George III 250 Years After

In Elizabeth’s day, London was much smaller and even Chelsea was a village, not part of London.  Going upstream on the Thames, Kew was a countryside place, and some courtiers had houses there.  Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, may have been one of them, and Elizabeth may have visited his home there.  In the 1700s a garden was established there that grew into the Royal Botanical Gardens and has a fabulous Victorian greenhouse.  It is also connected with the Georgian kings, who made a red brick house into their country palace retreat.  Today it’s Kew Palace, the smallest of the royal palaces.

Feeling that I needed to expand a bit from the sixteenth century and venture into the eighteenth, I attended a dinner at Kew Palace that featured a Georgian themed meal and a talk on George III.

Now if you are an American, most of what you know about George III is that he was the king that the noble Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington wanted to get free of.  Or, if you’ve seen “The Madness of King George” you know he ran around shrieking in his nightshirt and so you thought, “Well, no wonder he lost the colonies.”

But in context, it’s a lot more complex than that.  (It usually is.)  I came away from the evening actually sympathetic to George III.  At least he spoke English as his first language (unlike his father and grandfather) and he was king for a very long time, sixty years. His madness may have been due to a metabolic disease, porphyria.  He was interested in astronomy and science.  He had a very happy marriage (no mistresses!) , and 15 children.  And during his reign, England had to contend with Napoleon, as well as us.  He had his hands full.