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George III: A Personal History
ISBN 0465027245 / 9780465027248 / 0-465-02724-5
Publisher Basic Books
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Poor George III. Americans think of him as a tyrant whose unjust taxes provoked their revolution. Moviegoers envision a nightshirt-clad lunatic running through the palace halls in The Madness of King George. The handsome, gracious, conscientious young man of 22 who mounted the throne in 1760 may well be a revelation to many readers of Christopher Hibbert's elegant new biography. At 75, Hibbert is the dean of popular British historians and the author of more than 30 books spanning five centuries of European life; his experience enables him to convey prodigious research with the lightest of touches in his intimate account, which focuses on the king's personal character. Though Hibbert capably covers the period's political events and shows George to be a hardworking constitutional monarch, he prefers to direct our attention to the loving husband, devoted (though sometimes domineering) father, hearty appreciator of (very conventional) fine art, knowledgeable patron of literature, and avid all-around reader whose interests ranged from architecture to agriculture. This affectionate portrait makes it all the more distressing when George's bouts of madness (the result of a hereditary metabolic disease) begin in 1788 and permanently incapacitate him long before his death in 1820. Old-fashioned narrative biography doesn't get much better than this. --Wendy Smith [via]