George Street, W1U

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King George III (June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820) is, of course, known to history as the mad monarch who had conversations with an oak tree under the impression it was the king of Prussia and whose demands on the American colonists led to the American War of Independence and the loss of the greatest and most lucrative prize in the British Empire at the time. Such was his mental state that his the oafish glutton of a son had to take over as monarch leading to a period known as the Regency. However, that view is now changing and all seems a far cry his reputation as a “heartless, absolute sovereign”, he was in fact “well-meaning, hard-working, decent, dutiful, moral, cultured and kind, according to Andrew Roberts’s biography George III The Life and Reign of Britain’s Most Misunderstood Monarch. He tells the story of how strolling in the fields near Weymouth, George came across a woman milking a cow. Not recognising him, the woman said she had been unable to go with her friends to see the king because she had five children and couldn’t afford to take the time off work. At that, George pressed a guinea into her hand. “Then you can tell your companions,” he said emotionally, “that the king came to see you.” Roberts also takes issue with the claim that he sparked the demand for independence in America. Americans were ruled with “the lightest of touches” and “paid the lightest of taxes in the empire”. If George had been a tyrant, he might well have won the American war; it was only because Britain fought half-heartedly that it lost. The mantra of no taxation without representation was utter hypocrisy, he argues, since many secessionist agitators were dead set against American representation in parliament anyway. Far from being a battle cry of freedom, the Boston Tea Party was partly motivated by the commercial interests of local smugglers. Roberts continues that the king rarely drank, was faithful to his wife, Charlotte, and had no obvious vices. His enthusiasms included microscopes, music and paintings, and his political leanings were solidly conservative. It says a great deal about him that his idea of fun was writing an article about farming. George was crowned in 1760 with this road, named in his honour, built within the decade.




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