Andrew Roberts, one of Britain's premier historians, overturns the received wisdom on George III
III, Britain's longest-reigning king, has gone down in history as 'the
cruellest tyrant of this age' (Thomas Paine, eighteenth century), 'a
sovereign who inflicted more profound and enduring injuries upon this
country than any other modern English king' (W.E.H. Lecky, nineteenth
century), 'one of England's most disastrous kings' (J.H. Plumb,
twentieth century) and as the pompous monarch of the musical Hamilton (twenty-first century).
Roberts's magnificent new biography takes entirely the opposite view.
It portrays George as intelligent, benevolent, scrupulously devoted to
the constitution of his country and (as head of government as well as
head of state) navigating the turbulence of eighteenth-century politics
with a strong sense of honour and duty. He was a devoted husband and
family man, a great patron of the arts and sciences, keen to advance
Britain's agricultural capacity ('Farmer George') and determined that
her horizons should be global. He could be stubborn and self-righteous,
but he was also brave, brushing aside numerous assassination attempts,
galvanising his ministers and generals at moments of crisis and stoical
in the face of his descent - five times during his life - into a
horrifying loss of mind.
The book gives a detailed, revisionist
account of the American Revolutionary War, persuasively taking apart a
significant proportion of the Declaration of Independence, which Roberts
shows to be largely Jeffersonian propaganda. In a later war, he
describes how George's support for William Pitt was crucial in the
battle against Napoleon. And he makes a convincing, modern diagnosis of
George's terrible malady, very different to the widely accepted medical
view and to popular portrayals.
Roberts writes, 'the people who
knew George III best loved him the most', and that far from being a
tyrant or incompetent, George III was one of our most admirable
monarchs. The diarist Fanny Burney, who spent four years at his court
and saw him often, wrote 'A noble sovereign this is, and when justice is
done to him, he will be as such acknowledged'. In presenting this fresh
view of Britain's most misunderstood monarch, George III shows one of
Britain's premier historians at his sparkling best.
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