Hand to Hand History :: George III v. Leopold II
Battle of the Colonial Tyrants
King George III of England
At the time, George was the longest serving monarch in English history, serving for 59 years (only Queen Victoria has served longer).
His reign was marked by frequent problems with the American colonies. First, he fought a long war with France over control of the continent in the Seven Years War. Next, angry Bostonians threw his tea into Boston Harbor. Finally, Benjamin Franklin called him “a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.”
The most famous document in American history, the Declaration of Independence, is basically a long list detailing why George could never find friends to hang out with on the weekends. Choice excerpts: “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
George once called the Napoleonic Wars his favorite military conflict: “How refreshing! A war on our own continent, and such an adorably short leader!”
In 1810, George went insane. The Prince of Wales took over as regent for the final decade of the king's life. By the end of his life, George spoke nothing but incomprehensible gibberish. Kind of like our current president.
Leopold II of Belgium
In the 19th century as now, Belgium was a fake country. Essentially a forced merger between French-speaking Wallonia in the south and Flemish-speaking Flanders in the north, Leopold's father was installed as king in 1831 simply because the country needed one. Leopold II followed in this hallowed tradition.
Leopold had no interest in art, culture, or even diplomacy. He had one goal his entire life: he wanted a colony to call his very own. Since Belgium was a small country without the wealth of its larger European neighbors, Leopold decided to make up a colony on his own. He sent explorers to central Africa, into the region of the Congo, and simply took over.
The Congo region exported large amounts of ivory and rubber, which Leopold extracted by turning the his African subjects into slaves and brutally working them, often through aggressive and vicious measures like kidnapping the wives and children of unproductive men and burning down villages that were thought to be insolent. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness famously chronicled colonialism in the Congo at this time.
Leopold was not very popular with his family, either. He disinherited all three of his daughters and at his death left much of his fortune to his mistress, a French prostitute.
Advantage: Leopold. While George looms large in the American Creation Myth, Leopold was a true sadistic monster: under his watch half the population of the Congo, about 10 million people, are thought to have died.