I never thought I’d say it. But, my American sons have a favorite English king: George III. And, it’s all thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical.
For months, my sons have absorbed the story of Alexander Hamilton, as they’ve heard the Broadway musical soundtrack played over and over again by my husband. In the car. At home. Really, anywhere, at any time.
They know the words, the story and the characters.
They sing the lyrics, taking turns with each role.
They’ve read an Alexander Hamilton biography. They’ve seen the PBS special.
Like so many others – of all ages – they’ve become absorbed with the story of a Haitian immigrant who “got the job done.”
It’s a quintessential American story. An entrepreneurial spirit who follows the dreams of their parents - and their own - to achieve greatness. One that rings true today. More than ever.
My sons’ interest in the story has led to conversations about succession, great presidents, dueling viewpoints and so much more. It’s opened new avenues to discuss American history and politics – at a time when we’ve needed to hold onto traditions, protocol and the hope that were still on the right path no matter who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office.
But, it also exposed my sons to our ties to, and history with, England. And, surprisingly, it’s given them a favorite English king – George III.
When we saw the Chicago production of Hamilton, King George III added a comedic element to the show that brought huge waves of laugher from the crowd – including my sons. And, it cemented an unexpected place for George III in their young hearts.
Yes, King George III led the British against Hamilton, George Washington and others in the American War of Independence - and is said to have ultimately gone mad. But, he's the English king my sons now know the best.
During a recent trip to London, my husband and I were able to quickly coax our sons into a visit to the National Portrait Gallery by presenting them with one challenge – to try to find King George III. And, with that, we spend off into the museum, up the stairs and down the long halls until we found his portrait.
On our last day there, my sons stopped in great delight in front of a etching and pillow on a long, low wooden bench that noted King George III lived at Kensington Palace. Their delight in seeing him there surpassed the sight of the dresses in the newly opened Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit. (Okay, so maybe that wasn’t too much of a surprise…)
Going to a French international school in Chicago, my sons learn about the French kings in fourth grade and focus on the American revolution in fifth grade. I’m glad they also have an appreciation of English history - thanks to the school of Hamilton (and the brilliant writing of Lin-Manuel Miranda).