Who was George III? What was his role in the American War of Independence?

King George III (1738-1820) after Allan Ramsay by David Martin
King George III (1738-1820) after Allan Ramsay by David Martin. Credit: National Trust Images/Christopher Hurst

Under King George III, Britain lost the American War of Independence, but won the Seven Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars. He reigned from 1760 to 1820

With no surviving heir, the death of Queen Anne saw Germany’s House of Hanover assume the British throne under the Settlement Act of 1701. George I spoke no English so communicated with his subjects in French. George II faired little better, spending many summers in Hanover, even if he did grow the British Empire in India, Canada and beyond.

Proud of his fluency in English, London-born George III snubbed the chance to return to Hanover. He was cultured, founding the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and amassing 65,000 books now in the British Library. Due to his keen interest in agriculture on the royal estates, he was nicknamed ‘Farmer George’. His passion for sciences included the founding of the King’s Observatory in Richmond.

American War of Independence

Opinions vary on the success of George’s reign. Less generous accounts highlight his meddling in political matters and failure to win the American War of Independence, resulting in a diminished empire. Others point to victories in the Seven Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars, relative financial frugality and advances in science and industry as the markers of a diligent and conscientious monarch.

Such events took their toll. By the end, George was blind, frail and suffering from both mental illness and the blood disease porphyria. His eldest son served as Prince Regent for his final decade. ‘Farmer George’ remained Britain’s third-longest serving monarch.

Key dates

  • 1776 – America declares independence from Britain
  • 1800 – The Acts of Union create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
  • 1815 – Napoleon is defeated by Britain and her allies at the battle of Waterloo
  • 1817 – England’s oldest public gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, opens to the public

Download your FREE Kings and Queens of England and Britain guide

SHARE