The True Story of King George III

He's long been known as "the mad king who lost America."

queen charlotte in bridgerton season 2 on netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Bridgerton is often at its best when it's actively flouting the customs of the stuffy Regency era in which it's set. Among the most compelling parts of the series are its diverse casting, its rainbow of dreamy empire-waist gowns, and its soundtrack of string quartet covers of modern-day pop songs. As Chris Van Dusen, the show's creator, put it in an interview with Town & Country after the first season premiered, "It's not a history lesson, and it's not a documentary."

Still, even with its many anachronisms, the series does offer a glimpse into what life was like among the buttoned-up nobility of early 19th-century England. Some of the most interesting historical tidbits come from its portrayal of Queen Charlotte (opens in new tab), who is played by Golda Rosheuvel and who, yes, really was that involved in her subjects' love lives. But while Charlotte is a regular fixture at the balls and garden parties of Bridgerton, her husband King George III is a much more mysterious presence—another historically accurate point for the show. Read on for a quick deep dive into the so-called "mad king" and what his relationship with Charlotte was really like.

He's the same King George who appears in Hamilton.

Likely George's best-known portrayal in pop culture comes from the hit musical, in which actors like Jonathan Groff and Andrew Rannells have embodied the pouty, tantrum-prone king. Indeed, one of King George's claims to infamy is the fact that Britain lost its hold over America less than a third of the way into his 60-year reign.

However, the royal family has pushed back on that ancestral blame, noting (opens in new tab) on its history of him that George wasn't the one who enacted the Parliament-backed Stamp Act and other taxation policies in the colonies that ultimately led to the Revolutionary War.

For George's part, he seemed to accept the loss without much pushback—and few of the ill wishes he sends across the pond in Hamilton. As he wrote of the new nation in a letter (opens in new tab) from the 1780s, "It is to be hoped we shall reap more advantages from their trade as friends than ever we could derive from them as Colonies; for there is reason to suppose we actually gained more by them while in actual rebellion, and the common open connection cut off, than when they were in obedience to the Crown."

King George III of England

(Image credit: Getty)

His arranged marriage to Charlotte ultimately became a true love match.

George met Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz for the first time on their wedding day in September 1761, but all evidence points to the pair having grown into loyal and loving partners throughout their marriage, which lasted until Charlotte's death in 1818. Case in point: George never took a mistress during their more than half a century together, making him a serious anomaly among the men in his family.

The pair welcomed 15 children together, 13 of whom reached adulthood. They also shared a love of music and are said (opens in new tab) to have joined the royal band in regular jam sessions, with both playing the harpsichord and George also picking up the flute.

Historians still aren't sure what made him the "mad king."

The royal family's history of George III attributes the many bouts of illness he experienced throughout his life to the stress of the Revolutionary War and to "family anxieties." By 1810, his sickness became permanent, at which point he and Charlotte began living apart. At the same time, their eldest child, George IV, took over his father's kingly duties as prince regent until 1820, when George III died and his son formally assumed the throne.

What, exactly, that sickness was remains up for debate. Though some historians believe it to be caused by porphyria, a group of hereditary liver disorders that can affect the nervous system and cause anxiety, confusion, and hallucinations, others have suggested George had bipolar disorder, dementia, or a combination of the two.

Bridgerton hasn't put a name on his condition, but depicts a mixture of symptoms: On the rare occasions in the show's first two seasons that George appears, played by James Fleet, he's depicted as being confused about where he is and what year it is, and agitated by that confusion. In those instances, Charlotte is clearly heartbroken at her husband's condition and at her inability to help him, a reaction that's backed up by letters the real-life queen wrote to her husband during that period, when she described their separation as "painful."

Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.