To Englishmen George III is often remembered as "mad King George" whose principal distinction was having lost the American colonies. To Americans he is usually portrayed as "bad King George," that oppressive tyrant named in the Declaration of Independence as "unfit to be the ruler of a free... show more
To Englishmen George III is often remembered as "mad King George" whose principal distinction was having lost the American colonies. To Americans he is usually portrayed as "bad King George," that oppressive tyrant named in the Declaration of Independence as "unfit to be the ruler of a free people."
Was George bad or mad? Author John Brooke avoids the hearsay of history because of his access to all the King's papers which were never used in their entirety by previous biographers. In addition, Brooke inherited the complete papers of Sir Lewis Namier, whose researches into this period are unquestionably the most valuable of our century. Tracing George's life through notebooks, diaries, and accounts, Brooke provides a very personal biography of George III, rather than a history of his reign.
Was George bad? George founded the Royal Academy, was a patron of the great astronomer Herschel, and paid out of his own pocket for every book now in the King's Library of the British Museum. He was one of Britain's most devoted and best-informed rulers, fond of country life and his family.
Was George mad? Not insane at all, George was grievously afflicted with porphyria--a painful illness caused by a rare metabolic imbalance. His doctors did not understand his malady and their treatment was arbitrary, irrelevant, and cruel. It was enough to reduce any victim to fury and despair and insured that the last years of the King's life were miserable and largely empty.
The early death of his father made George his grandfather's unexpected heir, and when he came to the throe in 1760 at twenty-two, younger than any monarch since Edward VI, nothing in his education had prepared him for his new responsibilities. Brooke shows the torment this brought him, inexperienced and naïve, "trapped between Pitt who coveted power for a purpose and Bute who oscillated between the wish for power and the fear of responsibility, with Newcastle flitting between them. . . ." Somewhat of a rarity among English rulers, George had a long and happy marriage marred at the end by the queen's imposed separation from him to protect her form his alleged madness.
Of all that has been written about George, Brooke's King George III is the first to show him as a human being with likes and dislikes, penchants and perversities and to dispel the ludicrous caricature that has made up the myth.
George III was the last king of England who ruled as well as reigned. Because he was a very personal monarch whose own decisions and conduct affected public policy as no British monarch's have since, this biography provides us with new light on the causes and conduct of the American Revolution.