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King George III (1738-1820) Essays

King George III of Great Britain: An Introduction

            For some, royalty is a status symbol in which the term “untouchables” can be attributed to. Through the ages, to be a person of royal birth places one high above over others in terms of possession, dominion, wealth, and specifically power. Sometimes, they are regarded as incorruptible, to the extent that, not long ago, they were regarded as persons who are manifestations of God on this world. Their stories are imperishable in the annals of history; whether they contributed to the welfare of humanity, or were the authors of mass persecutions of their subjects during the periods of their reign.

            Foremost of these individuals of royal blood were the kings of Great Britain. Of these kings, six of them used the name George. One of these men in particular was King George III (born 1738, ruled 1760-1820). Two prominent highlights of his reign was the period when Great Britain lost many of its colonies in North America caused by the American Revolution, and the time that he was afflicted with a mental illness that usually affected his capabilities to rule. The first one caused displeasure of his subjects in Great Britain towards his rule of the Kingdom, while at the same time caused a feeling of relief for those people in the colonies. His apparent bouts with insanity made the king unpopular with his people, and usually was the source of his unpredictable behavior often manifested by sudden bursts of temper and unreasonable human actions.

            This ambivalent character of King George III proved to be a source of many questions and queries that it is essential to know fully well his personality in order to understand him. Despite his high status in life, he had many character flaws that marred his life since the start of his reign up to the time when he succumbed to his mental illness and died. Hence, these personality flaws are the subject matter of this paper.

            King George III was born as George William Frederick on the 4th of June, 1738. Then after, he grew up to be the “the heir to the throne on the death of his father in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760. He was the third Hanoverian monarch and the first one to be born in England and to use English as his first language (Royal.gov.uk).”  He was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the grandson of George II. His mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.

Personal Influences

            The King’s early life was spent away from his grandfather who was not in good relationship with George III’s parents. As a child, he was surrounded by learned men who served as his governors and tutors. But the person who made a great impact on his life was his doting mother. His mother, Augusta, was “a good, self-willed, prejudiced woman. She dreaded worldly and corrupt examples for him, and preferred to narrow his education rather than risk exposing him to temptations. But she instilled high religious principles and sound private morality into him. And to these he was faithful all his life (Ford, 2006).” Little did her mother know that these teachings will affect King George III’s life adversely in making political decisions. Another person who greatly influenced the king’s early development was the Earl of Brute who continued to have great influence over the king’s decision during his reign.

Kingly Flaws

            The King was viewed by others as a tyrant, especially by those living in the in the American colonies. The American war for independence was sparked when the colonial provinces declared their own independence from the crown by making the Declaration of Independence. In it were listed some of the King’s offences, these include sea plunder, town burning, and the murdering of innocent civilians by the Crown’s army. With this event, the king became indignant and ordered the further destroying of the colonial coastal trades, ports bombardment, pillage, sacking and burning of colonial.

These acts, the King opined, would keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse. With this statement, the King hoped that the rebels would beg to return under his authority.

            There were also instances where King George III tried to manipulate the Parliament in order to impose his will totally over the making of laws that govern Great Britain and its territories. During the 1780s, the King was opposed to several bills passed by the Parliament; and “when the House of Commons passed the India Bill, the King warned members of the House of Lords that he would regard any one who voted for the bill as his enemy. Unwilling to upset the King, the Lords rejected the bill by 95 to 76 (Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk).” During the King’s reign, some oppressive laws were enacted that put heavy a heavy burden on his subjects. In particular, the Stamp Act was introduced through Prime Minister George Grenville. This Act levied stamp duties on printed periodicals and papers in North American British colonies.

            Although much of the people living in Great Britain regarded and loved the King as a hero (many of them put pictures of him on their walls and held tea parties in his honor), King George III “was a stern and unsympathetic parent. Even to his god Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, whom he married in 1761, he was often rude and cross; and he brought up his sons so sternly that they hated and wearied of their home life, and most of them ran wild and sowed a heavy crop of wild oats. Nor was he a good host or an affable King to his nobility or his Ministers. He stood stiffly for etiquette and he never made people feel at their ease. Also he was resentful, suspicious and very unforgiving (Ford, 2006).”

            Of the character flaws of the King, none is more apparent than his physical frailty caused about by porphyria, a disease which causes severe abdominal pains, cramps, and even seizure-like epileptic fits. This disease affected much of his mental health that during the later part of his life, he was diagnosed as totally insane. Sometimes, King George III was “bound in a straightjacket and chained to a chair to control his ravings (News.bbc.uk).” Furthermore, according to BBC news, the King’s porphyric attacks had been brought on after a lifetime’s arsenic accumulated in his body. Arsenic was used as a skin cream and a wig powder by the King, yet a substance called antimony was found as the culprit. This substance was used as a medication for the King’s illness; little did the King’s doctor know that antimony, even when purified, contains significant traces of arsenic. The irony was that “the arsenic from the very medication he was being given to control his madness was triggering more attacks (News.bbc.uk).” Consequently, this caused more ranting and raving from the king: therefore, compounding his character flaws. He easily gets irate and angry, often focusing his anger on his children, immediate family members and servants. The King’s mental breakdowns took its toll during the latest part of his life when he was assessed as totally blind and incapable to carry out his duties.

            In addition to King’s unending dilemma, a rebellion in Ireland erupted because of the subjects’ indignation over atrocities carried out by the Royal troops stationed there. As was expected, the King sought out to crush this 1798 rebellion by using an iron-fisted rule over the territory. This further aggravated the subjects’ loathing directed towards the King.

            Sometimes, he doesn’t get the Parliament’s support due to his squabble over matters of authority and power with them. In order to counter this, he oftentimes employed measures which evoked fears in the Lords’ mind; consequently their assents to the King’s policies were acquired with the use of machinations. The King’s commands and policies erratically changed from time to time which proved to be detrimental to the Crown and its subjects. A historian described that King George III ruled “in obstinately resisting measures which are now almost universally admitted to have been good, and in support measures that which are as universally admitted to have been bad (Compton’s Encyclopedia Vol. 11, p.75).”

Conclusion

            Towards the end of his life, King George III spent his life battling his mental illness and finally succumbing to it, this was aggravated by his blindness. He is remembered mainly            for the mental breakdowns that he suffered during his lifetime. Although, his actions were sometimes adverse to that of his constituents, he remained widely popular during the later part of his reign because of his steady and stable leadership. The character flaws that were enumerated herein were not able to alter the fact that, in contemporary times, George III is still recognized by many as a hero then, and still is now.

            By digging deeper into the historical facts, we will be able to surmise that there were only two major negative aspects of his life that substantially marred his reputation. These were; 1) the apparent aversion of the colonial inhabitants to the King’s rule, and 2) the porphyria disease that ravaged his mental health. Thus, in general, he was not inherently repulsive as a leader, but was viewed that way because of factors out of his control, and obligations not met considering the frailties of an individual. Nevertheless, he was considered as the one of the longest reigning rulers in the history Great Britain’s monarchy, second only to the length of time his granddaughter, Victoria, ruled. King George died on the 29th of January, 1820 after reigning for nearly 60 years.

References:

1)      George III, Royalty. www.answers.com [web page] (2006), http://www.answers.com/topic/george-iii-of-the-united-kingdom

date accessed: 18 March 2007

2)      GEORGE III. www.royal.gov [web page] (2006),

                   http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page111.asp

 date accessed: 20 March 2007

            3)   F.E. Compton Company. (1974) Compton’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 11.

                   Chicago. Helen Hemingway Benton, Publisher

4)      Ford, D. N. (2006) George III (1738-1820). www.berkshirehistory.com

[web page], http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/george3.html

date accessed: 18 March 2007

5)      George III. www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk [web page] (2006)

       http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRgeorgeIII.htm

       date accessed: 18 March 2007

6)      King George III: Mad or misunderstood? www.news.bbc.co.uk [web page]

(2006), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3889903.stm

date accessed: 18 March 2007

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