GEORGE III. A.D. 1785--1810.
The chief sorrow of George III. was that his eldest sons were wild, disobedient young men. George, Prince of Wales, especially, was very handsome, and extremely proud of his own beauty. He was called the First Gentleman in Europe, and set the fashion in every matter of taste; but he spent and wasted money to a shameful amount, and was full of bad habits; besides which, he used to set himself in every way in his power to vex and contradict his father and mother, whom he despised for their plain simple ways and their love of duty. The next two brothers--Frederick, Duke of York, and William, Duke of Clarence--had also very bad habits; but they went astray from carelessness, and did not wilfully oppose their father, like their eldest brother.
William Pitt, son of Lord Chatham, was Prime Minister. He thought that the Roman Catholics in England ought to have the same rights as the king's other subjects, and not be hindered from being members of Parliament, judges, or, indeed, from holding any office, and he wanted to bring a bill into Parliament for this purpose. But the king thought that for him to consent would be contrary to the oath he had sworn when he was crowned, and which had been drawn up when William of Orange came over. Nothing would make George III. break his word, and he remained firm, though he was so harassed and distressed that he fell ill, and lost the use of his reason for a time. There were questions whether the regency--that is, the right to act as king-- should be given to the son, who, though his heir, was so unlike him, when he recovered; and there was a great day of joy throughout the nation, when he went in state to St. Paul's Cathedral to return thanks.
In the meantime, terrible troubles were going on in France. Neither the kings nor nobles had, for ages past, any notion of their proper duties to people under them, but had ground them down so hard that at last they could bear it no longer; and there was a great rising up throughout the country, which is known as the French Revolution. The king who was then reigning was a good and kind man, Louis XVI., who would gladly have put things in better order; but he was not as wise or firm as he was good, and the people hated him for the evil doings of his forefathers. So, while he was trying to make up his mind what to do, the power was taken out of his hands, and he, with his wife, sister, and two children, were shut up in prison. An evil spirit came into the people, and made them believe that the only way to keep themselves free would be to get rid of all who had been great people in the former days. So they set up a machine for cutting off heads, called the guillotine, and there, day after day, nobles and priests, gentlemen and ladies--even the king, queen, and princess, were brought and slain. The two children were not guillotined, but the poor little boy, only nine years old, was worse off than if he had been, for the cruel wretches who kept him called him the wolf-cub, and said he was to be got rid of, and they kept him alone in a dark, dirty room, and used him so ill that he pined to death. Many French gentry and clergymen fled to England, and there were kindly treated and helped to live; and the king's brother, now the rightful king himself, found a home there too.
At last the French grew weary of this horrible bloodshed; but, as they could not manage themselves, a soldier named Napoleon Bonaparte, by his great cleverness and the victories he gained over other nations, succeeded in getting all the power. His victories were wonderful. He beat the Germans, the Italians, the Russians, and conquered wherever he went. There was only one nation he never could beat, and that was the English; though he very much wanted to have come over here with a great fleet and army, and have conquered our island. All over England people got ready. All the men learnt something of how to be soldiers, and made themselves into regiments of volunteers; and careful watch was kept against the quantities of flat-bottomed boats that Bonaparte had made ready to bring his troops across the English Channel. But no one had ships and sailors like the English; and, besides, they had the greatest sea-captain who ever lived, whose name was Horatio Nelson. When the French went under Napoleon to try to conquer Egypt and all the East, Nelson went after them with his ships, and beat the whole French fleet, though it was a great deal larger than his own, at the mouth of the Nile, blowing up the Admiral's ship, and taking or burning many more. Afterward, when the King of Denmark was being made to take part against England, Nelson's fleet sailed to Copenhagen, fought a sharp battle, and took all the Danish ships. And lastly, when Spain had made friends with France, and both their fleets had joined together against England, Lord Nelson fought them both off Cape Trafalgar, and gained the greatest of all his victories; but it was his last, for a Frenchman on the mast-head shot him through the backbone, and he died the same night. No one should ever forget the order he gave to all his sailors in all the ships before the battle-- "England expects every man to do his duty."
After the battle of Trafalgar the sea was cleared of the enemy's ships, and there was no more talk of invading England. Indeed, though Bonaparte overran nearly all the Continent of Europe, the smallest strip of sea was enough to stop him, for his ships could not stand before the English ones.
All this time English affairs were managed by Mr. Pitt, Lord Chatham's son; but he died the very same year as Lord Nelson was killed, 1805, and then his great rival, Mr. Fox, was minister in his stead: but he, too, died very soon, and affairs were managed by less clever men, but who were able to go on in the line that Pitt had marked out for them: and that was, of standing up with all their might against Bonaparte-- though he now called himself the Emperor, Napoleon I., and was treading down every country in Europe.
The war time was a hard one at home in England, for everything was very dear and the taxes were high; but everyone felt that the only way to keep the French away was to go on fighting with them, and trying to help the people in the countries they seized upon. So the whole country stood up bravely against them.
Sad trouble came on the good old king in his later years. He lost his sight, and, about the same time, died his youngest child, the Princess Amelia, of whom he was very fond. His grief clouded his mind again, and there was no recovery this time. He was shut up in some rooms at Windsor Castle, where he had music to amuse him, and his good wife, Queen Charlotte, watched over him carefully as long as she lived.
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