George III - 1760-1820
When George III succeeded his grandfather on the throne, Europe was about to enter a period of upheaval which would change the world. The Seven Years War had hardly finished when the American colonies rebelled and won their independence in 1783.
This was followed by the French Revolution and a new doctrine of Equality, Fraternity and Liberty which was to become the battle cry of the politics of the future. The main threat for Britain was not ideological, but came in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte, a Corsican soldier who became Emperor of the French and master of Continental Europe.
Like his predecessors, George III hankered after personal rule, but the growing power of the Prime Minister and Parliament prevented his interference in politics becoming too overpowering, though he was able to exert influence on non-political matters such as farming. His own efforts at Windsor and Richmond showed how a crop could be multiplied, and his skill and knowledge spread through the countryside. He was nicknamed Farmer George.
He was fortunate in having, on the whole, a good relationship with his ministers. One of the more prominent ones being Lord North who, though North America was lost during his long term of office, was able to follow George's wishes and to maintain a good relationship between the King and Parliament. Another was William Pitt the Younger, who dealt firmly with radicals who supported French Revolutionary ideas and steered the country through the worst of the Napoleonic Wars. He was also lucky to have two of the ablest sailors and soldiers in Europe in Nelson and Wellington.
In 1809 the King became blind. As early as 1765 he had suffered an apparent dementia, and in 1788 his derangement recurred to such a degree that a Regency Bill was passed, but the King recovered the following year. It is now thought likely that he had inherited porphyria, a defect of the metabolism that may in time lead to delirium.
In 1811 he succumbed hopelessly, and his son, later George IV, acted as Regent for the rest of his reign. George III died at Windsor Palace on January 29, 1820.
Key Events during the Reign of George III
1760 - George becomes king on the death of his grandfather George II.
1762 - Earl of Bute is appointed Prime Minister.
1763 Peace of Paris ends Seven Years' War.
1769-70 - James Cook's first voyage round the world.
1771 - Encyclopedia Britannica is first published.
1773 - Boston Tea Party.
1775-83 - American War of Independence.
1783-1801 - William Pitt the Younger serves as Prime Minister.
1789 - Outbreak of French Revolution.
1793-1802 - War between Britain and France.
1803-15 - Napoleonic Wars.
1810 - Illness of George III leads to his son becoming Regent in 1811.
1812 - Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval is assassinated in the House of Commons (11 May).
1815 - Defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
1818 - Queen Charlotte dies.
1820 - Death of George III.