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What to expect
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George III, Britain’s longest-reigning king, has gone down in history as ‘the cruellest tyrant of this age’ (Thomas Paine, eighteenth century), ‘a sovereign who inflicted more profound and enduring injuries upon this country than any other modern English king’ (WEH Lecky, nineteenth century), ‘one of England’s most disastrous kings’ (JH Plumb, twentieth century) and as the pompous, camp and sinister monarch of the musical ‘Hamilton’ (twenty-first century).
Andrew Roberts’s magnificent new biography takes entirely the opposite view. It convincingly portrays George as intelligent, benevolent, scrupulously devoted to the constitution of his country and (as head of government as well as head of state) navigating the turbulence of eighteenth-century politics with a strong sense of honour and duty. He was a devoted husband and family man, a great patron of the arts and sciences, keen (‘Farmer George’) to advance Britain’s agricultural capacity and determined that her horizons should be global.
The book gives a detailed, revisionist account of the American War of Independence, amongst other things persuasively taking apart a significant proportion of the Declaration of Independence. In a later war, it shows how George’s support for William Pitt was crucial to the battle against Napoleon. And it makes a credible, modern diagnosis of George’s terrible malady which robbed him of his mind for the last 10 years of his life – his other main claim to the popular imagination.
Roberts argues that, far from being a tyrant or incompetent, George III was one of our most admirable monarchs. George III shows one of Britain’s premier historians at his sparkling best.
© Andrew Roberts 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
George, Roberts writes, “more than filled the role of King of Great Britain worthily; he filled it nobly”. After reading this mammoth, elegant and splendidly researched biography, no open-minded reader could possibly disagree – not even an American.Sunday Times
‘Andrew Roberts is our most prodigious biographer … His demolition of the authors of the Declaration’s case against George III is elegant and comprehensive.Daily Mail
Magisterial … George III is notorious for two reasons: losing America and going mad. Roberts provides a fresh and spirited account of both occurrences … Roberts’s fundamentally humane approach to his biographical subjects … treats George III with as much respect and compassion when sick, blind and deaf as when powerful at the promising start of his reign. The result is a lengthy book that remains engaging throughout.The Times
powerful … a very fine book … This book should be read by every American whose interest in history goes beyond the feel-good. It is challenging, but richly evidenced and scrupulously argued. … Coming after his powerful studies of Halifax, Salisbury, Napoleon and Churchill, it consolidates Roberts’s position as one of the greatest biographers in the English language today.Daily Telegraph
If not for such fierce competition (in the form of such works as Salisbury: Victorian Titan, Churchill: Walking with Destiny and Masters & Commanders) one might be able to unequivocally say that George III is the author’s masterpiece. This biography teems with detail, ideas and elegance. Roberts is a great writer – and this is one of his greatest achievements. Roberts sets himself a goal, that of challenging or overturning certain misconceptions that we might harbour about his subject. That George III was a tyrant, unintelligent and a victim of porphyria. Suffice to say, Roberts achieves his goal: mission impossible turns into mission accomplished. Roberts convinces through both persuasive prose and hard evidence (as opposed to just supposition). … magnificentAspects of History
George may become Britain’s best-understood monarch, thanks to this impressive new biography. It is unashamedly revisionist. … Roberts’s account is masterly, combining a compelling narrative – one has to keep turning the pages even though one knows the outcome – with analysis that is both cogent and incisive. He appears to have read everything that is in the mainstream and much that isn’t, including a wide range of archival sources. … [George III] has had to wait two centuries for rehabilitation, but it has come at last. Roberts has got deep inside George and his world and has found a man of many sterling qualities. … tremendousLiterary Review