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.

-King George III and Queen Charlotte with their six eldest children in 1770

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 Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales KING GEORGE IV (1762-1830) m. Caroline of Brunswick.

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.

-Rudolf Ackermann, Buckingham Palace, from Microcosm of London (1808)

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.

-King George III portrait, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

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.

-Coronation portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821

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

42 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this fascinating study into the Royal Family of yesteryears Emma! I love reading about this era and think I would have loved to have been around for a while during this time period. If you have any information you could share regarding the different titles and how they developed, I certainly would be interested in learning about those also. Or perhaps you could point me in the direction of where I could research the period for myself? I know you much be very busy with your own research and writing so I must not take to much of your time Once again, thank you, sweet lady, you have been so helpful to me.
    ~~kay~~

    • Thank you very much, Kay! That’s a very interesting subject that we should definitely explore more in an article! 😉

  2. No matter what wealth or prestige you have, life intrudes. What a sad way to end up when he (George 111) was an intelligent man. To become queen or king in reality is not such a wonderful state. Thank-you for the great article.

  3. Lovely piece of research, Emma. King George’s illness/sanity problems was also due to his disease of the blood, at least that’s as far as I understand it. His physicians used to see to the King’s urine & saw that it was blue! This did indicate that his disease was in fact real. His interests in things scientific & agricultural showed an intellect not often seen in Kings before. I found the piece about naming Uranus Georgium Sidus, the Georgian Star very interesting. in fact, I think it’s a better name for the planet!

  4. Lovely Emma. As a former British subject I studied English history in depth and your info in this essay is spot on. Keep up the accurate research that you are obviously doing and keep giving us your wonderful and enjoyable history lessons in your books.

  5. Wow! I’m not one to study history so this was enlightening to me. I enjoy learning more tidbits from my favorite period to read romance novels from. Thank you for the information.

  6. Emma,

    Thank you for the notes on George III. You seem to keep quite busy with your research and writing.

    I enjoyed reading His Duchess in Disguise and will send you my notes from that reading as soon as I can finish another project I’m working on.

  7. Emma! Thanks for the interesting article of George III. I knew he had problems with his mental health and that his son, George IV was iffy at best when he was King, and treated his wife Charlotte badly. But, I don’t feel sorry for them, because they had every advantage of wealth, being in a powerful position, having every servant and convenience at their beck and call. They did not have to work hard just to eat, live on the streets if they did not work, and be at the mercy of someone with more money than they had. And don’t get me started about Henry the VIII.

    • Historians and researches agree that the socioeconomic circumstances during the last years of his reign as well as the syphilis he suffered from contributed greatly.

  8. Very very interesting!!!! I knew he was mentally’ challenged’ but never read anything about syphilus.It certainly was a common enough causal factor for instability .

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