George III lived from 4 June 1738 to 29 January 1820. He was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and was then King of the United Kingdom until his death. He was also Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and Elector (and later King) of Hanover. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
George was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but the first to be born in Britain and use English as his first language: indeed, he never actually visited Germany. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his grandfather George II, because his father Frederick, Prince of Wales had died in 1751. After his accession to the throne, a search was mounted across the royal families of Europe for a suitable bride for George, and on 8 September 1761, he married Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the Chapel Royal, St James' Palace, London. Later that month both were crowned in Westminster Abbey.
Unlike his predecessors, George was faithful to his wife, and the two went on to have 15 children, nine sons and six daughters, more than any other British monarchs. Two of the sons, George, Prince of Wales, and William, Duke of Clarence, would go on to become Kings of the United Kingdom; another son, Ernest Augustus, would become King of Hanover; and a daughter, Charlotte, would become Queen of Württemberg. George III was also the grandfather of Queen Victoria, who was the daughter of his fourth son, Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent.
The latter part of the 1700s did not show British Government at its best. At home, a variety of political crises caused George III to become widely disliked. And from as early as 1763, George III's Government started taking steps that were to make it extremely unpopular in the North American colonies. British attempts to raise taxes in the colonies led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was followed by armed conflict in 1775. On 4 July 1776 the colonies declared their independence from the Crown. The Declaration of Independence made several charges against George III: "He has abdicated Government here... He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." On the same day, George III wrote in his diary: "Nothing important happened today". When George eventually discovered that something had indeed happened on 4 July, he pursued a war to regain the colony that continued even after most of his advisers had resigned in protest. It took until 1782 for George to accept that Britain had lost the American War of Independence.
The following year, 1783, George III played a leading part in engineering the election victory of William Pitt, whose majority he then helped buttress by the appointment of large numbers of friendly peers in the House of Lords. In 1788, however, George suffered from a bout of mental illness, now believed to be porphyria. In February 1789, Parliament, meeting without George's permission (because he was not fit to grant it), discussed a Regency Bill under which the Prince of Wales would act as Prince Regent.
George had recovered before the House of Lords was able to discuss the Regency Bill, and his public popularity subsequently grew significantly. He was actively involved in the various wars with France from 1793, and in the Act of Union 1800, which, on 1 January 1801, united Great Britain and Ireland into a single nation, the United Kingdom.
After 1807, George III played little part in Government, and in 1810 his mental illness returned. From 1811 he was confined at Windsor Castle until his death. In response, Parliament passed the Regency Act 1811 and George, Prince of Wales acted as Regent until George III died at Windsor on 29 January 1820. He was succeeded by the Prince of Wales, who became George IV.