From the Declaration of Independence to the musical Hamilton, George III has been kicked around for the last two and a half centuries. Now he has a new defender: historian Andrew Roberts, biographer of Winston Churchill and Napoleon and author of the recently published The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III.
Roberts brings major league credentials to his argument. He’s the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and a visiting professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.
His biography has been hailed by reviewers both in the U.S. and in Great Britain.
Roberts can be heard being interviewed by Dan Snow on Snow’s HistoryHit podcast (available on most podcast platforms). HistoryHit is one of my go-to podcasts because the subjects and interviewees Snow selects are invariably interesting.
Roberts’ interview, however, was disappointing because most of the time was spent reviewing the 28 charges against George III made by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and how all but two of them have any substance at all. When I listened, this struck me as a useless exercise since these charges are rarely read or remembered today.
Roberts argues that this document is a major source of the bias against George III, and the charges deserve to be refuted.
Possibly, but I’m skeptical.
Despite all of his good qualities, personally and kingly, George III refused to deal with Americans — most of whom considered themselves his loyal subjects — in a way that was fair and considerate and in a manner that might have prevented the war that brought about the American Revolution. His continued stubbornness, along with that of his government ministers, gave the colonists little choice but to undertake an armed rebellion.
Roberts argues that American independence would have happened no matter what George III had done. We’ll never know because George III refused to entertain the possibility that he might be wrong.
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