King George III: The Abdication that Never Happened

George III was Britain’s king during the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence called him, “A Prince whose character is … marked by every act which may define a Tyrant.” But recent research has revealed a surprise about the king — one that hardly smacks of tyranny. In 1783, as the Revolutionary War drew to a close, George III almost abdicated—as revealed by a draft abdication speech in his own hand, recently discovered. The king’s speech blames the loss of the colonies on selfish partisanship within Britain. (Apparently, little has changed in the U.K. or in its former colonies.) King George also concluded that he had nothing left to offer. “A long Experience … has gradually prepared My mind to expect the time when I should be no longer of Utility to this Empire; that hour is now come; I am therefore resolved to resign My Crown and all the Dominions appertaining to it to the Prince of Wales my Eldest Son and Lawful Successor and to retire to the care of My Electoral Dominions the Original Patrimony of my Ancestors.” (The last point means he planned to move to his family’s duchy in Germany.)

George III would have been England’s first monarch to abdicate — and only the second for Britain’s other key realm, Scotland, following Mary Queen of Scots, who abdicated in favor of her infant son in 1567. Apparently, George’s advisors convinced him to stay, and in fact, he ultimately reigned longer than any other English king. So the U.K.’s first abdication had to wait until 1936, when King George’s descendant, Edward VIII, gave up the throne. (Edward’s motives were less patriotic. Britain’s government more or less pushed him out, thanks to his questionable loyalty and his plan to marry a divorced American Nazi sympathizer.)


© 2020 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.