Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Who Are All These Kings?: George III

George III had one of the longest reigns in our history.

He was the son of George II`s eldest son Frederick Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and was born at Norfolk House in St. James`s Square, London in 1738. Frederick died in 1751, unmourned by his parents, and the young George became heir to the crown.

It was his mother who largely brought him up, admonishing him when he misbehaved with "George, be a king!"

Before becoming king, George became involved with Hannah Lightfoot of Wapping, the daughter of a shoemaker. He is believed to have married Hannah in 1759, and she is said to have borne him three children. Shortly after, he fell in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but was advised that he should not marry a British subject but choose from German princesses. He chose Charlotte, daughter of Charles, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a pretty girl of 17.

George II died in 1760, and George III succeeded as king at the age of 22.He was the first of the Hanoverian kings to be born and raised in England and to speak English without a German accent. George married Charlotte, possibly bigamously, at St. James`s Palace in 1761 and they had a joint coronation at Westminster Abbey two weeks later. He was said by those who new him to be a handsome and cultured young man.

George wanted to get back power over the Government, this having gradually passed from the monarchy during the previous two reigns. He chose John Stuart, Earl of Bute, as his Prime Minister, but Bute was not popular with the people and he resigned in 1763. It was not until 1770 that George found a Prime Minister in whom he had confidence, Frederick, Lord North.

John Wilkes was the most prominent of a number of critics of the king during this period. Indeed, so outspoken was Wilkes that in previous reigns he would probably been executed for treason. This and other matters led to continual stress on George, and he had a physical collapse in 1765, leading to the passing of a Regency Act.

George and Charlotte spent most of their private married life at either Kew Palace or Windsor Castle. In 1762, he purchased Buckingham House, now known as Buckingham Palace.

The American War of Independence had been brewing for some years, and almost culminated with the imposition of a tax on molasses in 1764 and stamp duty in 1765. These were swiftly repealed, but a new tax on tea was introduced in 1773, leading to further resentment and the Boston Tea Party, in which tea was thrown into Boston Harbour. Troops were sent in, and the inevitable war began in 1775 with battles at Lexington and Concord.

The Declaration of Independence was issued in 1776, and George became more and more intent on bringing the colonies back in line. But a series of defeats at the hands of the colonies, now aided by France, culminated in George Washington`s defeat of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 guaranteed the independence of the colonies.

The loss of America was a huge blow for George.His popularity plummeted and Lord North was obliged to resign. George felt the loss of the colonies very deeply, and he drafted a resignation speech but was persuaded not to deliver it.

Catholic emancipation became a problem again during George`s reign. Suggestions of equality had resulted in the Gordon Riots of 1780, led by Lord George Gordon, which resulted in around three hundred deaths. When Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger wanted to issue a Catholic Emancipation Act in 1801, George vehemently opposed it, and Pitt resigned.

There were two assassination attempts on George. In 1786, a housemaid named Margaret Nicholson threatened to kill him with a knife. Then in 1800 James Hadfield fired a shot at him at Drury Lane. The audience showed their loyalty by cheering George and fervently singing "God Save the King".

All this time, George`s health had been declining. His state is usually known as "madness", but he had porphyria, a hereditary illness which causes a chemical imbalance leading to apparent irrationality.In 1788 he had a particularly bad bout, during which he attacked his son George, the Prince of Wales and would not stop talking. He was forcibly restrained and taken to Kew Palace, where he was given humiliating treatment. It was at this time that he is said to have been found deep in conversation with a tree in Windsor Great Park, believing that the tree was the King of Prussia.He recovered though in 1789.

George had the usual Hanoverian problems with his son George the Prince of Wales, who in 1785 married Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, although he knew.that the marriage was invalid under English law. His legal marriage to Caroline of Brunswick came unstuck pretty quickly.Earlier, in 1781, King George was obliged to buy back love letters which his son had written to his mistress, Perdita Robinson.

Other negative aspects of George`s reign included the trial of Warren Hastings, which lasted from 1788 to 1795; the duel between George Canning, foreign secretary, and Lord Castlereagh, war secretary (in which Canning was wounded) in 1809; and the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, in 1812.

On more positive notes, there were the victories of Horatio Nelson, culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and of the Duke of Wellington, including Napoleon`s final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

It was also George who gave the Royal assent to William Wilberforce`s act to abolish the slave trade in 1807.

George was particularly interested in farming and agriculture generally. He turned over some of his land at Windsor to farming, and gained the affectionate nickname "Farmer George". He also wrote pamphlets on agricultural matters using the pseudonym Ralph Robinson.

Towards the end of George`s long reign there was a flourishing of literature, involving Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordworth.

There were also advances in technology by such men as Richard Arkwright and James Watt, although some of these led to the Luddite unrest of 1811.

George and his family were very fond of Weymouth, which under Royal patronage became a flourishing seaside resort. There is a statue of George on the seafront.

George renounced his claim to the title King of France, which all English monarchs had claimed since Edward III in 1340.

George became unwell again in 1801 and again in 1804. His final decline into ill health occurred in 1810, by which time he had also gone blind and was becoming increasingly deaf. His son became Prince Regent, effectively ruling the country from 1811. George himself was confined to Windsor Castle, while his hair and beard grew long and white and he was largely forgotten, his only companion for long periods being his old and much loved harpsichord. George was unaware that his wife had died at Kew Palace in 1818, and had been buried at St. Georges Chapel at Windsor.

George and Charlotte had fifteen children.

George was born in 1762 at St. James`s Palace. He succeeded as George IV.

Frederick Augustus was born in 1763 at St. James's Palace, and became Prince Bishop of Osnabruck and Duke of York. He married Frederica, daughter of Frederick William I, King of Prussia, at Berlin in 1791. She died at Weybridge in 1820 and was buried in Weybridge Cemetery. Frederick had an illegitimate son, Charles, Captain Hesse, who was killed in a duel.

William was born in 1765 at Buckingham Palace. He succeeded his brother as William IV.

Charlotte was born in 1766 at Buckingham Palace. She married Frederick, Duke of Wurttemburg (later Frederick I, King of Wurttemburg) at the Chapel Royal, St. James`s Palace in 1979. They had one stillborn daughter in 1798. Charlotte died in 1828 at Stuttgart, and was buried there.

Edward was born in 1767 at Buckingham Palace. He married Victoria, daughter of Francis I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and widow of Emich, Prince of Leiningen, at Schloss Ehrenburg in Germany in 1818. They had one child, who became queen as Victoria. Edward also had two illegitmate children. By Adelaide Dubus, Adelaide, born 1789, died 1790; and by Julie de St. Laurent, a son adopted in Canada, Edward`s wife Victoria died at Frogmore House, Windsor in 1861, and buried at St, George`s Chapel, being later removed to Frogmore. Edward died in 1820 at Sidmouth and was buried at St. George`s Chapel.

Augusta was born in 1768 at Buckingham Palace. She married Major General Sir Brent Spencer in 1811. She died in 1840 at Clarence House, and was buried at St. George`s Chapel.

Elizabeth was born in 1770 at Buckingham Palace. She married a page named George Ramus in 1785, and had a daughter Eliza, born in 1786. She later married Frederick VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg in 1818 at Buckingham Palace. She died in 1840 at Frankfurt-am-Main and was buried at Homburg.

Ernest was born in 1771 at Buckingham Palace. He succeeded his brother William IV as King of Hanover in 1837. Ernest married Frederica, daughter of Charles V, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, at Neu Strelitz, Germany, in 1815. This was Frederica`s third marriage. She had been divorced from Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1796, having had three children. She then married Frederick, Prince of Solms-Braunfels, who died in 1814, and had five more children. Ernest and Frederica had three children. Ernest also had an illegitimate son, George FitzErnest, who died in 1828. Ernest died in 1851 at Schloss Herrenhuser in Hanover, and was buried there.

Augustus was born in 1773 at Buckingham Palace. He married Augusta, daughter of John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, at Rome in 1793.They had two children. The marriage was declared null and void in 1794. Augustus secondly married Cecilia Gore, daughter of Arthur Gore, Earl of Arran and widow of Sir George Buggin of Thetford, in 1831. She died in 1873 at Kensington Palace and was buried at Kensal Rise Cemetery. Augustus also had an illegitimate daughter, Lucy Tranter, by Miss Tranter of Windsor. Augustus died in 1843 at Kensington Palace and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Adolphus was born in 1774 at Buckingham Palace. He married Augusta, daughter of Frederick III, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, in 1818 at Cassel in Prussia. They had three children. Augusta died in 1889 at St. James`s Palace, and was buried at Kew, although her remains were later removed to St. George`s Chapel. Adolphus died in 1850 at Cambridge House in Piccadilly, and was buried at Kew, although his remains were later removed to St. George`s Chapel.

Mary was born in 1776 at Buckingham Palace. She married William, Duke of Gloucester (who died in 1834) in 1816 at Buckingham Palace. She died in 1857 at Gloucester House in Piccadilly, and was buried in St.George`s Chapel.

Sophia was born in 1777 at Buckingham Palace. She had an illegitimate son by General Thomas Garth, Thomas Garth. She died in 1848 at Kensington, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Octavius was born in 1779 at Buckingham Palace. He died in 1783 at Kew Palace, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but his remains were later moved to St. George`s Chapel.

Alfred was born in 1780 at Windsor Castle. He died in 1782 at Windsor Castle and was buried at Westminster Abbey, but his remains were later moved to St. George`s Chapel.

Amelia was born in 1783 at Windsor Castle. She died in 1810 at Windsor, and was buried at St. George`s Chapel.

George III died in 1820 at Windsor Castle, and was buried at St. George`s Chapel, Windsor. He was succeeded by his son the Prince Regent, as George IV.