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GREAT MONARCHS OF GREAT BRITAIN

 

Travel is people. You may go abroad to see the famous sites, but what you remember best are the people you meet. Among them, like unexpected treasure, are a few memorable contacts that will make your travels unique, special, and delightful. "People" is devoted to some of those you may come in contact with during your Home At First travels.

TOP 10 THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT:

This article first appeared in July, 2003 and was most recently updated in 2014.


  
          Independence Day in the United States celebrates the Founding Fathers as heroes. And, in order to qualify as heroes, there must also be villains. If Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hancock, et al, were the Heroes of Democracy, then England’s King George III was needed as the Great Villain of Monarchy.
          We know George III vigorously opposed the American War of Independence. And most of us may know that the king ultimately went mad. But this July 4th — while Americans everywhere toast the Signers, our fabulous forefathers — we take a second look at the villain of the piece, and come up with some surprises.

 

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW:

 

 

1. GEORGE III WAS BORN IN ENGLAND. Despite being a Hanoverian Prince and later — after his madness had become permanent — King of Hanover, George III was the first of his line to be born in England, being born in London in 1738.

2. GEORGE III SPOKE ENGLISH AS HIS FIRST LANGUAGE. Contrary to popular impression, King George III spoke English as his first language, and was the first of his line of German-heritage English kings to do so.

3. GEORGE III FOLLOWED HIS GRANDFATHER TO THE THRONE. King George III was the third King George in a row. But he did not follow his father to the throne. He succeeded his grandfather, King George II. His father, who had been in line to become King Frederick I, died in 1751, nine years before King George II died and King George III ascended.

4. GEORGE III WAS THE LONGEST REIGNING KING OF ENGLAND. King George III reigned for 60 years — longer than any male monarch in British history, and second in length only to his granddaughter, Queen Victoria, who was on the throne for 64 years.

5. GEORGE III'S REIGN WAS CHARACTERIZED BY GOOD TIMES FOR BRITAIN. Despite losing the American colonies and fighting expensive, prolonged wars with both France and Spain, England mostly enjoyed political stability and economic prosperity during the reign of King George III.

6. BRITISH DEMOCRACY INCREASED DURING THE REIGN OF KING GEORGE III. During King George III’s monarchy Parliament was the principal political force in Britain. The first "Prime" Minister in British history, Robert Walpole, took office during King George II’s reign. Under George III two strong British Prime Ministers, Lord North and William Pitt the Younger (only 24 when appointed Prime Minister), carved out individual power bases that served to further restrict the king’s influence to that of advisor. This strengthened the development of the British form of democracy we call "constitutional monarchy".

7. A PLANET WAS NAMED AFTER KING GEORGE III. While lucid, George III took an active interest in agriculture, the arts, and in science. He had so much acreage of Windsor Castle planted with crops, he earned the sobriquet "Farmer George". His large personal library became the wellspring of the British Library at the British Museum. He was very interested in science and had his own observatory for astronomy. When contemporary German-British astronomer William Herschel discovered a new planet in 1781, he named it Georgium Sidus after his king. Poor George. Few honors accorded him outlasted his insanity. His namesake planet was renamed Uranus some years later.

8. KING GEORGE III SURVIVED AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. At the turn of the 19th century, a madman named James Hadfield attempted to assassinate King George III by shooting at him. Hadfield’s attorney, the great barrister Thomas Erskine, saved him from the gallows by convincing the court of Hadfield’s insanity. English legal precedent was set regarding the required necessity of sanity to establish criminal responsibility. The case and the precedent certainly influenced legal thinking throughout the western world.

9. BRITAIN DEFEATED NAPOLEON WHILE KING GEORGE WAS INCAPACITATED. Ironically, King George III himself had periods of insanity throughout his adult life, certainly as early as 1788. By 1810 his madness — now thought perhaps to be the result of a congenital disease called porphyria — had completely taken over his mind, and he was judged unfit to rule during the final decade of his reign, when his first son became Regent, or acting monarch. Unfortunately, King George III was not in control when Britain finally overcame the two greatest problems of his reign: beating Napoleon once and for all at Waterloo in 1812, and establishing a positive relationship with the United States of America after losing the War of 1812.

10. KING GEORGE III FATHERED 15 CHILDREN AND BUILT A NEW PALACE TO PUT THEM. The great legacy of King George III may have been his progeny. His German-born queen, Charlotte, presented him no fewer than 15 children, of whom two, George IV and William IV, ascended to the British throne. George III purchased a London townhouse for his queen and had it lavishly expanded. By the time his granddaughter, Victoria, became Queen, in 1837, this old residence of the Dukes of Buckingham had been remade into Buckingham Palace, and London home to future Kings and Queens of Britain.

 

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