Saturday, July 4, 2009

Monarch Profile: King George III

What better monarch to feature for a July 4th post than His Majesty King George III? He may be the only monarch in the history of the world to be vilified in the founding documents of another country. What is sadly, even criminally unjust, is that King George III was as far from being a cruel, despotic tyrant as any man could be. He was, in fact, an upright, generous man of simple tastes, extremely devoted to his family and could, with relatively little opposition I think, be considered the most able and admirable monarch of the Hanoverian dynasty of Britain. This monarch who came to be so hated in America was very popular in Britain, even beloved. He was the first king of the House of Hannover not to speak with a German accent, who considered himself truly "British" rather than a German who simply tolerated Britain for the brief periods he had to stay on the island. It can honestly be said that George III was the first truly British monarch to reign since the death of Queen Anne. What is more ironic, is that he was quite popular in the American colonies as well, the attachment to the Crown being the only thing which really prevented independence from being declared much sooner.

George William Frederick was born on June 4, 1738 in the same building coincidentally that was used by British and American leaders working together to form the first Allied Force Headquarters by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and where the invasions of North Africa and Western Europe were planned out by the two great English-speaking countries of the world in cooperation against Germany. George was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and succeeded his grandfather King George II in 1760. One year later he married Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a marriage which was happy and produced 15 children. Unlike those before him, George III was never unfaithful to his wife and had principles too strong to ever consider taking a mistress.

Once on the throne, King George III broke alot of new ground, but also in many ways returned Britain to a more traditional monarchy rather than the Parliamentary tyranny it had been since the fall of the House of Stuart. King George III was the first monarch to turn over the profits of the crown lands to the government in exchange for an allowance and started the tradition of royal patronage for charity, giving generously from his private finances to a number of causes. These were innovations, but George III also worked to make the British monarchy more traditional. Under previous rulers, the Crown had become mostly symbolic and totally dominated by Parliament; which itself was dominated by the Whigs since the Tories had been so associated with the House of Stuart. George III was determined to make Britain a truly constitutional monarchy again, with power held by commons, lords and the crown.

This trend, and the way George III was determined to choose his own ministers, was used by the American revolutionaries to portray the King as a tyrant, which is extremely unfair. Had it not been for the docile nature of previous monarchs, his actions would not have seemed unusual at all. He never over-stepped his powers, but simply chose to exercise them in the traditional way. This caused the Tories to again become a major political force for the first time since the overthrow of the House of Stuarts. George III was, if nothing, a man of principle and a man who took his responsibilities seriously. However, doing so did not always win him admiration. When the King granted religious tolerance to the Catholics of Canada, many Americans shouted that George III was becoming a "Papist" and would soon restore Catholicism and royal absolutism in the British Empire. Later, when the King refused to grant tolerance to the Catholics in Britain (not because of any prejudice but in obedience to his coronation oath) he was then ridiculed once again for being so harsh. While American revolutionaries attacked him for being a "tyrant" and refusing to respect their rights, they also condemned him for respecting the rights of the Indians in the mid-west whose lands he declared off-limits, but which the colonists were eager to claim for themselves.

The American Revolution was certainly the major event in the reign of King George III, and few others had such a firm grasp on the actual situation, before during and after the conflict as the king did. When an offer to the colonists which granted them full autonomy under the British Crown was spurned, George III was the most determined to fight on until victory was won, threatening to abdicate before he would ever accept the legitimacy of the United States. He was confident that if Britain allowed these 13 colonies to win in such a way would be to instantly invite rebellion in every other colony around the world and the British Empire would collapse. This is often pointed to in an effort to mock George III as being unjustly paranoid about an independent America. However, were it not for the horrific French Revolution and the resulting "rally effect" across the British community and the conservative backlash after the wars, things might have turned out as King George had predicted, though fortunately they did not.

However, considering how steadfastly George III had opposed American independence and the peace treaty which recognized the new nation, once it had happened he showed considerable grace in extending the hand of friendship toward his rebellious former subjects and saw to it that the United States remained a major trading partner of the British Empire. In spite of the fact that the fall of North's government which coincided with the victory of the United States brought about a new trend of reducing the role of the Crown in politics and going back to the tradition of the previous Hanoverians of being little more than figureheads, King George III displayed his brilliant statesmanship by again restoring to a more normal situation the rights and powers of the Crown in British government. The 1780's saw William Pitt the Younger attain and keep the post of Prime Minister mostly through the support of the King. Britain began to rebuild its pride after the American humiliation and an era of unprecedented power and prosperity opened for the British Empire.

King George III became a more relaxed man. His marriage to Queen Charlotte was very happy for both of them, with 15 children the succession was in no danger, and the King had time to do the things he enjoyed most such as dabbling in agriculture and spending time in the country. With the onset of the French Revolution, the King commented that he believed this upheaval was God's punishment on King Louis XVI for supporting the American revolutionaries. He also had typically Hanoverian problems with his son and heir, Prince Frederick, but the worst incident came in 1788 when George III suffered his first attack of the illness which was to eventually take away his sanity, and some time later, his life. He was given brutal treatment by doctors of the day, but was still able to pull out of his insanity for brief periods of relative normalcy, it being on one of these occasions that he stopped the passage of a regency bill.

The French Revolution though, brought on more trouble as it was only a matter of time before at least some traces of the republican disease crept into Britain, and there were several attempts made to assassinate George III. One attempt was made in 1800 while the King was at the theatre. After narrowly avoiding death, the King showed great courage by remaining calm and ordering the show to continue, at which point the crowd broke out singing "God Save the King". Eventually of course, his illness became too severe and with no signs of improvement and in 1812 he was declared unfit to rule and his son was made regent in his place. King George III lived out the rest of his life locked away from public view in Windsor Castle, with the Star of the Order of the Garter pinned to his robe as his only badge of rank. However, the British people honored their king for the care and leadership he had shown in the past. He had seen Great Britain through her most difficult trials as a 'United Kingdom' and always acted as an honest, upright and highly moral man, providing leadership through example as well as state policy.

It is criminal (there can be no other word to describe it) that the United States had to slander and defame King George III in order to justify their own rebellion. He was, in every respect, the picture of an ideal British monarch. His compassion and generosity are well known, his steadfast principles and upright moral character are second to none in the Hanoverian dynasty and his wise political leadership restored to Great Britain, for a time at least, her ancient and marvelous constitutional monarchy where power was actually shared by the lords, commons and crown rather than being held completely by an elite few on the commons' behalf. He certainly deserves a place of honor among the list of the truly great monarchs of the British isles.

Since Britain first at Heaven's command
Arose from out the Azure Main,
Did ever o'er this jarring Land
A monarch with more firmness reign?
Then to the Natal Day we sing,
Of George our sacred friend and King
-from a song by American loyalist in honor of George III's birthday in 1777

15 comments:

  1. MadMonarchist: I much appreciate your blog. Your blog has been a source for me to reconsider Monarchy as a legitimate form of government. As a matter of fact, I am almost convinced of the Monarchist position. I am an American who has been desillusioned by the corrupt politicians and democratic politics here at home. I hope you can help me with to questions. What resource(s) would you recommend that establishes a sound case for Monarchy? What book(s) would you recommend about King George III that refutes the propaganda that Americans have been taught? Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hear, hear, Anon. I realize this post was quite some time ago, but your comments were compelling to this, another fellow American. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of history professors who were a) unbiased in their perspective on the underlying causes of the Rev and b) untainted by the cancer of Socialism and Marxism--as were so many of their peers.

      Delete
    2. What countries did he rule during the American Revolution?

      Delete
  2. That is a fairly common question and I wish there was one-stop-shop resource for monarchism but such is not the case. There are numerous defenses of monarchy but they each come from a different POV and are directed to different groups for different circumstances. Some are political in nature, others religious, some are in defense of limited monarchy, others for more 'monarchy with teeth' so to speak, so I would need to know more about what direction you are coming from on that score. As to King George III, Christopher Hibbert has a fairly commonly available biography that gives the man a pretty fair shake but alot of it is not really necessary. One can often use resources close at hand, you just have to be careful to sort the fact from the "spin". There really is no serious scholar who would deny that George III was not a good, decent, hard working man. It is also not really in dispute that all of the acts the colonists objected to were more often that not revoked as soon as protests arose and even then, they were acts of parliament, democratically passed and not simply dictates handed down by the King.

    ReplyDelete
  3. MadMonarchist: Thank you for your quick response and recommendation. I am a Calvinist Christian. I am looking for a Scriptural and political case for Monarchy. I noticed that you highly recommend Bousset's book. It seems the book draws on the Holy Bible to build a case for Monarchy. I will purchase it soon. I will also get Hibbert's book on King George III. I suspect that there is at least one book out there that was published in the 16th Century, 17th Century, or 18th Century that elucidates a case for Monarchy from a Reformed/Calvinist perspective. I will continue looking for such a resource. Lamentably, since the late 18th Century, the great majority of Calvinist scholarship has attempted to "baptize" the U.S. Constitution as somewhat Biblical or Christian. I reject the above view. Thank you again and continue the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you are looking for backup in Sacred Scripture some quick "go-to" lines are: Ecclesiastes 8:2-5 (stressing obedience to kings), Proverbs 25:2; Proverbs 25:5-6; Proverbs 25:15; Proverbs 29:4; Proverbs 29:12; Proverbs 29:14; Jeremiah 21:12 (listing rights and duties of kings) 1 Samuel 11:13 (use of royal clemency), Deuteronomy 17:18-20; 1 Samuel 10:24-25; 2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Kings 11:17; 2 Chronicles 23:11; Jeremiah 34:8-11; Daniel 6:12-15 (sources to draw a type of constitutional monarchy from),
    Ezekiel 45:9-25; Ezekiel 46:2; Ezekiel 46:4-8 (royal religious duties), Proverbs 16:14-15; Ecclesiastes 28:9 (commands to be loyal to kings), Job 34:18; Isaiah 8:21; Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17 (commands to show respect to kings), Ezra 6:10 (prayer for kings), 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (command to pray for kings).

    I do recommend Bossuet's book but it may not be right for you as it is coming from a very specifically Roman Catholic perspective. I'm really not aware of much from the Calvinist camp. Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathon" which argues for absolutism in Stuart Britain from an Anglican Protestant perspective (also stresses the dangers of democracy) but that might not exactly fit your needs either. However, as you can quickly find, the Bible itself provides a great deal though one must be careful to look at the 'big picture' and not think that every mention of a wicked monarch invalidates the many verses stressing loyalty to the Crown.

    Glad to help in any way I can and thanks for reading.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for the Scripture references, I will meditate on them tonight and throughout the week. I am very grateful for your help. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  6. what about his speech- God save the king?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow...That was really interesting. I think I'm going to be the only one in my class to say this, but if my teacher flunks me for it, oh well. It's just one F, not the end of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I may add George III to the list of my favorite british monarchs after this! Funny thing for an American to do!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Joseph, George III was really a revolutionary (in a good way) King. He was also a very green king, when nothing of the sort was even considered (of course, this was before the Industrial Revolution). He was often called - belovedly by his subjects - Farmer George.

    His only failings were his dealings with his children. He refused to let his daughters marry, and they were sheltered like nuns until his last bout with porphyrria. He had difficult reltions with most of his sons. But he adored Princess Charlotte, Queen Charlotte, and even the Princess of Wales (which is saying something else!).

    ReplyDelete
  10. I always enjoy when Americans find out I'm a Monarchist and ask what Political Party I identify most with and I respond, "Why, the Tories of course!"

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think it's pretty well understood by anyone who's studied the issue that the Declaration of Independence is laying the Americans' grievances against Parliament at the feet of George III. But someone had to be the "bad guy" in promoting the revolutionaries' cause, and George was the easiest one to blame.

    His real legacy isn't being vilified in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It's the fact that his good administration of the country enabled Great Britain to have the strength to help Europe resist a real tyrant, both financially and militarily, for a quarter of a century.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes, I too love and respect the man and his memory. Our last King was our greatest—George III of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Americas and his Other Realms, King, by the Grace of God.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am 49, an American man having the longest, most severe porphyria attack in all of my mostly-miserable life. Doctors torture me, hospitals turn me away. I vomit and scream and die. I will always feel a bond with George Fredrick as we both have been tortured and discarded for the same reason. We are kidding ourselves if we think much has changed for porphyria sufferers since his day.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...