The British Royal Line has always captured public interest. Earning both the people’s applause and resentment, these royal figures have kept our interest throughout the centuries.
Ranging from long-reigning monarchs like our current Queen Elizabeth II, who boasts the title of Longest Reigning British Monarch—an astonishing 67 years—to reigns that were as short as 9 days—Lady Jane Grey ruled from July 6th until July 16th in 1553, though her reign is disputed—the Kings and Queens have proven to be an endless source of inspiration.
The Georgian Era, as the name suggests, is a period in British history from 1714 to c. 1830–37, named after the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV. The sub-period that is the Regency era is defined by the regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father, George III.
But who was King George III? The King who was driven mad?
King George III ruled the British kingdom through some turbulent times including the American Revolutionary War, after which the colonies gained independence. Until Queen Victoria, he was Great Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
Born premature to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the sickly prince wasn’t expected to live and was baptized the same day. At the time, it seemed unlikely that George William Frederick would one day become King George III, the longest-ruling English monarch before Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.
Young George was educated by private tutors, and by age 8 he could speak English and German and would soon learn French. Instructed in a wide range of subjects, he showed a particular interest in the natural sciences. Acutely shy and reserved in his youth, George was strongly influenced by his primary mentor, Scottish nobleman John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute, who helped the young prince overcome his shyness and advised him on many personal and political matters. He had a lifelong interest in the natural sciences and tended a garden during his reign.
In 1788, illness brought on a mental breakdown, but he briefly recovered, regaining popularity and admiration for his virtue and steady leadership through the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Ultimately, recurring bouts of insanity led Parliament to enact regency to his son, and George III lived his final years with sporadic periods of lucidity, until his death in 1820.
All that is probably well known to you though! After all, as an avid reader of historical fiction, I’m certain you have already looked into the more prominent figures of the Regency Era.
But why don’t we take a closer look?
George III Was Devoted to His Wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
They had 15 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood. Researchers discovered an almost pristine lock of hair taken from their son, Prince Alfred before he died, sewn into a letter from Queen Charlotte to the children’s long-serving nanny Lady Charlotte Finch.
George III Was The First King to Study Science As Part Of His Education—He Had His Own Astronomical Observatory!
Examples of his collection of scientific instruments can now be seen in the Science Museum. You can view George III’s drawings and calculations of the Transit of Venus across the sun and his – accurate – forecasts of further transits via the Georgian Papers portal.
Did you know? The planet Uranus was originally named “Georgium sidus,” the Georgian Star, after King George III of England, who had funded the 40-foot telescope William Herschel used in its discovery.
George III Bought Buckingham House—Now Known As Buckingham Palace—For His Wife, Queen Charlotte.
He purchased it to be used as a comfortable family home close to St James’s Palace, where many court functions were held. Buckingham House became known as the Queen’s House. Many of the papers uncovered so far include details of the running of the Royal Household and Royal functions, including a collection of volumes providing details of the meals served to the Royal Family.
During His Reign, George III Acquired The Nickname ‘Farmer George’
In part due to his agricultural interests and in part as a playful pun, the survival of private papers offers one of the best opportunities to assess the true character and extent of George III’s agricultural interests including many notes made by him on agricultural books.
The Rise And Fall Of a King
King George III never fully recovered from the loss of the American colonies and fell out of favor with the British public for extending the war. In 1783, he was able to turn disaster into triumph at home when he opposed a plan by powerful ministers in Parliament to reform the East India Company. The bill was ultimately defeated, and King George regained some of his popularity with the British people as a result.
However, after serious bouts of illness, George became permanently deranged. By 1811, personal family tragedies and the pressures of ruling caused King George’s insanity to return. Feeble and blind, it was apparent that the king could no longer fulfill his duties. Parliament passed the Regency Act and, ultimately, the fate of the empire fell on his oldest son, Prince George, who was placed in the unenviable position of having to govern according to the increasingly erratic will of his father. George III experienced brief intervals of lucidity until his death at Windsor Castle.
Ah, such a fickle thing the human psyche is!
Even Kings and Queens, with heaps of wealth and vast dominion, fall when the winds of insanity blow. And though their heads are decorated with jewels and gold, content seems to be a crown they seldom get to enjoy!
Written by Emma Linfield