by Susan Flantzer
King George III is the longest reigning British king, having reigned for 59 years, 96 days. His length of reign is surpassed only by two queens, both his descendants, his granddaughter Queen Victoria and his great great great great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. George III was born on June 4, 1738 at Norfolk House, St. James’ Square in London, England. He was the eldest son and the second child of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg. At the time of his birth, his grandfather King George II was the reigning monarch and baby George was second in the line of succession after his father.
George was born two months premature, so he was privately christened on the day of his birth by Thomas Secker, Bishop of Oxford and given the name George. A month after his birth, Bishop Secker publicly christened him George William Frederick at Norfolk House. His godparents were:
- Frederik I, King of Sweden (also Friedrich I, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel )
- Friedrich III, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (his maternal uncle)
- Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia (his great-aunt, born Sophia Dorothea of Hanover)
George had eight siblings:
- Princess Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick (1737 – 1813), married Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issue including Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel who married King George IV of the United Kingdom
- Prince Edward, Duke of York (1739 – 1767), unmarried, no issue
- Princess Elizabeth (1741 – 1759), unmarried, no issue
- Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1743 – 1805), married Maria Walpole, had issue
- Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland (1745 – 1790), married Anne Luttrell, no issue.
- Princess Louisa (1749 – 1768), unmarried, no issue
- Prince Frederick (1750 – 1765), unmarried, no issue
- Princess Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark and Norway (1751- 1775), married Christian VII, King of Denmark and Norway, had issue
Despite being premature, George turned out to be healthy, but was restrained and shy. The family moved to Leicester House in Leicester Square where George and his brother Edward were taught by a private tutor, Francis Ayscough. George was a good student and at the age of eight, he was able to read and write in English and German. He was the first British monarch who received systematic scientific education, studying chemistry, physics, and astronomy. In addition, he was taught mathematics, history, geography, French, Latin, music, agriculture and constitutional law. George learned how to fence, dance and ride, and received instruction in the Anglican religion.
On March 21, 1751, George’s father, Frederick, Prince of Wales died at the age of 44. 13 year old George became heir to the throne and was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by his grandfather King George II on April 20, 1751. His education was then entrusted to his governor Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt and his tutor Thomas Hayter, Bishop of Norwich.
In 1759, George fell in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, sister of Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, and her family developed an ambition that she would be the next queen. Mainly for this reason, George was discouraged from selecting her as a wife. On October 25, 1760, King George II died and his grandson became King George III at the age of 22. George’s search for a wife intensified and his choice fell upon an obscure German princess, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. On September 8, 1761 at 10 PM, George and Charlotte married in the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace. On September 22, 1761, their coronation was held at Westminster Abbey.
George and Charlotte’s marriage was a very happy one and George remained faithful to Charlotte. Between 1762 – 1783, Charlotte gave birth to 15 children, all of whom survived childbirth. Only two of the children did not survive childhood. It is remarkable that in 1817 at the time of the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte of Wales, who was second in line to the throne after her father the Prince of Wales, Princess Charlotte was the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, despite the fact that eleven of his fifteen children were still living.
Wikipedia: Descendants of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
The 15 children of King George III and Queen Charlotte:
- King George IV (1762 – 1830), married Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issue: Princess Charlotte of Wales who died in childbirth as did her child
- Prince Frederick, Duke of York (1763 – 1827), married Frederica of Prussia, no issue
- King William IV (1765 – 1837), married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, no surviving legitimate issue, has illegitimate descendants
- Charlotte, Princess Royal (1766 – 1828), married King Frederick of Württemberg, no surviving issue
- Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1767 – 1820), married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, had issue: Queen Victoria, present British Royal Family are his descendants
- Princess Augusta Sophia (1768 – 1840), never married, no issue
- Princess Elizabeth (1770 – 1840), married Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, no issue
- King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland (1771 – 1851), married Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue
- Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773 – 1843), married twice, both in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 1) Lady Augusta Murray, had issue, marriage annulled 2) Lady Cecilia Buggin (later 1st Duchess of Inverness), no issue
- Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774 – 1850), married Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, had issue, present British Royal Family are his descendants through his granddaughter Mary of Teck who married King George V of the United Kingdom
- Princess Mary (1776 – 1857), married Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, no issue
- Princess Sophia (1777 – 1848), never married, possible illegitimate issue
- Prince Octavius (1779 – 1783), died in childhood
- Prince Alfred (1780 – 1782), died in childhood
- Princess Amelia (1783 – 1810), never married, no issue
In the same year as his marriage, King George III purchased Buckingham House which was originally built for John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham in 1703. Originally purchased as a get-away for Charlotte who gave birth to 14 of her 15 children there, the house became known as the Queen’s House and was the architectural core of the present Buckingham Palace. George and Charlotte led a simple life with their children, residing at the Queen’s House, Windsor Castle, and Kew Palace. The family took summer holidays at Weymouth in Dorset, England which made Weymouth one of the first seaside resorts in England. The simplicity of the royal family’s life dismayed some of the courtiers. Upon hearing that the King, Queen, and the Queen’s brother went for a walk by themselves in Richmond, Lady Mary Coke said, “I am not satisfied in my mind about the propriety of a Queen walking in town unattended.”
George’s reign, which was longer than any previous British monarch, was marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdom, much of the rest of Europe, and also parts of Africa, the Americas and Asia. Early in his reign, Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years’ War, and became the dominant European power in North America and India. However, many of Britain’s American colonies were soon lost in the American Revolutionary War. Further wars against Napoleonic France from 1793 concluded in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The marriages of two of George’s brothers to women he considered unsuitable led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772. The act stipulated that no descendant of George II under the age of 25, with the exception of descendants of princesses who married into foreign families, could marry without obtaining the consent of the sovereign. Over the age of 25, those wishing to marry without obtaining consent needed to inform the Privy Council of their intention. They would then be free to marry in a year if no objection had been raised by Parliament. The Royal Marriages Act was repealed on March 26, 2015 as a result of the 2011 Perth Agreement. The Royal Marriages Act’s provisions were replaced by less limited restrictions that apply only to the first six people in the line of succession.
The only disruption in the family’s domestic lives were George’s attacks of illness. There has been speculation that King George suffered from porphyria. The American Revolutionary War and the loss of the American colonies was a great blow to George and in 1788, he suffered another attack. This attack was more serious and George was terribly deranged for a period of six months. Fanny Burney, a novelist, diarist, and playwright, accepted the post of Queen Charlotte’s Keeper of the Robes in 1786 and left an account of some of George’s behaviors. On one memorable occasion, George chased after her at Windsor. George would become extremely agitated and shout, “What! What! What!” Supposedly, he was found on one occasion conversing with an oak tree which he believed to be the King of Prussia. However, George made a full recovery and on April 23, St. George’s Day, in 1790, the royal family attended a thanksgiving service for his recovery.
George had established himself as one of the more popular Hanoverian kings. He was admired for his respectable private life and gained sympathy for his illness. He inherited the family love of music and was a patron of the arts and sciences. George was very interested in agriculture and his creation of model farms at Windsor earned him the nickname “Farmer George” which he adored.
By 1805, George was almost completely blind. On October 25, 1809, a golden jubilee for the 50th year of his reign was held. Princess Amelia, George’s youngest child, died on November 10, 1810 and this hastened his final decline. George became so ill that it was necessary for Parliament to pass the Regency Act of 1811. The Prince of Wales acted as Regent until his father died in 1820. Queen Charlotte was her husband’s legal guardian, but could not bring herself to visit him due to his violent outbursts and erratic behavior.
George spent the rest of his life at Windsor Castle, blind, deaf and in a state of dementia. He was unaware that Charlotte died in November of 1818. At Christmas of 1819, George spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. Under the care of his second son Frederick, Duke of York, King George III lived on until January 29, 1820, six days after the death of his fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent. His remains were buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in the Royal Tomb House that he had constructed under St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, which is now under the Albert Memorial Chapel. King George III was succeeded by two of his sons King George IV and King William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to Queen Victoria, the only legitimate child of the Edward, Duke of Kent, and the last monarch of the House of Hanover.