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George III of the United Kingdom

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George III (4 June 1738 - 29 January 1820), the third king of the House of Hanover, ruled the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) and was also Duke and Elector (and from 1814, King) of Hanover from 25 October 1760 until his death in 1820. During his reign, however, the king was twice rendered mentally incapable by illness (now thought by many to have been porphyria) - briefly in 1787-1788 and then from 5 February, 1811 until his death - and his son the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) ruled as regent in his place.

George III
King of Great Britain, Ireland until 1800
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801
King of Hanover

Table of contents
1 Reign
2 Family
3 Later Years
4 General Notes
5 References


George III's reign saw the revival of two-party politics after half a century of Whig dominance of political life, 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 rapid succession of Prime Ministers, many of them favorites and not fully qualified for the position. This beauracratic instability led to denouncements of George by the Whig party as an autocrat seeking to follow in the footsteps of Charles I of England.

Under William Pitt the Elder Britain won the Seven Year's 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 area. However, winning the war plunged Britain deep into a debt so large that at one point almost half of the national revenue went merely towards paying interest on it. The problem of resolving this debt would indirectly lead to the American Revolution.

The king's experiment (1770-82) in government through the ministry of Lord North ended in the disastrous loss in the American War of Independence (1775-83) of the thirteen British North American colonies which became the United States of America.

Partly as a consequence of this, the British Government claimed Australia as the new place of penal servitude of convicts, a purpose that 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.


George III was the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and grandson of King George II. Among his siblings was Princess Caroline Matilda, who became Queen of Denmark and Norway for a few years. His first cousin, and Caroline's husband, was Christian VII of Denmark, who also had psychological problems, though these differed from those of George.

Queen Charlotte

On 8 September 1761, the King married Princess Sophia Charlotte (1744-1818), 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.

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 such a marriage had existed in 1761, then his marriage to Charlotte would have been bigamous and all of George's successors would have been usurpers.

But no legal marriage to Lightfoot could have occurred. Hannah Lightfoot was already married to Isaac Axelford in 1753. Lightfoot died in 1759, and therefore could not have produced legitimate children from a marriage in April 1759. George III's marriage in 1761 to Charlotte would therefore clearly not be bigamous. A forged marriage certificate produced by Princess Olivia at her trial was impounded in 1866 and studied by the Attorney-General. These are now in the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle.

Later Years

In 1811, George became permanently insane, something that was probably triggered by the death of his youngest and favorite daughter, Princess Amelia, from erysipelas. His eldest son, the Prince of Wales, took over ruling the United Kingdom as Regent for the rest of George's reign.

King George III died in 1820 at Windsor Castle and was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George IV.

General Notes

A bronze statue of him is in Trafalgar Square. The movie The Madness of King George explored the period of his life in the 1780s when he had his first bout of madness.


Preceded by:
George II
List of British monarchs Succeeded by:
George IV