King George III has been ridiculed as a complete disaster who frittered away the U.S. colonies and went mad in his old age. But here, historian Roberts argues that George's bad reputation comes from propaganda meant to turn colonists against the King, who was in fact a wise, humane and even enlightened monarch beset by political enemies, debilitating mental illness, incompetent ministers and disastrous luck.
Mr. Roberts deftly traces the maneuvers that, soon enough, defeated Fox and brought William Pitt the Younger to power ... What about the king’s madness? Mr. Roberts persuasively describes his illness as bipolar depression triggered by stress and not the porphyria that is usually diagnosed ... The deft portraits and detailed episodes Mr. Roberts provides in The Last King of America—drawing on a vast trove of documents newly digitized by the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle—bring into clear view the man at the center of it all, whose personality, principles and proper reputation have been too long obscured.
Although The Last King of America effectively refutes Paine, Jefferson and, for that matter, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roberts is asserting what 20th- and 21st-century historians already know: George III was not a tyrant who lost the American empire; he respected the British Constitution and deferred to Parliament ... is at its best when Roberts analyzes how George III navigated issues with personal as well as political implications.
Roberts’s narrative challenge is gigantic. George III reigned for six decades (1760-1820), during which his world exploded with revolutionary fervor, first in North America, then across Europe, followed by two decades of desperate war with revolutionary and Napoleonic France. With insight and aplomb, Roberts completes his mission, revealing the king to have been a conventional, conservative gentleman, uxorious husband and father of 15 ... he pays insufficient attention to the fact that those policies represented a sharp and intended hardening of the previously lax imperial regime and that American resistance was entirely foreseeable.