George III

Steven Parissien considers the reputation of one of the most controversial of British monarchs: the king who lost the American colonies, spent much of his life in psychological distress but whose active interest in the arts and sciences, and his generous patronage, distinguished him from his Hanoverian predecessors.

George III (r.1760-1820) has always had a controversial reputation. In 1957 Richard Pares wrote that the debate over George III’s constitutional role was ‘one of the most celebrated mulberry bushes in modern British historiography; historians began going round it in 1802 and are still going strong’. The historiographic disputes of the postwar era are a dim memory now. Indeed, despite the fact that he remains one of the most easily-recognised of Britain’s monarchs, relatively little has been written on George III over the last twenty years. However, in this Jubilee year, the importance of his sixty-year reign and his role at its centre – Patriot Prince or absolutist bogeyman? – deserves fresh consideration.

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