of penal servitude of convicts, a purpose America had served up to that time. The eastern two-thirds of Australia had been claimed by Captain James Cook as a British possession in 1770. The first settlement was set up in Sydney in 1788.

The subsequent premiership of William Pitt, the Younger (1783-1801 and 1804-06) started the restoration of Britain's fortunes and the successful prosecution (largely through subsidies to European allies) of war with revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1793-1802 and 1803-1814) and the final defeat of Napoleon I in 1815.

Founded largely on technical advances in cotton manufacture from the 1760s onwards, Britain's industrialisation took off with the revival of trade in the 1780s, transforming the country within half a century from a predominantly rural society still earning its principal income from agriculture into the "workshop of the world" through its reliance on steam power and factory production. The General Enclosure Act 1801 speeded the process of industrialization by depriving many of the peasantry of their land, and thereby forcing them to relocate to cities and provided the new factories with a workforce.

Family

George III was the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. George III succeeded his grandfather, King George II, in 1760 (Frederick, Prince of Wales, had died in 1751 having never ruled).

His sister was Princess Caroline Matilda, who became Queen of Denmark and Norway. His first cousin, and Caroline's husband, was Christian VII of Denmark, who also had psychological problems, though of a different nature than George's.

Queen Charlotte

On September 8, 1761, the King married Princess Sophia Charlotte, the youngest daughter of Karl I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Sterlitz, in the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, London. A fortnight later, they were crowned at Westminster Abbey. It is said that George was smitten with another young lady, and actually winced when he first saw the rather homely Charlotte, whom he met on their wedding day. However, he gamely went ahead with his marriage vows, and, remarkably, remained devoted to her and never took a mistress. They had fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters:

Queen Charlotte died in 17 November 1818.

Hannah Lightfoot

George was said to have married a Quaker named Hannah Lightfoot on April 17, 1759, prior to his marriage to Charlotte in 1761. The marriage was mentioned in the 1866 trial of the well-known imposter Olivia Wilmot (Princess Olivia). If a legitimate marriage had existed in 1761, then his marriage to Charlotte would have been bigamous and all of George's successors would have been usurpers.

Some historians argue that no legal marriage to Lightfoot could have occurred as she was already married to Isaac Axelford in 1753 and that she died in 1759, and therefore could not have produced legitimate children from a marriage in April 1759. It is also argued that a marriage certificate was produced by Princess Olivia at her trial was found to be forgeries and were subsequently in 1866 by the Lord Chief Justice. These are now in the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle. If these historians are correct, then George III's marriage in 1761 to Charlotte would be legitimate and not be bigamous.

Other historians hold a different view, that the marriage to Hannah Lightfoot, was legitimate and was witnessed by the Prime Minister of the day. They also hold that Hannah's marriage to Axelford was not consummated and that the date of Lightfoot's death is unproven. [1] [1] [1] [1]

Later years

George III was rendered mentally incapable by illness on three occasions (it is now thought likely that he suffered from porphyria) - briefly in 1765, and again in 1788-1789, after which there was a Service of Thanksgiving for his recovery in St Paul's Cathedral. However, he relapsed in early 1801 and then from 5 February, 1811 until his death - and George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV) ruled as regent in his place.

A recent study (2004) of hair samples taken from the king revealed extremely high levels of arsenic, a possible trigger for porphyria, which occurs with such severe symptoms rarely in males. Arsenic may have accumulated following years of taking antimony medicinally, possibly in a medicine called James' powder, which contains arsenic impurities. [1]

In 1811, George became permanently insane, probably triggered by the death of his youngest and favorite daughter, Princess Amelia, from erysipelas. As mentioned, the Prince of Wales acted as Regent and ascended to the throne when George died in 1820 at Windsor Castle. He is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

General notes

A bronze statue of him is in Trafalgar Square.

The movie The Madness of King George starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren is based on the period when he had his first bout of madness.

References

Preceded by:
George II
King of Great Britain Succeeded by:
King of Ireland
Elector of Hanover
King of the United Kingdom '''George IV
King of Hanover