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The Eventful Reign of King George III

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King George III in coronation robes

Events in the Reign of King George III

George III reigned from 1760 to 1801 as King of Great Britain and Ireland and as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801 until his death in 1820. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover but was born and brought up in England and spoke English as his first language. His reign was longer than any other British monarch before him.

In the early part of his reign he was well received and liked by the people, and he was a man who liked power so he disliked the Whigs who had taken it from the monarchy. He wanted to re-establish control as England was in danger of losing her empire from 1775. First, he had to contend with the American War of Independence, then the French Revolution started by the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the wars against France and Spain including the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and later there was the struggle against the formidable Napoleon Bonaparte and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

There were also some great and clever inventions during King George III's reign like the invention of the steam engine by the engineer James Watt in 1769 and the first fairly efficient steam car designed by Richard Trevithick in 1802. This car eventually ran a passenger service from Cheltenham to Gloucester at an average speed of 12 miles per hour. Discoveries were also being made throughout the reign of King George III such as the expedition by James Cook to the South Pacific and his discovery of New Zealand and Australia in 1770. These voyages and discoveries by James Cook brought many new lands under the British flag.

During the reign of King George III the degree of comfort of life in prison depended on how much money a prisoner could afford to pay the jailers. If they had enough money games and activities were allowed but if not, prisoners were left almost to starve. Womens' prisons were particularly bad and in 1817 Elizabeth Fry, a member of the Society of Friends, founded a welcome association for the improvement of conditions for women in Newgate prison and devoted the rest of her life to prison reform.

Less welcome during George III's reign were events like The Gordon Riots in 1780. Lord George Gordon had made himself head of the Protestant association which did not agree with the acts passed for the relief of the Catholics. He headed an unruly mob to Westminster to hand over a petition against the acts but it soon turned into a riot which caused great damage. The Press Gangs were active and used violent methods to recruit seamen for the Navy. An armed force would come ashore and forcibly seize all the able-bodied likely men and take them to serve their king and country.

Later in George's life he suffered from mental illness and in 1810, when he was at the height of his popularity, a regency was established and George III's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent. On George III's death, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV. Within a couple of years King George III had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion. He died at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820 and was buried in St. Georges Chapel.

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