George III at Kew Palace
Kew Palace was the country home of George III's aunts. The palace was used as a schoolhouse when the royal family was living at the White House just opposite. Here George, on the insistence of his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, received a gruelling education in the arts and sciences. George was an enthusiastic student and during his reign, he became an active patron of both; he continued to study architecture as a grown man and peppered his estates with new buildings designed by fashionable architects, including the startling Pagoda in Kew Gardens by Sir William Chambers.
George disliked the pomp and glamour of court life and preferred a frugal existence on his country estates where he applied all the latest agricultural ideas and developments. This earned him the nickname ‘Farmer George.’ He was devoted to his wife Charlotte; together they had 15 children and spent happy summers at Kew Palace.
In later life, George III was subject to debilitating periods of mental illness which were characterised by his babbling of nonsense and his manic and even violent episodes. He was incarcerated at Kew Palace as it was relatively secluded. There he was subjected to a number of treatments that included strait jackets and freezing cold baths which he took in the separate building known as the Royal Kitchens at Kew. He recovered thanks to (or probably despite of) the controversial ‘Moral Cure’ of Dr Francis Willis.
George III is also famous for losing the American colonies. Prior to war, George wrote, ‘I cannot help being of opinion that with firmness and perseverance, America will be brought to submission’. He was wrong. On 4 July 1776, American leaders issued a Declaration of Independence and the British army was finally defeated in October 1781.
His granddaughter, Victoria, was to become one of the most famous British monarchs ever.
George III portrait, Thomas Gainsborough, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
George III portrait, Johann Zoffany, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II