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George III,1738–1820, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1760–1820); son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, and grandson of George II, whom he succeeded. He was also elector (and later king) of Hanover, but he never visited it.
After his father's early death (1751), young George was educated for his future role as king by his domineering mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by John Stuart, earl of ButeBute, John Stuart, 3d earl of
, 1713–92, British politician. He was prominent as a friend of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, as early as 1747 and became the tutor of Frederick's impressionable son, the future
..... Click the link for more information. . He succeeded to the throne at the age of 22 and earnestly set himself to cleanse politics of corruption and to curb the arrogance of the aristocratic Whig leaders, who he believed had weakened the royal powers. George, for his part, was viewed with suspicion by those who resented Lord Bute's influence over the young king. This suspicion appeared justified when the successful and popular William Pitt, later earl of ChathamChatham, William Pitt, 1st earl of
, 1708–78, British statesman, known as the Great Commoner. Proud, dramatic, and patriotic, Chatham excelled as a war minister and orator. He was the father of William Pitt.
..... Click the link for more information. , was allowed to resign (1761) and was replaced by Bute. Bute, however, could not muster parliamentary support and resigned in 1763, and George, who matured rapidly in office, quickly outgrew his dependence on him.
Political instability marked the first 10 years of the reign, for the king's lack of faith in most of the available ministers and increasing factionalism led to a rapid turnover of ministries and inconsistency of policy. The ministry of George GrenvilleGrenville, George,
1712–70, British statesman, brother of Earl Temple. He entered Parliament in 1741, held several cabinet posts, and in 1763 became chief minister.
..... Click the link for more information. (1763–65) initiated prosecution of John WilkesWilkes, John,
1727–97, English politician and journalist. He studied at the Univ. of Leiden, returned to England in 1746, and purchased (1757) a seat in Parliament.
..... Click the link for more information. and imposed the unpopular Stamp ActStamp Act,
1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers
..... Click the link for more information. on the American colonies; that of the marquess of RockinghamRockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2d marquess of
, 1730–82, British statesman. In the early years of the reign of George III he became a leading opponent of the "king's friends," held several offices, and
..... Click the link for more information. (1765–66) repealed the Stamp Act; that of Lord Chatham (1766–68) levied new duties in America with the Townshend ActsTownshend Acts,
1767, originated by Charles Townshend and passed by the English Parliament shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. They were designed to collect revenue from the colonists in America by putting customs duties on imports of glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea.
..... Click the link for more information. ; while that of the duke of GraftonGrafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3d duke of,
1735–1811, British statesman. After serving as a secretary of state (1765–66), he became first lord of the treasury in Lord Chatham's administration
..... Click the link for more information. (1768–70) renewed prosecution of Wilkes. Thwarted in his unrealistic attempts to break the system of patronage and connection by which political groupings were formed, George himself resorted to the lavish use of patronage to establish in Parliament a group of supporters known as the "king's friends."
Ministries of North and the Younger Pitt
Only in 1770 did George find in Frederick, Lord NorthNorth, Frederick North, 8th Baron,
1732–92, British statesman, best known as Lord North. He entered Parliament in 1754 and became a junior lord of the treasury (1759), privy councilor (1766), and chancellor of the
..... Click the link for more information. , a chief minister who was able to manage Parliament and willing to follow royal leadership. Although North achieved financial consolidation at home and imposed closer government control over the East India Company by the Regulating Act (1772), his 12-year ministry is remembered chiefly for his policy of coercion against the American colonists that led finally to the American RevolutionAmerican Revolution,
1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence.
..... Click the link for more information. . This policy of course reflected the views of the king, whose refusal to accept the loss of the colonies prolonged the war. Opposition in Parliament to what was regarded as increasing royal influence finally forced George to accept the resignation (1782) of North and the formation of ministries first by Lord Rockingham and then by the earl of ShelburneShelburne, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 2d earl of,
1737–1805, British statesman. He served briefly (1763) as president of the Board of Trade in George Grenville's cabinet but then became a supporter of William
..... Click the link for more information. , who concluded the Treaty of Paris (1783), granting independence to the United States.
Shelburne's ministry was brought down (1783) by the surprising coalition of George's old friend Lord North and his leading Whig opponent Charles James FoxFox, Charles James,
1749–1806, British statesman and orator, for many years the outstanding parliamentary proponent of liberal reform. He entered Parliament in 1768 and served as lord of the admiralty (1770–72) and as lord of the treasury (1772–74) under
..... Click the link for more information. . This alliance so incensed the king that he exerted his influence in the House of Lords to secure defeat of Fox's East India Bill (1783) and thus forced the ministry out, replacing it with one formed by the younger William PittPitt, William,
1759–1806, British statesman; 2d son of William Pitt, 1st earl of Chatham. Trained as a lawyer, he entered Parliament in 1781 and in 1782 at the age of 23 became chancellor of the exchequer under Lord Shelburne.
..... Click the link for more information. . Despite the furious reaction to the king's action among Whigs, Pitt won control of Parliament in the 1784 election and was to retain power until 1801 and then hold it again from 1804 to 1806.
After Pitt's appointment George retired from active participation in government, except for taking an interest in such major issues as Catholic EmancipationCatholic Emancipation,
term applied to the process by which Roman Catholics in the British Isles were relieved in the late 18th and early 19th cent. of civil disabilities.
..... Click the link for more information. , which he defeated in 1801. Pitt was able to improve trade, reform the governments of Canada and India, and unite the kingdoms of Ireland and England (1800). He also managed the wars with France (see French Revolutionary WarsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
wars occurring in the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the decade of 1792–1802. The wars began as an effort to defend the Revolution and developed into wars of conquest under the empire.
..... Click the link for more information. ; Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life
The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
..... Click the link for more information. ).
England in the Reign of George III
Before George died in 1820 the fabric of English life had been vastly altered from the stable society of 1760. Despite the loss of the American colonies there had been a great expansion of empire and trade, and the ground for further expansion had been laid by the explorations of James CookCook, James,
1728–79, English explorer and navigator. The son of a Yorkshire agricultural laborer, he had little formal education. After an apprenticeship to a firm of shipowners at Whitby, he joined (1755) the royal navy and surveyed the St.
..... Click the link for more information. . At home, the population almost doubled, improved agricultural methods increased productivity, and advances in technology and transportation marked the onset of the Industrial RevolutionIndustrial Revolution,
term usually applied to the social and economic changes that mark the transition from a stable agricultural and commercial society to a modern industrial society relying on complex machinery rather than tools.
..... Click the link for more information. . Social reform, although much discussed, made little headway, and all attempts to effect an extension of the suffrage or a redistribution of parliamentary representation failed. The Church of England, fettered by apathy and patronage, failed to move into the new factory towns, but MethodismMethodism,
the doctrines, polity, and worship of those Protestant Christian denominations that have developed from the movement started in England by the teaching of John Wesley.
..... Click the link for more information. spread rapidly to fill the gap. Science made great strides with the work of Henry CavendishCavendish, Henry,
1731–1810, English physicist and chemist, b. Nice. He was the son of Lord Charles Cavendish and grandson of the 2d duke of Devonshire. He was a recluse, and most of his writings were published posthumously.
..... Click the link for more information. , Joseph PriestleyPriestley, Joseph,
1733–1804, English theologian and scientist. He prepared for the Presbyterian ministry and served several churches in England as pastor but gradually rejected orthodox Calvinism and adopted Unitarian views.
..... Click the link for more information. , John DaltonDalton, John
, 1766–1844, English scientist. He revived the atomic theory (see atom), which he formulated in the first volume of his New System of Chemical Philosophy (2 vol., 1808–27).
..... Click the link for more information. , and Sir Humphrey DavyDavy, Sir Humphry,
1778–1829, English chemist and physicist. The son of a woodcarver, he received his early education at Truro and was apprenticed (1795) to a surgeon-apothecary at Penzance.
..... Click the link for more information. . In English literatureEnglish literature,
literature written in English since c.1450 by the inhabitants of the British Isles; it was during the 15th cent. that the English language acquired much of its modern form.
..... Click the link for more information. 18th-century neoclassicism declined, and the romantic movement had its rise. A revolution in social and economic thinking, assisted by the spread of literacy and learning through a wider distribution of books and periodicals, promoted theories of utilitarianismutilitarianism
, in ethics, the theory that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its usefulness in bringing about the most happiness of all those affected by it.
..... Click the link for more information. and laissez-fairelaissez-faire
[Fr.,=leave alone], in economics and politics, doctrine that an economic system functions best when there is no interference by government. It is based on the belief that the natural economic order tends, when undisturbed by artificial stimulus or regulation, to
..... Click the link for more information. . Among important thinkers of the period were Adam SmithSmith, Adam,
1723–90, Scottish economist, educated at Glasgow and Oxford. He became professor of moral philosophy at the Univ. of Glasgow in 1752, and while teaching there wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments
..... Click the link for more information. , David RicardoRicardo, David,
1772–1823, British economist, of Dutch-Jewish parentage. At the age of 20 he entered business as a stockbroker and was so skillful in the management of his affairs that within five years he had amassed a huge fortune.
..... Click the link for more information. , Thomas MalthusMalthus, Thomas Robert
, 1766–1834, English economist, sociologist, and pioneer in modern population study. A graduate of Cambridge, he was a professor at the East India College, London, from 1805 until his death.
..... Click the link for more information. , Jeremy BenthamBentham, Jeremy,
1748–1832, English philosopher, jurist, political theorist, and founder of utilitarianism. Educated at Oxford, he was trained as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar, but he never practiced; he devoted himself to the scientific analysis of morals and
..... Click the link for more information. , and Edmund BurkeBurke, Edmund,
1729–97, British political writer and statesman, b. Dublin, Ireland. Early Writings
After graduating (1748) from Trinity College, Dublin, he began the study of law in London but abandoned it to devote himself to writing.
..... Click the link for more information. . Through all these developments George patronized the arts, especially portraiture, and founded the Royal Academy of ArtsRoyal Academy of Arts,
London, the national academy of art of England, founded in 1768 by George III at the instigation of Sir William Chambers and Benjamin West. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the Academy's first president, holding the office until his death in 1792.
..... Click the link for more information. . He was a friend of Josiah WedgwoodWedgwood, Josiah,
1730–95, English potter, descendant of a family of Staffordshire potters and perhaps the greatest of all potters. At the age of nine he went to work at the plant owned by his brother Thomas in Burslem, and in 1751, with a partner, he started in business.
..... Click the link for more information. and other industrialists.
Later Life and Character
George, who had suffered a short nervous breakdown in 1765 and a more serious one in 1788–89 (which caused a fierce conflict between Pitt and Fox over the powers to be vested in the regency), became permanently insane in 1810. It has been suggested that he was a victim of the hereditary disease porphyria. He spent the rest of his life in the care of his devoted wife, Charlotte Sophia, whom he had married in 1761, and the prince of Wales (later George IVGeorge IV,
1762–1830, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1820–30), eldest son and successor of George III. In 1785 he married Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic.
..... Click the link for more information. ) was made regent (see RegencyRegency,
in British history, the period of the last nine years (1811–20) of the reign of George III, when the king's insanity had rendered him unfit to rule and the government was vested in the prince of Wales (later George IV) as regent.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Unlike the first two Georges, George III had a tranquil domestic life, although scandal touched his brothers and sons. George was an honest and well-intentioned man, but his stubbornness and limited intellectual power confounded his efforts to rule well and made him a somewhat tragic figure.
See editions of George III's correspondence by J. Fortescue (6 vol., 1927–28; additions and corrections by L. B. Namier, 1937) and by A. Aspinall (5 vol., 1962–70); biographies by J. C. Long (1961), S. E. Ayling (1972), J. Brooke (1972), and J. C. Clarke (1972); studies by H. Butterfield (1949, repr. 1968; rev. ed. 1959), J. S. Watson (1960), J. H. Plumb (1985), R. Pares (1953, repr. 1988), and C. Hibbert (1999); study of his private life by J. Hadlow (2014).