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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
George III

King of Great Britain and Ireland and elector of Hanover from 1760; eldest son of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha; married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1761).

His father died when George was 12, making him heir to his grandfather, *George II. His first decade on the throne, from the age of 22, was unsettled; there was a lack of public confidence in the mentor chosen for him, his first prime minister, the earl of Bute (1713–92); and there were devastating attacks on all in authority by *Wilkes.

Matters improved after George found in 1770 a prime minister with whom he could work, Lord North (1732–92), whose term in office lasted until 1782. This period included the entire War of *American Independence, an expensive national disaster for which North and the king shared the public opprobrium, though it was in fact the king who was more resolute than his minister in continuing the conflict to the bitter end.

North fell from power because of the war, and political squabbles and uncertainties immediately returned; but a year later the king appointed another prime minister with whom he achieved an even longer working relationship, William *Pitt. Pitt's first spell in office lasted from 1783 to 1801 and ended because of one particular issue, the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, which was strongly opposed by the king because of his oath on accession to protect the Church of England.

In 1788 George suffered the first serious attack of the mental illness which eventually made him unfit to govern. His contemporaries saw the king when in this condition as quite simply mad; modern medical opinion, not unanimous, diagnoses the cause as porphyria, a rare imbalance of the corpuscles of the blood which can have this effect. His son, the future *George IV (see the *royal house), was about to be appointed regent in 1789 when the king suddenly recovered – postponing the beginning of the *Regency for another 22 years, until 1811. A lasting legacy of George III is his superb collection of books, now part of the *British Library.

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