From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"At first, in The Madness of King George (1994), King George III's habits appear mildly eccentric, and are purposely ignored for reasons of state. The King is seen as being highly concerned with the wellbeing and productivity of Great Britain, and continually exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of the families of even the most obscure royal appointments. In fact, the King is growing more unsettled, largely over the loss of America."--Sholem Stein
George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 - 29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and Prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was a monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.
Cultural depictions of George III of the United Kingdom
George III of the United Kingdom has featured in many examples of popular culture.
Theatre and opera
The 1969 music theatre piece Eight Songs for a Mad King by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies depicts the increasing madness and eventual death of the king as he talks to birds. George's insanity is the subject of the 1986 radio play In the Ruins by Nick Dear (adapted for the stage in 1990 with Patrick Malahide as George) and the 1991 play The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett (with Nigel Hawthorne as George in the premiere production, for which he received the Laurence Olivier Award). Dear's play centres on George looking back on his life in 1817 (the year before his death), whilst Bennett's concerns George's first bout of insanity in late 1788 and early 1789, which those in the royal court, including his own son, use as a way to sidestep regal authority. Hawthorne reprised his role in the film version of the play.
George also appears as a character in the Broadway musical Hamilton (played by Jonathan Groff in the original Broadway cast) to sing three short musical numbers. Here, he is depicted as a cross between a scorned lover and a manchild who lightheartedly comments on the start of the American Revolutionary War, its aftermath, and finally John Adams' succession as President of the United States. He also appears briefly during The Reynolds Pamphlet. While most of the play's songs are in the style of hip-hop, R&B, contemporary pop, or soul, George's numbers mimic the popular music of the British Invasion. He also appears as Prince of Wales and later king in the play Mr Foote's Other Leg by Ian Kelly (who played George in the play's premiere production in 2015).
King George III appears in the following novels:
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke, where the character of Jonathan Strange attempts to cure him
- Victory of Eagles (2008) by Naomi Novik, where he is encountered by William Laurence, the protagonist, while on an errand in Edinburgh Castle
- The Dirk Gently series and Life, the Universe and Everything (1982) by Douglas Adams; in the latter, the character Arthur Dent refers to trees as "those things people think you're mad if you talk to? Like George the Third".
- A Darker Shade of Magic (2015) by V. E. Schwab and its sequel A Gathering of Shadows (2016) when the Antari Kell visits him (and George IV of the United Kingdom) while in Gray London
- The Prince and the Quakeress (1968) as well as The Third George (1969) by Jean Plaidy (being the fourth and fifth novels of her Georgian Saga series). The former novel tells the story of George III as a young Prince of Wales and his supposed relationship with Hannah Lightfoot, and then in the latter novel is of his life married to Charlotte and his role as king.
On film, George has been portrayed by:
- Arthur Donaldson in America (1924)
- Henry Mowbray in The Pursuit of Happiness (1934)
- Olaf Hytten in The Bill of Rights (1939, Short)
- Raymond Lovell in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942)
- Frederick Valk in Mrs. Fitzherbert (1947), based on the novel by Winifred Carter
- Robert Morley in Beau Brummell (1954), based on a play by Clyde Fitch
- Eric Pohlmann in John Paul Jones (1959)
- Roger Booth in Barry Lyndon (1975), based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray
- Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George (1994), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, based on the play The Madness of George III, in the premiere production of which George was also played by Hawthorne
- Robin Soans in the Spanish comedy Sabotage! (2000)
- Dave Reitze in the American video Kidz History: The Revolutionary War (2003)
On television, George has been portrayed by:
- Albert Lieven in the British drama Rake's Progress (1939)
- Eric Pohlmann in the drama The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963), part of the Disneyland series, based on the novel by Russell Thorndike
- Jean Muselli in the French children's drama Le matelot de nulle part, based on the novel Israel Potter by Herman Melville
- Graham Chapman in the BBC comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus, in the episode "The Golden Age of Ballooning" (1974)
- John Tillinger in the American drama series The Adams Chronicles (1976)
- Nigel Davenport in the BBC drama series Prince Regent (1979)
- Rhys McConnochie in the ABC miniseries Captain James Cook (1987)
- Gertan Klauber as a complete madman with a German accent in the final episode of the BBC comedy series Blackadder the Third (1987)
- David Warner in the drama documentary The American Revolution (1994)
- Nicholas Rowe in the miniseries Longitude (2000)
- Mark Hadlow in the comedy/action series Jack of All Trades, in the episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Opera" (2000)
- Charles Shaughnessy (voice) in the animated series Liberty's Kids (2002)
- Anthony Cochrane in the TV film Benjamin Franklin (2002)
- Geoffrey Streatfeild in the drama documentary Timewatch - How Mad Was King George?
- Yoshihisa Kawahara (Japanese - voice) / Blake McMahon (British - voice) in Le Chevalier D'Eon (2006-2007)
- Tom Hollander in the HBO miniseries John Adams (2008)
- Simon Farnaby and Lawry Lewin in the British children's sketchshow Horrible Histories (2009 - 2015)
- Paul Rhys in the AMC period drama series Turn: Washington's Spies (2015 - 2017)
- Edward Petherbridge in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a TV adaptation of the novel of the same name (2015)
- Paul Whitehouse in The Windsors (Christmas special, 2016
- James Fleet in Bridgerton (2020)
The popular 1970s U.S. children's educational series Schoolhouse Rock features a song entitled "No More Kings" which paints George III as a tyrant reluctant to allow the colonies out from under his boot.
George III's papers do not include a diary. The TV series The X-Files uses a fictional anecdote that George III's diary entry on July 4, 1776 read: "Nothing important happened today", as a plot device and as the title of the ninth-season premiere. (In fact, George could anyway not have been notified of transatlantic events until weeks later).
There are several extant statues of the king, not only in London (at the junction of Pall Mall and Cockspur Street, near Trafalgar Square, and in the courtyard of Somerset House titled George III and the River Thames) but also elsewhere - on London Street in Liverpool, on the Bargate in Southampton, at one end of the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park (The Copper Horse) and the painted King's Statue in Weymouth, Dorset.
The American statue of George III at Bowling Green, New York City was toppled on 9 July 1776 by Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution. A replica of the statue exists at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
Besides depictions in works of art, students for years learned the length of a mile through the mnemonic "George the Third said with a smile / 'There's seventeen sixty yards in a mile.'", 1760 being the year he came to the throne.