King of Britain for sixty years and the last king of what would become the United States, George III inspired both hatred and loyalty and is now best known for two reasons: as a villainous tyrant for America's Founding Fathers, and for his madness, both of which have been portrayed on stage and screen.
In this concise and penetrating biography, Jeremy Black turns away from the image-making and back to the archives, and instead locates George's life within his age: as a king who faced the loss of key colonies, rebellion in Ireland, insurrection in London, constitutional crisis in Britain and an existential threat from Revolutionary France as part of modern Britain's longest period of war.
Black shows how George III rose to these challenges with fortitude and helped settle parliamentary monarchy as an effective governmental system, eventually becoming the most popular monarch for well over a century. He also shows us a talented and curious individual, committed to music, art, architecture and science, who took the duties of monarchy seriously, from reviewing death penalties to trying to control his often wayward children even as his own mental health failed, and became Britain's longest reigning king.
This volume forms part of the Penguin Monarchs series, an impressive collection of short biographies written by renowned historians ... Their aim is not simply to summarise, but to offer genuine insights in accessible format. Black's analysis of George III is a welcome addition. [He] ... manages to pepper his trim narrative with lovely frills. The mark of a good short book is its ability to inspire curiosity and further investigation. Black achieves just that.
Black brilliantly demolishes the paranoiac Whig view of George as trying to accrete powers to himself unconstitutionally. The George who emerges is a far more attractive figure than the Whig historians depicted, let alone Thomas Jefferson with his 28 histrionic and inaccurate accusations against George in the Declaration of Independence, and especially Lin-Manuel Miranda's hilarious but profoundly historically incorrect caricature.