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King George III

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Americaʼs last king appoints a lieutenant

in the Royal American regiment commanded by his son Frederick

George William Frederick, 1738–1820.  King of Great Britain and Ireland, 1760–1820; nominally King of France, 1760–1801; King of Hanover, 1814–1820.  Partially printed Document Signed, George R, one page, 13¼" x 8½", Court of St. James's, June 11, 1801.  Countersigned by Home Secretary Thomas Pelham, Second Earl of Chichester.

This vellum military commission has a nice double historical association as to both the unit and its command.  George III, the last king to reign over the American colonies, appoints Henry Murray, Gentleman, to be a lieutenant in a company "in our Sixtieth (or Royal American) Regiment of Foot, commanded by Our Most Dearly Beloved Son Field Marshal His Royal Highness Frederick Duke of York KG."  The King commands Murray "carefully and diligently to Discharge the Duty of Lieutenant by Exercising and Well disciplining both the inferior Officers and Soldiers." 

The 60th—the Royal American, which later became the Kingʼs Royal Rifle Corps—was originally a colonial corps raised in America in 1756, as the 62nd, to defend the colonies against attack by the French and their Native American allies.  It was renumbered as the 60th in 1757.  Part colonial corps and part foreign legion, its troops included minor Swiss and German officers.  In 1759, the 60th fought at Quebec in the campaign that effectively decided the French and Indian War and wrested Canada from France.  After the American Revolution, the 60th fought in the Peninsular War alongside Wellingtonʼs army.

Frederick Augustus (1763–1827), Duke of York and Albany, was the second son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, born three years after his father acceded to the throne.  Placed by his father into military service at age 17 in 1780, he was promoted to major general in 1782 and lieutenant general in 1784.  Fifteen years later, in 1795, George III made him both a Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.  In 1801, the year of this document, Frederick supported the founding of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, which introduced merit-based training of future commissioned officers.  As Commander-in-Chief, he initiated reforms that created the British force that served in the Napoleonic Peninsular War and oversaw the preparation for defense against Napoleonʼs planned invasion Great Britain in 1803.  From his fatherʼs death in 1820 until his own death seven years later, he was the heir presumptive of his brother, King George IV.  His death at age 60 left his younger brother, William IV, to inherit the throne.

The third Hanoverian king, George III was the grandson of King George II.  He became the heir to the throne at age 12 when his father, the Prince of Wales, died, and he acceded to the throne at age 22 upon his grandfather's death.  He was the first Hanoverian monarch born in England and the first to use English as his principal language.

George III strongly opposed American independence.  The American Declaration of Independence decried his excesses, but Parliament bore just as much responsibility.  Parliament responded to the financial burdens of garrisoning and administering the vast expansion of British territory in America, the cost of a series of wars with France and Spain in North America, and the loans given to the East India Company, which was responsible for administering India, by passing the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing the Townshend duties of 1767 on tea, paper, and other products, and enacting other policies that the American colonists viewed as British oppression.

The King suffered from a hereditary disease known as porphyria.  Scientists have speculated that medicine containing arsenic that he took to treat the disease actually exacerbated it.  By 1811, George III was blind, deaf, and insane, and his oldest son, who would later become King George IV, ruled as Prince Regent.  He spent his time in isolation, and was often kept in straight jackets and behind bars in his private apartments at Windsor Castle.  He died at Windsor on January 29, 1820.

Thomas Pelham (17561826), the Second Earl of Chichester, served as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1783 and in the Irish House of Commons from 17831790 and 1793–1797.  In 1801, the year he countersigned this document, he was named Great Britainʼs Home Secretary, a position that he held for two years before being appointed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.  He succeeded to his fatherʼs earldom in 1805 and served as Postmaster General 1807–1826.

George III has signed with a large signature that measures 3" long and 1⅝" high.  The King's paper and wax seal is fully intact, as is the blue revenue stamp, although it may have been tipped back onto the document.  The document has intersecting folds and some soiling and staining, including evidence of some damp staining on the right end that does not damage the engrossment.  There are penned notes in another hand and a second stamp on the reverse.  Overall the document is in fine condition.

The document has been richly triple matted in garnet suede with a 1771 portrait of George III by Johann Joseph Zoffany, an inlaid gilt wood fillet, and an engraved brass identification plate.  The document has been floated above the suede background to give the piece a beautiful three-dimensional effect.  It is framed in an antiqued black and gilt wood frame to an overall size of 18¼" x 30½".

A History In Ink Framed Original.



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