The sixty-year reign of George III (17601820) witnessed and participated in some of the most critical events of modern world history: the ending of the Seven Years’ War with France, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, the campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte and battle of Waterloo in 1815, and Union with Ireland in 1801. Despite the pathos of the last years of the mad, blind, and neglected monarch, it is a life full of importance and interest.
Jeremy Black’s biography deals comprehensively with the politics, the wars, and the domestic issues, and harnesses the richest range of unpublished sources in Britain, Germany, and the United States. But, using George III’s own prolific correspondence, it also interrogates the man himself, his strong religious faith, and his powerful sense of moral duty to his family and to his nation. Black considers the king’s scientific, cultural, and intellectual interests as no other biographer has done, and explores how he was viewed by his contemporaries. Identifying George as the last British ruler of the Thirteen Colonies, Black reveals his strong personal engagement in the struggle for America and argues that George himself, his intentions and policies, were key to the conflict.
The fame of King George III rests almost solely on losing the American colonies and going mad. Black (history, Exeter Univ., U.K.; The British Seaborne Empire) has produced a magisterial new treatment of George's life (1760-1820), exploring his long and eventful reign. Drawing on original research (especially into the English and Hanoverian correspondence) as well as synthesizing recent historiography, Black positions the king relative to his predecessors; places him in context with contemporary European rulers; considers the political development and constitutional implications of his reign; recovers the role of the Hanoverian possessions; and takes seriously the king's moral, religious, and cultural influences. Black locates the American War of Independence as the defining feature of George's reign (although one wonders if the subtitle is not calculated to boost sales in an American market) and moves away from treating the king's mental state as determinative. Black's background in Anglo-American military, diplomatic, and cultural history serves him well here, though some may find his prose a bit heavy. Libraries interested in a more intimate biography may prefer Christopher Hibbert's George III: A Personal History. Tillyard presents an altogether different side of George III, not so much as monarch but as family head. George's five underemployed sisters and brothers became pawns in the dynastic marriage game, although they did not always cooperate enthusiastically with the semipublic, semiprivate roles they were assigned. George's reign produced the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 (in part to keep royal unions in the personal control of the monarch)-a legal provision that continues to impact the royal family today. Tillyard writes in an engaging, quick-moving style; her prose is less weighty than Black's (Tillyard's previous book, Aristocrats, was turned into a Masterpiece Theatre series), though she relies on solid archival research carried out in Britain, Denmark, and Germany. Black's book is recommended for all college and research libraries; Tillyard's work is recommended for public libraries and undergraduate collections.-Matt Todd, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Alexandria Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.