George III

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George III (George William Frederick), King of Great Britain, was born on 4 June 1738 and came to the throne in 1760 on the death of his grandfather George II, his father Frederick Prince of Wales having died nine years previously. Noted for his frugality, his active interest in agriculture and the sciences and his strong patriotic feeling, George was an unassuming, conscientious and essentially kindly man, though his manner was always odd and ungainly, and he had a vein of self-righteous narrow-mindedness which led him to take an inflexible attitude towards the growing unrest over taxation in America - unrest which resulted in the American Revolutionary War of 1776-83 and the independence of the United States. He worked closely with Sir Joseph Banks in establishing the Merino sheep in Britain, a matter which is mentioned in the Australian scenes of The Nutmeg of Consolation. He placed a high value on the Royal Navy and was said at one time to know the name of every vessel in the Service. In many ways his life and personality prefigure those of his granddaughter Queen Victoria; like her, he ended his days (after many vicissitudes and several assassination attempts) as a remote but much-loved parent-figure to the nation.

King George married Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; the marriage was unusually happy and stable until the 1800s, when the ageing Queen Charlotte became unable to cope with her husband's eccentricities. Thirteen of their fifteen children survived into adulthood.

In October 1788 George suffered the first of several attacks of what appeared to be a form of mania, now widely diagnosed as an instance of the blood disease porphyria. During this time he was put under the care of Dr Thomas Willis, a specialist in mental disorders, whom Stephen Maturin at one time thinks of consulting about his daughter Brigid. The king recovered but suffered relapses in 1801 (as a result of his anxiety about the incorporation of Ireland within the United Kingdom), in 1804 and finally in 1811; troubled by failing sight, he had already withdrawn to a great extent from public affairs after the death of William Pitt in 1806. His eldest son, also George, was appointed Prince Regent and the old king spent his remaining years in seclusion. He died on 29 January 1820 and the Prince Regent succeeded as George IV.

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