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George III

Early Reign

After his father's early death (1751), young George was educated for his future role as king by his domineering mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by John Stuart, earl of Bute. He succeeded to the throne at the age of 22 and earnestly set himself to cleanse politics of corruption and to curb the arrogance of the aristocratic Whig leaders, who he believed had weakened the royal powers. George, for his part, was viewed with suspicion by those who resented Lord Bute's influence over the young king. This suspicion appeared justified when the successful and popular William Pitt, later earl of Chatham, was allowed to resign (1761) and was replaced by Bute. Bute, however, could not muster parliamentary support and resigned in 1763, and George, who matured rapidly in office, quickly outgrew his dependence on him.

Political instability marked the first 10 years of the reign, for the king's lack of faith in most of the available ministers and increasing factionalism led to a rapid turnover of ministries and inconsistency of policy. The ministry of George Grenville (1763–65) initiated prosecution of John Wilkes and imposed the unpopular Stamp Act on the American colonies; that of the marquess of Rockingham (1765–66) repealed the Stamp Act; that of Lord Chatham (1766–68) levied new duties in America with the Townshend Acts; while that of the duke of Grafton (1768–70) renewed prosecution of Wilkes. Thwarted in his unrealistic attempts to break the system of patronage and connection by which political groupings were formed, George himself resorted to the lavish use of patronage to establish in Parliament a group of supporters known as the "king's friends."

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies


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