George III (1738-1820) was one of the longest reigning British monarchs--reining for an incredible 60 years. We do not yet have details on George III's boyhood, but it is likely he wore dresses. At the times the dresses worn by little girls and boys were virtually identical, although there might have been differences such as blur colored sahes for boys. At the time, there wwas no specialized children's clothing. Boys graduating from dresse would simply be outfitted with small editions of their father's clothes. He also produced a phenomenal number of legitimate heirs. He was the monarch that lost America which proved to be a loss of epic proportions. He is one of the best known English kings to Americans as he was king at the time of the American Revolution and played an important role in it. He is often depicted as a despotic monarch by Americans. This is somewhat unfair. In fact the oriinal draft of the Declration of Independence targeted a despotic Parliament. It was decicded, hwever, that a despotic king made for better propaganda in the struggle with Britian. King George had relatively little to bring about the Revolution, but he became the strongest voice for using force to retain control of the Colonies. George III is also well known for the mental illness he suffered in the later years of his reign.
George III was not, as one might expect, the son of King George II, but rather his grandson. George's father was Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (1707-51). George's father died in 1751 several years before King George II. His mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (1719- ).
George III was born in 1738. We have few details on George's childhood. George was brought up by his mother. As his father the Orince of Wales died when George was only about 13 years old, his mother had an especially important indluence on him. At this time, his grandfather, George II was the King of England.
We have little informatin on the clothing worn by George III and his brothers. The fact that he was raised by his mother must have has some impact on how he was dressed, but I have no details to confirm this. He and his brothers wore dresses as a little boy, as was the custom of the time. The dresses worn by little girls and boys were virtually identical,although there might have been differences such as blue colored sahes for boys. At the time, there was no specialized children's clothing. Boys graduating from dresse would simply be outfitted with small editions of their father's clothes. They would wear suits with knee breeches and white socks. The portrait here shows an example of those suits. Note the long jackets (figure 1). Skeleton suits had not yet appeared. The suits were done in satin often in bright colors. They would have been worn with tri-conored hats.
One source suggests that because George was brought up primarily by his mother, his education was partially neglected. Another source indicates that it was not a lack of education, but simply that George was not very intelligent. At any rate, he could not read until he was 11 years old. His tutors, however, praised him for the amount of effort he was willing to put into solving his academic problems. George was only 12 years old when his father died and his mother's friend, the Earl of Bute, became an important influence on his future development. Lord Bute was King George III's tutor and guardian, and the two men remined close friends in later years.
George fell in love with Sarah Lennox, a descendent of Charles II, but the Earl of Bute persuaded him to bring the relationship to and end and instead arranged for him to marry a German princess, Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz (1744-1818). She was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a branch of the Portuguese Royal House. During their marriage Queen Charlotte gave birth to 15 children. It may seem strange for an English monarch to marry a German woman, but there were multiple reasons. It was not until the 20th century that Germany became the major threat to Britain. For much of English/British history, it was France that was the great threat. At the time Germany was not yet united. This meant that there was a large number of Germn states and royal families, including most of European Protestant monrchies. A Protestant marriage was required by Act of Parliament. And George himself was partially German. The Hannovarians were a German royal family. George III was actually the first member of his family who was not more German than English. Sophie Charlotte was the eighth child of the Prince of Mirow, Charles Louis Frederick, and his wife, Elisabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Her fatherdied when she wa 8 years old In 1752, when she was eight years old, Sophie Charlotte's father died. As princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Sophie Charlotte was descended from an African branch of the Portuguese Royal House. Six hereditary lines can be traced from the Princess back to Margarita de Castro y Sousa. She married George III (1761), shortly after he became king. The ceremony took place at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, London. She was 17 years old at the time. Queen Charlotte was not an educated woman, but she was both intelligent and interested in science. She was an important patroness of the arts. She was especially interested in botony and played a major role in the expansion of Kew Gardens. She had real problens with her mother-in-law. The royal couple had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood--an unuual number at the time. She was extremely distressed by her husband's discent into madness. She continued to play a major role at court even after her husband became ermently impired, largely beause her son, the fiture George IV became estraigned from his wife.
George III certainly fullfilled his responsibility to produce an heir to the throne. He was by all accounts a loving father ti his many children, although his relationship to his oldest son the Prince of Wales (furure George IV) became very strained. He certainly had ample opportunity to hone his parenting skills. He had 15 children! Two of the children, George IV and William IV would succeed their father. The Duke of York, another child would not suceed, but his daughter Victoria would. Which meant the end of the Hannover dynasty. We know very little about the rest of the children at this time.
The children when young, both boys and girls, wore dresses that were indistinguishable in design. Unfortunately we do not have any details about how breeching was handled. We do not know if there was a family cremony. Also we do not know if there was a precise age involved. We know that George and Edward Duke of York were very close un age. Were they breeched chronolgically or was it done at the same time. One image of the boys still in dresses shows them with rather short hair. Apparently the convention in the royal family was to cut the boys' hair before breeching. We see the boys by age 5 years perhaps even earlier wearing brightly colored knee breechs suits. We also notice the boys wearing blouses and shirts with wide open collars. The Duke of Windsor reports that as a boy he used to envy the children of George III. A painting of the children by Gaindsborough showing them in comfortable open collars hung in Windsor Castle.
HBC has little information on George III as a father. The references we have noted indicate that the King showed little interest in the children and that he basically neglected his children.
George III ruled from 1760-1820, presiding over the loss of Britain's American colonies. George III was actually George II's grandson, because The Prince Of Wales, George II's son, died before he ascended to the throne. George's aim was to rule as well as reign, and he was a skillful and astute politician; by 1763 he had managed to regain many of the powers that the Whig inisters had appropriated during the reigns of the first two Georges. His problem was that he lacked the self-confidence and the mature statesmanship to form and achieve any long-term policy. He was the monarch that lost America which proved to be a loss of epic proportions. He is one of the best known English kings to Americans as he was king at the time of the American Revolution and played an important role in it. He is often depicted as a despotic monarch by Americans. This is somewhat unfair. In fact the oriinal draft of the Declaration of Independence targeted a despotic Parliament. It was decicded, hwever, that a despotic king made for better propaganda in the struggle with Britian. It was his Prime Minister, Lord North, who conceived of the royal policies that provoked the American Revolution. King George had relatively little to bring about the Revolution, but he became the strongest voice for using force to retain control of the Colonies.
The unsuccessful conclusion of that long conflict forced North to resign, and during the government crisis that followed, the king himself was almost induced to abdicate. He then took a political gamble by placing the government in the hands of the 24-year-old William Pitt, thereby restoring stability for the rest of the century. George's mind deteriorated in his later years.
Two important artists are asocited with King George III and Queen Charlotte, Allan Ramsay (1713-84) and Johan Zoffany (1733-1810). Of course with 15 children and long reigns, the ryal family had all kinds of commissions to award. Ramsay was a well-established artists at the time George III begame king at a relatively young age. John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, was apatron of Ramsay. He commissioned a portrait of George III at the time still Prince of Wales (1758). This brought Ramsay to George's attention. Somehow John Shackleton (17??-67) was had been Gerge II's Principal Painter in Ordinary was reappounte on George III's accession (1760). It was nt what George would have wanted. Ramsay, however, was given the title ‘one of His Majesty’s Principal Painters in Ordinary’ and assumed the duties of the new King’s painter. George's position with Ramsay can be seen by the King's refusing Lord Eglinton’s request that he sit for Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), another brilliant portatist and rival to Ramsay. He told Eglington, "Mr Ramsay is my painter, my Lord." Lord Bute also introduced the much younger Zoffany to the King. At the time, Zoffany was just beginning hi career. Ramsay was already 50 years old when his association with the King began. Unfirtunately for British art,. Ramsay instead of creating masterworks had to superintend the productions of innumerable copies of his state portraits of the royal family . Thus there are only a few original portraits, much less than you would expect from agreat master in his position.
George III played an important role in the promotion of the fine arts in Britain. He lent his support for the founding of the Royal Academy--RA (1768). A group of leading artists actually founded the RA. The British Governmenet did not provide state subsidies and thus the RA was controlled by its members, 40 Academicians and 20 Associates (later increased to 30 members). Joshua Reynolds was elected the RA's first president. Reynolds' vision was to establish the RA as a school to train successive generations of artists in drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture.
Many of Britain's most emminent artists tarined at the RA: William Blake, Thomas Lawrence and J.M.W. Turner. Many others benefitted from the RA, including illustaror Harold Copping. The RA was at first
housed in Pall Mall (1768-1771), but soon moved to Somerset House (1771-1837) until the British government appropriated the rooms for office space. The RA for a time shared premises with the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square until it moved to its permanent location at Burlington House in 1868. The RA was more than just a school. It provided an important promotional venue for artists. The RA instituted an annual Summer Exhibition providing an opportunity for artists to exhibit and sell their work. The RA selects the works to be exhibited through the Royal Academy Selection Committee. The Summer Exhibition is held every year from May to August and is a major event providing exposure of both new and established artists to the British and world art world.
The problem with the Hanovers was aparently genetic. It was the hereditary disease of porphyria. Porphyria is a rare inherited blood disorder cause by the accumulation of porphyhrians in thebody, which cause the urine to turn purple and can lead to disfiguring hair growth, skin rashes,photosensitivity and insanity. The mental breakdown of George III is just the prime example ofthe illness, which Cecil Woodham-Smith claims was brought into the English royal family by the great-great grandmother of George I, Mary Queen of Scots. Jean Morris describes this peculiar family trait as almost
genetic. According to Morris, the
loathing between the head of the House of Hanover and his eldest
son ... was like a hereditary
disease, for it extended through the generations regardless
of personalities or politics.
Actually, the problem with the Hanovers was genetic; it was the hereditary disease of porphyria.
Porphyria is a rare inherited blood disorder cause by the accumulation of porphyhrians in the
body, which cause the urine to turn purple and can lead to disfiguring h air growth, skin rashes,
photosensitivity and insanity. The mental breakdown of George III is just the prime example of
the illness, which Cecil Woodham-Smith claims was brought into the English royal family by the
great-great grandmother of George I, Mary Queen of Scots (79).
This strange delusional illness was passed on from George III to his granddaughter, Queen Victoria. Certainly Victoria exhibited the monarch's traditional
antipathy toward the Prince of Wales. According to Morris, She had never in fact entirely
forgiven him [Bertie] for what she
thought to be his part in Albert's death [The Prince Consort caught a cold while scolding Bertie in
the rain]. Furthermore, Victoria found her first son to be "shiftless and irresponsible, and
quite naturally, the Prince and his young wife, like all
Hanoverian heirs, formed their own court and society.
That Queen Victoria's anger could sometimes be delusional was known not only by Bertie, but by
others in her family as well. Cecil Woodham-Smith
wrote that their trusted advisor, Baron
Stockmar, is alleged to have described the Prince [Albert] as 'completely cowed' and living in
perpetual dread of bringing on the 'hereditary malady'
in the Queen, the madness of which was
then thought to afflict her grandfather, George III, now
known to be the disease called porphyria. Moreover, Lady Elizabeth Longford wrote that as early as 1858, rumors were spread that the Queen was deranged: The old legend which had been revived in 1858 burst again into vicious activity. The Queen was mad .... A letter from Vicky warned the Prince Consort of
'monstrous reports' circulating in Germany that Mama was attended by all the doctors of Europe! In the scientific times of the mid-19th Century madness was an understandable explanation for evidence that would be inexplicable otherwise. Darker rumors of family ills worse than madness were circulating as well. These whisperings told of a blood curse and its horrible
consequences upon Victoria, Albert, their family and their heirs.
It was not just George II who disliked his son or George III who in turn disliked his son. The Hanovarian monarchs in general (including Victoria) are noted for their antipathy for their eldest son. This bad blood in the family can be traced back to its founder, George I. The Hanover dynasty inEngland began when George I assumed the throne after the death of Queen Anne in 1714. With the dynasty he founded, George I left a legacy of hate and mistrust, which repeatedly manifesteditself through the generations in hostility toward the wife and in vicious attacks upon the first-born son.
George I began the family feud when he divorced his wife and imprisoned her in a castle in Germany. Their young son had to be stopped from swimming in the moat to be with his mother. As the boy grew to be a man, he resented his father. George I, in turn, feared and resented his son. At one point the King had the Prince of Wales arrested on the pretext of the son's insultingthe Duke of Newcastle. Likewise, when the Prince of Wales in time became George II, he too despised and mistreated his own son, Frederick, who antagonized his father byforming with William Pitt his own opposition cabinet in defiance to the King. In time, the crown passed to George III, who once attempted to strangle his son, the Prince Regent, though one historian observes that this "could have been mere Hanoverian fatherly feeling."
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