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Prelude to Disaster

George III and the Origins of the American Revolution, 1751–1763


John L. Bullion

Prelude to Disaster is the most comprehensive account of the fateful decision to tax American colonists. Unlike other studies, it emphasizes the central role of the young George III in the process. Central to this examination are George’s principles of statecraft and government, his thoughts on pre- and post-war empires, his assessments of future relations with Britain’s great antagonist France, his personality and its development before and after his accession to the throne, his friendship with the earl of Bute, and his attitudes toward domestic policies and politicians, especially George Grenville.

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Chapter 6. “Not sorry to be a king”


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George II died on October 25, 1760. His heir, who was riding that morning at Kew, heard the news soon afterward. He instructed the messengers and his servants “to be silent about what had passed as they value their employments,” then turned his horse back. When he returned, he dashed off a brief letter to Bute. “A most extraordinary thing is just happen’d to me when on the other side of the bridge.” One of the old king’s pages had sent word “that an accident had happened to my grandfather between seven and eight.” He closed by noting “I shall wait till I hear from you to know what further may be done.”1 Not long afterward word arrived confirming what George had already knew: George II was dead, and George III was king. He left for Kensington Palace to meet with the Privy Council, an encounter he and his dearest friend had prepared for years in advance. With him he carried a copy of the speech they had drafted to underscore the advent of a patriot king and preview politics and policies very different from his grandfather’s.

When George entered the room where the Privy Councilors awaited him, Earl Waldegrave noticed that “the new King […] appear’d grave and thoughtful, tho’ it might be perceived by his Countenance that he was not sorry to be a King.”2 The description was accurate. He...

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