xxxxxGeorge III (1738-1820) succeeded his grandfather, George II, as King of Great Britain and Ireland and the Elector of Hanover in 1760, beginning a reign which, officially, lasted sixty years. The first period of his rule opened with the final engagements of the Seven Years' War and the favourable Treaty of Paris in 1763 and - mainly due to his own intransigence and the ineptitude of his chief minister Lord North - ended with defeat in North America, the loss of the American colonies, and the humiliating terms of the Peace of Paris twenty years later. (The portrait is by the Scottish artist Allan Ramsay.)

       Unlike his two predecessors, George III was born and educated in England. He therefore showed little interest in Hanover, being determined to rule as well as reign in the land of his birth. We are told that on his accession his mother whispered to him “George be a king!”, but he didn’t really need her advice. A headstrong and skilful intriguer, he was determined to assert his royal prerogatives. Taking a leaf out of the Whigs' book, he achieved his end by bribery and patronage - the giving of money or lucrative appointments to ensure a member's support. He chose the ineffectual Lord Bute as his chief advisor, and he it was who brought the Seven Years' War to a speedy end following William Pitt's resignation in 1761. This served to break the power of the Whigs, the party which had dominated English politics during the reigns of the first two Georges. Butexdid not last long, and nor did his successors, George Grenville, Lord Rockingham and the Duke of Grafton, but in 1770 king George found a man who would faithfully do his bidding, the able and congenial Lord North (1732-1792). Together they built up a party of King's Friends in parliament, and gained the support they required.

      Not without good reason, the next twelve years came to be known as the king's "personal rule", and it was during this very period, as we shall see, that the policies he pursued provoked the American War of Independence. Throughout the rebellion the king remained adamantly opposed to any form of concession. As a result, the protest smouldered on - fuelled by such events as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party -, burst into the flames of war in 1775, and ended in a humiliating defeat for the British government and crown at the Battle of Yorktown in 1782. George was devastated by this outcome, but not repentant of his actions. Indeed, he so detested the granting of independence to the American colonies, that he even considered abdication. In the meantime, North was forced to resign, and there followed a period of political turmoil in which three ministries were formed and fell apart in the space of two years.

As one would expect, the very idea of a King's party came under fierce attack. The Member of Parliament for Aylesbury, John Wilkes (1725-1797), for example, in his 45th edition of his periodical North Briton in April 1763, launched a particularly bitter attack upon the king's political activities and his supporters. Regarded as seditious, he was expelled from the House of Commons and arrested by the government. The law court's condemnation of this arrest was a landmark in the struggle for personal liberty and the freedom of the press. He took refuge for a time in France, but the need for parliamentary reform was further heightened in 1768, when he returned and was elected three times for Middlesex. Being regarded as an outlaw, he was arbitrarily expelled by the Commons, but this only served to make him a martyr in the cause of liberty, and increase the demand for changes in the electoral system.

And there was some powerful criticism, too, of the king's personal policy towards the American "rebels". The politician Edmund Burke, for example, arguing for the independence of the Commons, spoke out in favour of the colonists on the question of taxation, and called for conciliation. Likewise the Whig leader Charles James Fox openly opposed the king's policy during the American War of Independence, and this led to a bitter feud between the two men, ending with Fox being forced from government in 1783. Andxonly three years earlier a resolution put forward by John Dunning and passed by a small majority had bluntly stated that "the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing and should be diminished".

    And open conflict was not confined to distant overseas territories. At home, a revolt broke out in Ireland in 1763, a protest against the harsh conditions endured by those working on the land, and in April 1780 the Irish leader Henry Grattan (illustrated) demanded Home Rule for Ireland. Later in the year, Ireland was granted free trade with Britain and allowed to take part in the lucrative trade with the colonies, but this was not sufficient. Nor did the amendment of Poynings' Law in 1782, giving legislative initiative back to the Irish Parliament, stop the protest. As we shall see, unrest continued and in 1798 (G3b) led to an uprising of Irish Catholics demanding parliamentary reform and total Catholic emancipation, a rebellion which culminated in the Battle of Vinegar Hill.

Meanwhile in England a strong anti-Catholic movement arose against the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, in which penalties imposed on Roman Catholics were removed - much against the wishes of the monarch himself. In June 1780 the so-called Gordon Riots or "No Popery" riots broke out in London, and Roman Catholic churches were plundered. Its leader, Lord George Gordon - who was later acquitted of a charge of treason - led a protest march to the Houses of Parliament, and this was followed by several days of rioting and the death of 300. These disturbances were to figure later in the novel Barnaby Rudge, published by the English novelist Charles Dickens in 1841.

Because of his interest in the changes taking place in agriculture, the king was often affectionately referred to as "Farmer George", but as we shall see, it was during his time as monarch that Britain was to be slowly transformed from an agricultural to an industrial nation. In this first period of his reign, men like the engineers James Brindley, Abraham Darby and James Watt, and the textile inventors James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton, - not to mention scientists like Joseph Priestly - were to bring about the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

 In 1756 George suffered his first attack of insanity, probably due to an illness called porphyria which affects the brain and the nervous system. He recovered fairly quickly but, as we shall see, he suffered further and more serious attacks as his reign progressed. Despite his determination to take over the reigns of government on coming to the throne, he was an honest, family man with a sense of public duty and, in general, this made him a popular monarch. At the age of 22, however, he lacked the self-confidence and the political maturity required to lead the country in these early years, and his obstinacy got in the way of conciliation. Only later did he develop more of the attributes required of a statesman.

xxxxxWith the fall of the Fox-North coalition, an unlikely merger which had been formed in April 1783 during the dying days of the War of American Independence, the king appointed William Pitt the Younger, son of Pitt the Elder, as his chief minister. A young man of just 24 years of age (illustrated), it was something of a gamble but, as we shall see (G3b), it was one that paid off.

GEORGE III  1760 - 1783  (G3a)  Reigned 1760 - 1820


John Wlikes


The English artist Thomas Gainsborough, having settled in fashionable Bath, begins to paint the society portraits for which he is famous. He was also a serious landscape painter.

The English pottery manufacturer, Josiah Wedgwood, starts his own business at Burslem in Staffordshire. Eight years later he opens a second factory at Etruria near Stoke-on-Trent.


At the Battle of Panipat, the Mahrathas, aiming to succeed the Mughals as rulers of India, are roundly defeated by the Afghans, led by their great leader Ahmad Shah Durrani.

The Bridgewater Canal, the work of the English engineer James Brindley, is opened, the first of many inland waterways which were to stimulate trade and industry in Britain.

The Italian Giovanni Battista Morgagni, professor of anatomy at Padua, founds the study of pathology with the publication of his major work On the Seats and Causes of Diseases.


The Scotsman Robert Adam is appointed architect to the King. Assisted by his brothers, he gains a wide reputation for his interior design work in the new neo-classical "Adam style".


The French social philosopher and political theorist Jean Jacques Rousseau produces his Social Contract on government reform, and his Émile, a treatise on new teaching methods.

The English clockmaker John Harrison designs the first practical marine chronometer. This finally resolves the age-old problem of determining longitude when at sea. He eventually receives a prize from the Board of Longitude.

In his Orpheus and Eurydice the German composer Christoph Gluck rebels against the traditional Italian opera, using music to express and heighten the story’s emotional content.


The Treaty of Paris brings an end to the Seven Years War. Britain, emerging as the world's greatest colonial power, gains most of North America and virtual mastery of India.

Chief Pontiac of the Ottawas unites a number of Indian tribes and leads a co-ordinated attack upon the British along the North American frontier. Peace is not restored until 1766.


The Englishman James Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny, greatly increasing the production of yarn. Hand spinners, fearing for their jobs, destroy his home and machine.

The Castle of Otranto, a medieval horror tale, is published by the English writer Horace Walpole. The first of the "Gothic novels, it sets a fashion for tales of the supernatural.

Osei Kwadwo becomes leader of the Ashanti in West Africa, and expands his kingdom. It continues to grow in size and strength, but comes up against the British in 1824 (G4).


The Stamp Act is passed in England, a direct tax upon the American colonies, and causes violent, widespread protest. A congress in New York sets out its "rights and grievances" and sends them to king and parliament.

The Austrian prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart writes his first symphony at the age of nine. As we shall see, his great works are produced in the late 1700s along with those of his fellow countryman Franz Joseph Haydn (G3b).


The Vicar of Wakefield is published by the Anglo-Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith. Other works include the poem The Deserted Village and the witty comedy She Stoops to Conquer.

The rococo artist Jean Honoré Fragonard paints The Swing, a work which, like those of his master, François Boucher, depicts the leisure and pleasures of life at the French Court.

The English painter George Stubbs publishes his Anatomy of the Horse, illustrated with his own engravings. His sporting pictures and country scenes were extremely popular.


The last volume of Tristram Shandy is published. The work of the English writer Laurence Sterne, this bawdy novel contains two famous characters, Parson Yorick and Uncle Toby.

In North America the Mason-Dixon line marks out the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. It later came to mean the division between the "free" and slave states.

The French naturalist Georges Buffon completes the first fifteen volumes of his monumental treatise on Natural History. The full work is not completed until 1804.


Minna von Barnhelm, produced by the German dramatist Gotthold Lessing, marks the birth of classical German comedy. He was also an outstanding critic on a variety of subjects.


The Royal Academy of Arts is founded in London by George III. The English artist Joshua Reynolds, one of the finest portrait painters of the day, is appointed its first president.


The Frenchman Joseph Cugnot builds a steam carriage and produces the first automobile. Driven by a pair of high-pressure cylinders, it reaches a speed of just over 2 miles an hour.

Commentaries on the Laws of England, the first comprehensive study of this subject, is written by the English jurist William Blackstone. It becomes widely used as a textbook.


In Massachusetts, British troops open fire on a crowd of hecklers and kill five civilians. The "Boston Massacre" embitters still further relations between Britain and the colonists.

The English explorer James Cook lands at Botany Bay in Australia after surveying the islands of New Zealand. This is the first of his three famous voyages to the Pacific Ocean. He is killed by natives during a skirmish in Hawaii in 1779.


The English inventor Richard Arkwright opens up factories at Nottingham and Cromford,

using horse and water power to operate his own invention, the spinning frame. The factory system had arrived and, with it, the formative stage of the Industrial Revolution.

The Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett completes his major work The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. Earlier works included the adventures of Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle.


 Prussia, Austria and Russia take part in the first Partition of Poland. The third partition in 1795 (G3b), puts an end to the country as an independent nation until 1918.

After rediscovering the source of the Blue Nile in 1770, the Scottish explorer James Bruce becomes the first European to follow this river's course to its confluence with the White Nile.

The Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, one of the founders of modern chemistry, discovers oxygen and fluorine. During his research he discovered many new materials, including the acids arsenic, citric and lactic.

The Englishman Warren Hastings is appointed governor of Bengal and, two years later, the first governor general of India. He dominates Anglo-Indian affairs over the next 13 years.


A peasant revolt against serfdom breaks out in Russia. Led by Yemelian Pugachev, it is crushed the following year, and landowners are given even stricter controls over their serfs.

As a protest against a tax on tea, Colonists throw a cargo of tea into Boston harbour. This Boston Tea Party brings swift reprisals and leads to the War of American Independence.

The English man of letters, Samuel Johnson, starts out on his "Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland", accompanied by his talented biographer and friend James Boswell.


To ensure their loyalty, the Quebec Act safeguards the language, faith and civil law of the 60,000 French Roman Catholics living in Canada, the former colonists of New France.

After six years of war with Turkey, the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji secures for Catherine the Great of Russia a foothold in the Crimea and access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

The German literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gains European fame with his Sorrows of Young Werther. His masterpiece, Faust, was not produced until 1808 (G3c).

The Englishman Joseph Priestley, a founder of modern chemistry, discovers oxygen. A non-conformist minister, his religious and political views - notably his support of the French Revolution - force him to emigrate to America in 1794.

The German-born furniture designer Jean Henri Riesener becomes cabinet maker to the French king, Louis XVI. He produced many pieces in neo-classical style for Marie Antoinette.


The American War of Independence opens with the battles of Lexington, Concord and  Bunker Hill. The success of the militia forces greatly encourages the revolutionary cause.

In India the first of the Anglo-Maratha Wars breaks out. It lasts for seven years and ends in stalemate. Two other wars follow before the Maratha are finally subdued in 1818 (G3c).

The Scottish engineer James Watt improves upon Newcomen’s pumping engine. By 1782

his series of innovations makes it suitable for use in industry’s growing factory system.

The comedy The Barber of Seville is produced by the French dramatist Beaumarchais, and The Marriage of Figaro follows in 1778. Later, both are made into famous operas.

The Irish-born dramatist and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan produces his witty comedy of manners The Rivals. His masterpiece, School for Scandal, follows in 1777.

Jeremy Bentham, the English philosopher, writes his first major work, Fragment on Government. His principles of Utilitarianism are contained in his treatise of 1789 (G3b).


The American commander General George Washington wins the Battle for Boston, but the British drive him out of New York and, by the end of the year, he comes close to defeat.

The American Declaration of Independence is drawn up, but the task of providing a workable national constitution via the Articles of the Confederation proves very difficult. The document has a marked influence on political thought.

 The Wealth of Nations is published by the Scottish economist Adam Smith. A treatise in  favour of private enterprise and free trade, it has a profound influence on economic thought.


The French scientist Antoine Lavoisier publishes the theory of combustion. His method of  research and his classification of elements mark the beginning of modern chemistry.

The British General Burgoyne is defeated by General Gates at the Battles of Saratoga. These victories prove a decisive turning point in the Colonists’ struggle for independence.


Following the Battles of Saratoga, a Franco-American military alliance is signed. France prepares to send men and ships to North America, and threatens an invasion of England.

The War of the Bavarian Succession breaks out between Prussia and Austria after Austria seizes Lower Bavaria. Frederick the Great wins a diplomatic victory a year later.


The first cast-iron bridge in the world is constructed at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, England, by Abraham Darby. It is one of the first major structures of the Industrial Revolution.

The Englishman Samuel Crompton invents his "spinning mule", a machine which was destined to revolutionise the cotton industry and hasten the move to the factory system.

A Franco-Spanish force begins the Great Siege of Gibraltar, the last and most concerted attack upon the "Rock". The British garrison holds out and the siege ends in February 1783.


Dutch farmers (Boers) in South Africa, moving inland, come into conflict with Bantu tribes near Fish River. This conflict is the first of a long series of Kaffir or Cape Frontier Wars.


A rising against Spanish rule breaks out in Peru, led by an Indian claiming to be Tupac Amaru II, a descendant of the Inca chief killed in 1572. The revolt is crushed in 3 years.


In Ireland the leader Henry Grattan demands home rule. In London the Gordon Riots, a revolt against Popery, plunders Roman Catholic churches and leads to 300 deaths.

A serious plague and famine begins in Japan and, over the next six years, more than one million people die. These enormous losses hasten the breakdown of the feudal system.


The American War of Independence virtually comes to an end when the British, led by  General Cornwallis, surrender to a combined Franco- American army at Yorktown.

In the Second of the Anglo-Mysore Wars, the British, led by Warren Hastings, keep their hold on southern India following the decisive defeat of Hyder Ali at the Battle of Porto Novo.

The German-born British astronomer William Herschel discovers the planet Uranus. He also found 2,500 nebulae, catalogued 848 double stars, and investigated infrared radiation.

The Critique of Pure Reason is published by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. As we shall see (1788 G3b), in this and later works he lays the foundation of modern philosophy.

The English man-of-letters Samuel Johnson, famous for his Dictionary, published in 1755 (G2), completes his last major work, a ten-volume treatise on The Lives of the Poets.


The Scottish engineer James Watt, still improving upon Newcomen’s pumping engine, converts it into a rotary action and makes steam power available for wide industrial use.


In France, a hot-air balloon made by the Montgolfier brothers makes the world's first manned flight. With two passengers aboard it travels six miles across Paris in 20 minutes.


The Peace of Paris, a collection of treaties, finally brings an end to the American War of Independence. Britain recognises the "United States", but the new nation was to take some time in the making.

The next twenty years of George III’s reign (G3b) were to be no less eventful, with trouble in Ireland, the French Revolutionary Wars, and a recurrence of the king’s mental illness.






George III: detail, from the studio of the Scottish portrait painter Allan Ramsay (1713-1784), 1762 – Wallace Collection, London. Wilkes: detail, after the Irish engraver Richard Houston (c1721-1775), 1769 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Grattan: by the English painter Francis Wheatley (1747-1801) ), 1780 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Pitt: attributed to the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), c1787 – private collection. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan –

































































Snippets During George3a reign Synopsis of George 3 Reign (G3a)

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