On this day in 1760, George William Frederick became King George III. He is probably most notable for being king during the creation of the United Kingdom. But it is hard to take kings of this period forward all that seriously. From the 17th century onward, the monarchy lost more and more power. Certainly by the reign of William and Mary at the end of the 17th century, monarchs understood that their grasp of power was weak. And Parliament clearly had the power by the time of George III.
There has been much written about George over the years — much of it bad. But it doesn’t make much sense to me. Nothing would have been much different if someone else had been king. As it is, the man was crazy as a loon in 1788, which is depicted in The Madness of King George. And despite the way it might look in the film, he stayed crazy until his death in 1820. So for well over half his reign, he was insane, and the country did just fine.
I can’t help but quote my favorite line from the film, “Who can flourish on such a daily diet of compliance?” The monarchy exchanged the constant threat of death for the life of a much beloved pet. But even at the time of George, they still hadn’t fully accepted that idea. So they got compliance and maintained their delusions of power. But the truth is that had it come down to it, Parliament would have destroyed George III and the future George IV.