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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > George III - Weymouth's hidden evidence

Osmington's White Horse

Osmington's White Horse

George III - Weymouth's hidden evidence

A Weymouth historian has unearthed evidence that shakes up the traditional view of George III, the king remembered for his 'madness'.

Weymouth historian Martin Ball has rediscovered King George III's memoirs and his 'lost' great seal of England in Weymouth library's archives.

After ten years of meticulous research, he claims his discoveries dispel popular notions surrounding the 18th century monarch.

No madness?

According to Martin, "George III allowed his royal biographer to say he suffered from bouts of madness.  But he was not mad. He was only mad at Parliament because he didn't know what his role was. He was supposed to be king but he lacked real power."

Martin's discovery of the monarch's lost seal, he says, proves that George III had six seals instead of five. This meant that he often ignored the Privy Council, going ahead to validate acts of government on his own account. 

No 'What! What!'?

The memoirs include no mention of the phrase George III is famed for – the exclamation "what! what!" at the end of every sentence.

According to Martin, this was written by mistake in the first dictionary of national biography. Although the biography has since been revised, the phrase was taken up by the film 'The Madness of King George'. But this, says Martin, is just artistic licence.

"George III was not mad - he was only mad at Parliament because he didn’t know what his role was. He was supposed to be king but he lacked real power."

Martin Ball, historian

No holidays in Weymouth?

Weymouth residents might be disappointed to hear that George III didn't go to the seaside town for his holidays, says Martin.

In fact, the first time the king visited was on his Grand Tour of the South West. 

He only chose to stop in Weymouth because the Duke of Gloucester had a residency nearby. The king didn't bathe, and in fact was forced to leave in a hurry after a failed assassination attempt.

His subsequent visits to the town were prompted by a need to put down the unruly Republicans. Not, sadly, to admire the seafront. 

No White Horse?

And finally, the famous White Horse on Osmington Hills just outside Weymouth shouldn't be white at all.

According to Martin, the picture is supposed to depict the king on his favourite grey charger. Attempts to whiten the horse, most memorably by a TV show featuring Anneka Rice, have ruined the original, not improved it. 

As for why it faces away from Weymouth, Martin suggests it was a snub - by Republican rebels fed up with royal interference. 

Martin Ball has written a book, 'Crowngate', based on his discoveries.

There's more on King George III on the BBC's History website.

last updated: 09/06/2009 at 11:48
created: 09/11/2006

You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > George III - Weymouth's hidden evidence

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