By Norm Robins
Comments by historians go both ways on King George III. Some say he was a great king in his reign from 1760 to 1820.
He had a very large empire to govern, and he fought wars all over the globe to do so. He won a lot of them. But the patriots in our 13 original colonies hated him. He tried to tax us to pay for his wars on our continent but would not give us representation in Parliament. To patriotic Englishmen living in these colonies that was taxation without representation. Britain had gone through too much to let that one go by the boards. The concessions won in Magna Carta were integral to their history and to their ethos.
He passed the Quebec Act of 1764 that gave everything west of the Appalachians to France “because there was nobody out there but Frenchmen”. The American colonists had bigger ambitions than that. We didn’t want to remain a group of colonies hugging the Atlantic seaboard. They knew then that they wanted to expand west.
After George III lost the Revolutionary War he refused to recognize us, so in his war with Napoleon his ships intercepted ours and hijacked our sailors and returned British deserters to the Royal Navy. We fought the War of 1812 to bring that slap in the face to an end.
On hearing George Washington was to be offered the crown but planned to decline it, George III said if he does refuse the crown he would be the greatest man ever. At the time, the Enlightenment, especially the Scottish Enlightenment, was in full bloom. Dictatorship in any form, royalty, military, or whatever had become in bad odor.
But he did go mad. This is the story of that madness and his recovery. Mark Gatiss cast as King George III delivers a powerful performance. The cast, sets, directing, and music are superb as one would expect from the National Theater.
They will be streaming this performance for free until June 18th. It can be viewed on the National Theater’ Website.