“I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.” — George III to American Minister to London John Adams, 1785.
On January 29, 1820 George William Frederick, King George III of England, died at Windsor Castle, England. By 1810, he was permanently insane and spent the rest of his life in the care of his devoted wife, Charlotte Sophia, whom he had married in 1761. A regency was established and George III’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent and became George IV upon the death of his father.
Meanwhile, George’s health deteriorated. He suffered from dementia and became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He was incapable of knowing or understanding that his wife died in 1818. Over Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. His favorite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him when he died. George III was buried on 16 February in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was age 81.
King George was born June 4, 1738 at Norfolk House, St. James’s Square, London.
George the III is remembered in British history as the “The Mad King” and “The King Who Lost America.” Modern historians tend to revise the popular image of King George. One writes, “hopes were centered on a political solution, and he always bowed to his cabinet’s opinions even when skeptical of their success. The detailed evidence of the years from 1763 to 1775 tends to exonerate George III from any real responsibility for the American Revolution.” Though Americans characterized George as a tyrant, in these years he acted as a constitutional monarch supporting the initiatives of his ministers.
Another British historian concluded George III and Lord Frederick North (Prime Minister) bear the responsibility for the loss of England’s American colonies. George’s obstinacy in dealing with people he believed to be rebels had much to do with the causes of the war and its needless protraction. British scholars of the later twentieth century are inclined to treat George sympathetically, seeing him as a victim of circumstance and illness.
Then there is the George’s inherited disease of a rare blood disorder called porphyria. It is frequently misdiagnosed, and even in modern times, some sufferers have been thought to be mentally ill. In King George’s time, his bizarre behavior and wild outbursts were treated as insanity. It wasn’t until the 1970s this new and controversial diagnosis was made. [I have Americanized the British spelling.]
So, rest in peace King George. And despite yourself, I suppose a country—the first of its kind—owes you a measure of thanks for your major role in creating it. Quite a memorial for one’s insanity.