Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hawthorne Takes Up for King George III

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hawthorne Takes Up for King George III

Article excerpt

KING George III has gotten a raw deal from the history books, according to Nigel Hawthorne, who plays the British monarch in "The Madness of King George" and who is nominated for best actor in the Academy Awards.

"He never was a very popular king, and the history books have been a bit unkind to him," Hawthorne said in a recent telephone conversation from New York. "In part it's because the Hanoverian kings were rather stodgy, Germanic people. As a result, the only really interesting thing about George III was that he went mad.

"For millions of Englishmen, the fact that he went mad and lost the American colonies is all they really know about him."

When he was approached nearly five years ago to play the king in Alan Bennett's London play "The Madness of George III," Hawthorne researched the monarch's life and discovered a fascinating character.

"He was essentially a simple man, but also one of great integrity," the actor said. "He was very interested in music and science; in fact, we have a museum in London that's given over to scientific instruments that George collected."

George was also a man of contradictions. On the one hand, behind his back he was called "Farmer George" for his habit of getting into discussions of agriculture and animal husbandry with common ploughmen. In private, he and his wife playfully referred to each other as "Mr. and Mrs. King."

On the other hand, George demanded that he and his queen be the only persons seated in a gathering and forbade everyone but members of his family from looking him in the eye.

While this may sound incredibly arrogant, there was a purpose to his behavior, Hawthorne said.

"One of the things about George III is that he was aware that the monarchy was slipping away. There was revolution in the air all over Europe. Because of the unpopularity of his predecessors, one of the things he wanted to do was to establish some sort of credibility to the monarchy. …

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