The legacy of King George III

The legacy of King George III

Image of the Month depicting George III and family walking at Windsor Castle
George III walking with his family on the south terrace at Windsor Castle. Engraving printed in Paris in the eighteenth century.

29 January 2020 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the death of King George III. His nearly sixty-year reign was then the longest ever in the United Kingdom. He has only been surpassed by his granddaughter Queen Victoria and, more recently, her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II.

During his life and reign, George III was responsible for reigniting royal interest in Windsor Castle, which had been much overlooked after the House of Hanover came to the throne of the United Kingdom in 1714. Along with his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their quickly growing young family, the King moved to Windsor in 1776. It became their principal residence and the King would later call it “the place I love best in the world”. The hand-coloured engraving shown at the head of this article depicts the Royal Family walking together on the south terrace of Windsor Castle.

On 12 August 1776 the Royal Family first attended the Sunday morning service at St George’s Chapel – which they called “the Cathedral”. The occasion was proudly recorded in great detail in the Chapter Acts (the minutes of the Dean and Canons’ meetings):

This day his Majesty and the Queen with the Prince of Wales [Prince George], the Bishop of Osnaburgh [Prince Frederick], the three Princesses and five Princes walked from the Queen’s house thro the Palace Yard and so down to the South Door of the Church and attended Morning Service in St George’s Chapel. The Chapter had notice sent them of his Majesty’s intention about a week before… On this day the Canons present being eight in number were ready to receive the King on his entrance at the South Door, from whence they proceeded two and two with the virger before them and the Poor Knights as far as three pillars below the pews towards the great West Door and then turning into the middle of the Church, went up to the Choir. The Sovereign ascended his stall, the Queen and the Princesses next him in the stalls on his right hand – the Prince of Wales and Bishop of Osnaburgh took their respective stalls as Knights of the Order… Then the service began and was as usual on common days. A Canon read the prayers; another read the 1st lesson and another the 2nd lesson. After the service was ended, the Poor Knights ranged two and two went out of the Choir and the Canons in like manner, the Virger before them. Then his Majesty with the Queen descended from his stall, his family followed him and returned down the middle of the Church as far as before and then proceeded to the South Door. The Poor Knights having stopped and divided on each side and the Canons in like manner near the South Door from whence his Majesty with the Queen, their Family and attendants walked back as they came.

George III’s commitment to St George’s Chapel was very great. He inspired and in large part funded an extensive restoration of the Chapel from 1780-1790, contributing nearly £14,000 of the total £21,000 cost. The project included the remodelling of Edward IV’s chantry chapel to better accommodate the Royal Family on their visits to the Chapel, extending the Garter Knights’ stalls in the quire and building a new Samuel Green organ costing £1,000.

It was at Windsor that the King died and was buried in 1820, alongside his wife Queen Charlotte, beloved youngest daughter Princess Amelia, and a granddaughter Princess Charlotte. Windsor Castle would become a favourite residence of many of his royal descendants.

Kate McQuillian, Archivist & Chapter Librarian

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.