George III is today mainly remembered for two things: losing the American colonies and his mental health problems. Born in 1738, he ascended the throne in 1760 on the death of his grandfather George II. Faced with large debts, he negotiated a deal with parliament whereby he gave up rights to the Crown Estate and a share of taxes.
In return he would lose the obligation to fund the civil service and would receive an annual sum of money, as voted by parliament, known as the Civil List – an arrangement that continued until 2012.
Trouble with the American colonies began in 1763, when King George issued a Royal Proclamation limiting further westwards expansion in order to protect the property rights of Native Americans.
To compensate for the costs of defending against future French incursions, the government introduced the Stamp Tax, leading to complaints that the British were demanding “taxation without representation”. The tax was repealed, but disputes over tea duties led to the War of Independence, which began in 1776 and resulted in the British recognising the United States of America in 1783.
Throughout his reign George III suffered from mental illness. Some think he suffered from the genetic disease porphyria; some suggest bipolar disorder. He narrowly avoided being replaced by his son in 1789, dramatised in the 1994 film The Madness of King George (pictured). Grief over the death of his daughter, Amelia, in 1810, combined with signs of dementia, pushed him into a depression from which he never recovered. He died in January 1820.
Also on this day
On this day in 1886 Karl Benz patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen, with a new and revolutionary power source – the internal combustion engine. Read more here.