The loss of the American colonies, confirmed by the Peace of Paris in 1783, was a humiliation for the British government and, in equal measure, for the British king. Though not, perhaps, the autocratic monarch his opponents (particularly the Whigs) would have him painted, George III was nevertheless a powerful force in politics in the first twenty years of his reign. Via his parliamentary “friends”, led by his chief minister Lord North, he played no small part in attempting to bring the colonists to heel. He opposed American independence at every step and fully endorsed, if he did not initiate, the punitive measures which eventually led to the rebellion. (The portrait is by the German artist Johann Zoffany).

After 1783, however, the majority of his “friends” in the Commons, like old soldiers, simply faded away. Indeed, that year marks a turning point in his reign and, in some respects, in the history of parliamentary government in Britain. Whilst he clearly retained some influence in political affairs, his blatant attempts to reassert royal authority by one means or another were clearly at an end. North’s resignation was followed by two short-lived ministries, and an unlikely coalition between Charles Fox and Lord North, but in 1785 the king forced the dismissal of both men and appointed the young William Pitt as his first minister. Under him government was destined to return to a parliamentary system more in keeping with that developed under the king’s two predecessors George I and George II. Indeed, it was during the long premiership of Pitt, a most able politician, that cabinet government together with its principle of corporate responsibility, really took root. This was to impose a permanent restriction upon royal authority within a constitutional monarchy.

And another and, as it happens, sad reason for a decline in the king’s authority, was the worsening of his mental instability. First noticed in 1756, his bouts of madness became more frequent and more serious from 1788, possibly triggered by deep anxiety over the failure of his earlier policies and the waywardness of George, his son and heir. In that year an acute attack made him incapable of carrying out his duties, and a political showdown ensued, wherein Charles Fox prepared to place the Prince of Wales on the throne. The crisis was averted by the king’s sudden and unexpected recovery the following year, but for the next ten years George played little part in the day-to-day affairs of state. And, as we shall see (G3c), his condition became progressively worse in the opening years of the new century, and he was eventually removed from office.  

   In 1801, however, his disability did not prevent him from entering once more into the political arena, this time in respect of Ireland. Following a rebellion in favour of Irish independence, eventually crushed at the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798, Pitt came to the conclusion that a merging of the two parliaments was the most promising means of preventing further trouble. He steered the Act of Union through parliament in 1801, but his aim to give full civil rights to Roman Catholics - which he rightly saw as a necessary corollary - was thwarted by the king. He used all his influence to throw out this measure, and a golden opportunity to promote Anglo-Irish conciliation was lost. George argued that this ran counter to his coronation oath (binding him to maintain the rights and privileges of the Church of England), but this is perhaps another example where he showed a serious lack of political judgment. Pitt felt honour bound to resign, but he returned to office in 1804, having agreed to drop the emancipation issue.

Almost the entire twenty years of this middle period of George III’s reign was dominated by the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars it spawned. At first there was some marked support in Britain for the aspirations of the French revolutionaries, and security at home had to be tightened, but following the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, the Reign of Terror, and the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars, the king became, in fact, a symbol of national resistance. Already an object of sympathy on account of his illness, and the unseemly behaviour of his son, the Prince of Wales, the old king now became a father figure and the guardian of the country’s freedom. And his prestige, enhanced by Nelson’s victories at the Battles of the Nile and Copenhagen, was to reach greater heights during the triumphs achieved by his countrymen during the Napoleonic Wars (G3c).

But while the French Revolution dominated Western Europe, in the east Poland was swallowed up by Russia, Austria and Prussia. Further afield the British were consolidating their hold on India and Canada, and the United States was putting to the test its new constitution, led by their first President, George Washington. And on the other side of the world, a small penal settlement, established along the coast near Botany Bay, marked the opening up of the vast land known as Australia.

The Treaty of Amiens of 1802 brought peace to a troubled Europe, but it was merely a breathing space. Napoleon, First Consul of France, having come to power in 1799, was now bent on spreading his own, personal revolution across the continent. As we shall see, the Napoleonic Wars were destined to dwarf the Revolutionary Wars both in scale and violence.

Incidentally, having recovered from his serious bout of madness in 1789, the king took his first bathe at Weymouth in Dorset. He was given a huge welcome, and during his paddle in the sea the local town band stood in the water and played the national anthem. It was his eldest son George, Prince of Wales, who made visits to the seaside a popular outing, and bathing then became a national pastime.

GEORGE III 1783 - 1802  (G3b)  Reigned 1760 - 1820


George III: by the German painter Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), 1771/2 – Royal Collection, UK. Liberty: detail, by the French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), 1810 – The Louvre, Paris. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan –



Catherine the Great of Russia seizes the Crimea. This leads to the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-91. The Treaty of Jassy in 1792 makes Russia the major power in the Black Sea.


In India, the Treaty of Mangalore ends the Second Anglo-Mysore War. By the India Act, the British government begins to take over control of the country from the East India Co.

The puddling process, introduced by the Englishman Henry Cort, revolutionises the manufacture of wrought iron and gives a further boost to the Industrial Revolution.

Jacques-Louis David, the French neo-classical painter, produces his masterpiece, The Oath of the Horatii, a work extolling the virtues and grandeur of ancient, republican Rome.


The French balloonist , François Blanchard, and the American John Jeffries, become the first persons to cross the English Channel by air. They “fly” from Dover to Calais.

The Scottish geologist James Hutton puts forward his idea - later published in his Theory of the Earth - that the earth was formed by heat and evolved gradually over millions of years.


Because of its strategic and commercial value, the British East India Company establishes a colony on Penang, a small island off the coast of Malaya in the Strait of Malacca.

The Austrian musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composes his world famous opera The Marriage of Figaro. He wrote a vast wealth of sacred and secular music.

The Kilmarnock edition of his early poems brings lasting fame to the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. A poetic genius in his native language, his major work was Tam O’Shanter.

The Frenchmen Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat become the first men to climb Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain. The Swiss scientist Horace Saussure climbs it in 1787.


A Convention at Philadelphia draws up the constitution of the United States, a written

 document which establishes a federal government within a republic. It is passed in 1788.

The brilliant French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1777 G3a) publishes his Method of Chemical Nomen-clature and, two years later, his Treatise on Chemical Elements.

He is guillotined in 1794.


The British captain Arthur Phillip arrives off Botany Bay, New South Wales, with 760  convicts, and sets up the first penal settlement in Australia on the site of modern Sydney.

The French naturalist Georges Buffon dies, having completed 36 volumes of his treatise on Natural History (discussed 1767 G3a). His assistants complete the final 8 volumes by 1804.


France becomes bankrupt. Political unrest grows throughout the country and Louis XVI is forced to recall the States General, a body made up of nobility, clergy and commoners.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant, writes Critique of Practical Reason, the second of his three Critiques. His innovative work formed the basis of modern philosophical thought.

The English historian Edward Gibbon completes his masterpiece, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a work which ranks as one of the world’s greatest history books.

The Italian-born Joseph Louis Lagrange, one of the most outstanding mathematicians and physical scientists of the 18th century, publishes his major work Mécanique analytique.


George Washington is elected the first President of the United States. The city named after him in the District of Columbia becomes the seat of government the following year.

Mutiny breaks out aboard HMS Bounty. Captain Bligh and 18 members of his crew are set adrift in an open boat in the South Seas. The mutineers settle on Pitcairn and Tahiti.


In July, the French Revolution opens with the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris.

Work begins on the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but the country seethes with unrest.

The English philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham publishes his Principles of Morals and Legislation, the work in which he sets out his doctrine known as Utilitarianism.


The English statesman Edmund Burke denounces the revolution in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. It is countered in 1791 by Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man.

The English furniture designer Thomas Sheraton arrives in London. The following year he begins the publication of his influential The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers’ Drawing Book.

The leading British cartographer Aaron Arrowsmith establishes his reputation with his first map of the world. The country’s Ordnance Survey was founded the following year.


In France, Louis XVI, after reluctantly agreeing to a constitutional monarchy, tries to flee the country - the Flight to Varennes - but is captured and taken back to Paris under arrest.

James Boswell, one of the greatest of English biographers, publishes his Life of Samuel Johnson. He first met the English man of letters in 1763 and remained a life-long friend.

The west coast of Canada is surveyed by the English explorer George Vancouver, whilst, in the east, the Constitutional Act is passed, dividing the colony of Quebec into two parts.

The Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn, the father of the symphony and founder of the string quartet, arrives in England and begins work on his twelve London Symphonies.

The negro Toussaint Louverture leads a slave rebellion in the French colony of Saint Domingue. He dies in prison in 1803, but the French are forced to leave the following year.



By the Treaty of Jassy, ending the war between Russia and Turkey begun in 1787, the Russians finally gain unrestricted access to warm water ports in the Black Sea.

The English radical thinker Mary Wollstonecraft publishes her Vindication of the Rights of Woman, calling for a system of education which would enhance their natural abilities.

The English politician and humanitarian William Wilberforce persuades Parliament to agree to the gradual abolition of the slave trade, but it takes another fifteen years to be official.

The Austrians and Prussians invade France, but are defeated at the Battle of Valmy at the start of the Revolutionary Wars. The king is dismissed and France becomes a Republic.

In France the King, Louis XVI, and his wife, Marie Antoinette, are executed by guillotine and a Reign of Terror begins against the aristocracy and anyone opposing the new Republic.

The American inventor Eli Whitney perfects a “cotton gin” for cleaning cotton fibre.  Enabling one man to do the work of 200, it greatly increases cotton production in the South.

A trade mission to China by Lord Macartney ends in failure. The Emperor Ch'ien-Lung  informs George III that China has no need of manufactures by “outside barbarians”.


The execution of Danton, followed by that of Robespierre, ends the Reign of Terror. Some 17,000 men and women were executed throughout France, the majority by the guillotine.

The first Japanese artist to become well-known in Europe, Kitagawa Utamaro, produces his Physiognomies of Women, a set of prints remarkable for their colour and beauty of line.

The German poet, dramatist and historian Friedrich Schiller begins his long friendship with Goethe. Over the next ten years he produces some of his finest dramas, including Wallenstein, Joan of Arc and William Tell.

The English mystic poet and artist William Blake completes his Songs of Experience, a work which includes the famous poem which begins:- Tyger, Tyger, burning bright …


By the Treaties of Basle the French republic makes peace with Prussia, Holland, Sweden and Spain. Uprisings are put down and The Directory takes over the government of France.

In South Africa, the British seize Cape Settlement from the Dutch and, in the Indian Ocean, begin the occupation of Sri Lanka, taking over the Dutch island the following year.

The Scottish explorer Mungo Park starts to trace the course of the Niger (Black) River in West Africa. He makes some progress, but is killed in 1806 during a second expedition.

Methodism in England, formed mainly by the endeavours of John Wesley as from the 1730s, breaks away from the established church and becomes an independent movement.

Following the third partition, Poland is finally swallowed up by her powerful neighbours, Russia, Prussia and Austria. The Polish nation is not restored until 1918, 123 years later.

Making his first public appearance in Vienna, the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven plays one of his early concertos.The first of his great symphonies is produced in 1803 (G3c).


The English doctor Edward Jenner makes the first successful inoculation against smallpox by means of vaccination. He publishes the results of his work two years later.


The British defeat a Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, but at home there are serious naval mutinies at Spithead and Nore over pay and conditions of service.

By the Treaty of Campo Formio, achieved by the victories of General Bonaparte, Austria cedes to France its lands in Belgium and Italy, and German territory up to the Rhine.


A rebellion for Irish independence, led by the Society of United Irishmen, is crushed at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. This revolt leads to the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.

General Bonaparte, abandoning an invasion of England, strikes at Britain by invading Egypt. He captures Cairo after defeating the Egyptians at the Battle of the Pyramids.

The British admiral Horatio Nelson destroys the French fleet at the Battle of Aboukir Bay, ending French designs in the Middle East and leaving their army stranded in Egypt.

The English poet Taylor Samuel Coleridge publishes The Ancient Mariner. The poem appears in Lyrical Ballads, a collection produced jointly with the romantic poet William Wordsworth.

In his Essay on the Principles of Population the English economist Thomas Malthus predicts that, in time, the world will be unable to support its growing population.


In India, the Anglo-Mysore Wars come to an end. The Mysore leader Tippu Sahib is killed during the capture of his capital Seringapatam, and the British take control of his state.

A new coalition of nations is formed to contain the French, but it argues over strategy. Napoleon Bonaparte, returning from Egypt, seizes power in The Consulate.


Napoleon defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo, north of Genoa. The Second Coalition collapses and France regains northern Italy by the Treaty of Luneville (1801).                      

The Italian physicist Alessandro Volta devises a rudimentary battery known as a “voltaic pile”. His name was later given to the volt, a unit of electromotive force.


The Act of Union unites Great Britain - England, Wales and Scotland - with Ireland to form the United Kingdom. The Union flag, or Jack, a combination of the three flags, is first used in Britain.


Admiral Sir Hyde Parker destroys the Danish fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen. Lord Nelson leads the attack and, ignoring a command to withdraw, wins a crushing victory.

The American inventor Robert Fulton produces the Nautilus, the first practical submarine. In 1807 (G3c) his steamboat, the Clermont makes its maiden voyage on the Hudson River.

ThexGerman astronomer Johann Bode publishes Uranographia, the first atlas to show all the stars visible to the naked eye. This work greatly increases public interest in astronomy.


The Treaty of Amiens provides a breathing space in the struggle between Britain and  revolutionary France. But the battles of the Napoleonic Wars are soon to come (G3c).



























































Synopsis of George 3 Reign (G3b) Snippets During George3b reign

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