George III., it has been said, might have made, had he been more nobly endowed with intellect, a fair illustration of the ideal " benevolent despot." He was not in any sense of the word a bad man; he had none of the personal vices with which so many princes, here and everywhere else, have been spoiled. He was not a Louis XV. or a Charles II. He had a kindly heart, and, according to his lights, he endeavoured to do his duty as a husband and a father. He was a brave man - he had shown it over and over again - at least he had that kingly quality of courage which never fails when summoned on some great emergency. Over and over again his life had been attempted, for the most part, indeed, by maniacs, but he had never shown the slightest failure of nerve or of composure; and after all the knife or the bullet of a maniac may do work as deadly as the weapon of the sanest assassin. George never showed the slightest desire to deal harshly with those who made attempts on his life. He was himself the first on more than one occasion to suggest that the attempt was but the outcome of insanity, and his inclinations were always on the side of mercy. He showed many times that he could act with promptness and decision in cases of sudden and unforeseen difficulty. Nobody could have had less sympathy with the Catholic claims, and yet, when Lord George Gordon's "No Popery " riots broke out, and carried destruction to the homes of so many Catholics and their friends, the King insisted on the complete suppression of the outrages, and declared that if the riots were not put down within a certain time, he would himself take the command of the Life Guards, and charge the rioters in person.
It has to be said, too, for George III., that he had not been well brought up in his home life, and some of his apologists are fond of arguing that even his very obstinacy-was encouraged in him by his mother, who loved in his early days to impress on him that he must always show himself to be a king and make his word obeyed by his Ministers and by his people. He had long been liable to attacks in the head, and his reign was not very far advanced when the malady began to declare itself in the form of intermittent insanity. Soon after the outbreak of renewed hostilities with France one of these fits of madness came on, which led to long debates as to the necessity for appointing a Regent to take his place. The obvious and natural idea was, of course, that his son George, who afterwards succeeded him on the throne, should be put in his father's place while the father's malady lasted. But the hopes of many of the Whigs, of nearly all the friends of Catholic emancipation, and of most of the Irish people were already set upon George, the son, who had given promises of liberal inclinings which his after-life did not fulfil. A somewhat unseemly controversy was therefore raised in Parliament as to whether George, the son, was or was not entitled by constitutional right to assume his father's place during his father's incapacity for public business. Here, it must be owned, Fox and the Whigs made but a poor figure; they insisted on the absolute right of George, the son, while Pitt, on the other hand, upheld what might be thought to be naturally the Whig doctrine, and maintained that it was for the English Parliament to decide as to the proper person to act in the absence of the King. George, the son, was, of course, chosen for the place, and would have been so chosen in any case. The health of the King became worse and worse as years went on. He lost his sight; he lost his hearing; his madness increased, until at last he had to be kept under almost constant restraint, and was indeed much more thoroughly a madman than Shakespeare has pictured his King Lear. Poor George's death must have come as a relief to him in the end. Even the sternest historian may afford to be lenient with him. His end was less heroic, and even more tragic, than that of Louis XVI.