George Britain
King of Great Britain and Ireland, Elector of Hanover
George Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death. George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain: he was born and brought up in Northern Germany.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1760
    Age 76
    By October 1760, George II was blind in one eye, and hard of hearing.
    More Details Hide Details On the morning of 25 October, he rose as usual at 6:00 am, drank a cup of hot chocolate, and went to his close stool, alone. After a few minutes, his valet heard a loud crash. He entered the room to find the king on the floor. The king was lifted into his bed, and Princess Amelia was sent for, but before she reached him, he was dead. At the age of nearly 77, he had lived longer than any of his English predecessors. A post-mortem revealed that the right ventricle of the king's heart had ruptured as the result of an incipient aortic aneurysm. George II was succeeded by his grandson George III, and was buried on 11 November in Westminster Abbey. He left instructions for the sides of his and his wife's coffins to be removed so that their remains could mingle.
  • 1757
    Age 73
    George donated the royal library to the British Museum in 1757, four years after the museum's foundation.
    More Details Hide Details He had no interest in reading, or in the arts and sciences, and preferred to spend his leisure hours stag-hunting on horseback or playing cards. In 1737, he founded the Georg August University of Göttingen, the first university in the Electorate of Hanover, and visited it in 1748. The asteroid 359 Georgia was named in his honour at the University in 1902. He served as the Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, between 1716 and 1727, and in 1754 issued the charter for King's College in New York City, which later became Columbia University. The province of Georgia, founded by royal charter in 1732, was named after him. During George II's reign British interests expanded throughout the world, the Jacobite challenge to the Hanoverian dynasty was extinguished, and the power of ministers and Parliament in Britain became well-established. Nevertheless, in the memoirs of contemporaries such as Lord Hervey and Horace Walpole, George is depicted as a weak buffoon, governed by his wife and ministers. Biographies of George written during the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century relied on these biased accounts. Since the last quarter of the twentieth century, scholarly analysis of surviving correspondence has indicated that George was not as ineffective as previously thought. Letters from ministers are annotated by George with pertinent remarks and demonstrate that he had a grasp of and interest in foreign policy in particular. He was often able to prevent the appointment of ministers or commanders he disliked, or sideline them into lesser offices.
    George's son the Duke of Cumberland commanded the king's troops in northern Germany. In 1757, Hanover was invaded and George gave Cumberland full powers to conclude a separate peace.
    More Details Hide Details By September, however, he was furious at Cumberland's negotiated settlement, which he felt greatly favoured the French. George said his son had "ruined me and disgraced himself". Cumberland, by his own choice, resigned his military offices, and George revoked the peace deal on the grounds that the French had infringed it by disarming Hessian troops after the ceasefire. In the annus mirabilis of 1759 British forces captured Quebec and Guadeloupe. A French plan to invade Britain was defeated following naval battles at Lagos and Quiberon Bay, and a resumed French advance on Hanover was halted by a joint British–Hanoverian force at the Battle of Minden.
  • 1751
    Age 67
    When the Prince of Wales died suddenly in 1751, his eldest son, Prince George, became heir apparent.
    More Details Hide Details The king commiserated with the Dowager Princess of Wales and wept with her. As her son would not reach the age of majority until 1756, a new British Regency Act was passed to make her regent, assisted by a council led by the Duke of Cumberland, in case of George II's death. The king also made a new will, which provided for Cumberland to be sole regent in Hanover. After the death of his daughter Louisa at the end of the year, George lamented, "This has been a fatal year for my family. I lost my eldest son – but I am glad of it... Now Louisa is gone. I know I did not love my children when they were young: I hated to have them running into my room; but now I love them as well as most fathers."
    Frederick died unexpectedly in 1751, nine years before his father, and so George II was ultimately succeeded by his grandson, George III.
    More Details Hide Details For two centuries after George II's death, history tended to view him with disdain, concentrating on his mistresses, short temper and boorishness. Since then, most scholars have reassessed his legacy and conclude that he held and exercised influence in foreign policy and military appointments. George was born in the city of Hanover in Germany, and was the son of George Louis, Hereditary Prince of Brunswick-Lüneburg (later King George I of Great Britain), and his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle.
  • 1746
    Age 62
    On 16/27 April 1746, Charles faced George's military-minded son Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, in the Battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle fought on British soil.
    More Details Hide Details The ravaged Jacobite troops were routed by the government army. Charles escaped to France, but many of his supporters were caught and executed. Jacobitism was all but crushed; no further serious attempt was made at restoring the House of Stuart. The War of the Austrian Succession continued until 1748, when Maria Theresa was recognized as Archduchess of Austria. The peace was celebrated by a fête in Green Park, London, for which Handel composed Music for the Royal Fireworks. In the general election of 1747, the Prince of Wales again campaigned actively for the opposition but Pelham's party won easily. Like his father before him, the Prince entertained opposition figures at his house in Leicester Square.
    In February 1746, Pelham and his followers resigned.
    More Details Hide Details George asked Lord Bath and Carteret to form an administration, but after less than 48 hours they returned the seals of office, unable to secure sufficient parliamentary support. Pelham returned to office triumphant, and George was forced to appoint Pitt to the ministry. George's French opponents encouraged rebellion by the Jacobites, the supporters of the Roman Catholic claimant to the British throne, James Francis Edward Stuart, often known as the Old Pretender. Stuart was the son of James II, who had been deposed in 1688 and replaced by his Protestant relations. Two prior rebellions in 1715 and 1719 had failed. In July 1745, the Old Pretender's son, Charles Edward Stuart, popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland, where support for his cause was highest. George, who was summering in Hanover, returned to London at the end of August. The Jacobites defeated British forces in September at the Battle of Prestonpans, and then moved south into England. The Jacobites failed to gain further support, and the French reneged on a promise of help. Losing morale, the Jacobites retreated back into Scotland.
  • 1744
    Age 60
    Carteret lost support, and to George's dismay resigned in 1744.
    More Details Hide Details Tension grew between the Pelham ministry and George, as he continued to take advice from Carteret and rejected pressure from his other ministers to include William Pitt the Elder in the Cabinet, which would have broadened the government's support base. The king disliked Pitt because he had previously opposed government policy and attacked measures seen as pro-Hanoverian.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1743
    Age 59
    An allied force of Austrian, British, Dutch, Hanoverian and Hessian troops engaged the French at the Battle of Dettingen on 16/27 June 1743.
    More Details Hide Details George personally accompanied them, leading them to victory, thus becoming the last British monarch to lead troops into battle. Though his actions in the battle were admired, the war became unpopular with the British public, who felt that the king and Carteret were subordinating British interests to Hanoverian ones.
  • 1742
    Age 58
    With his support eroded, Walpole retired in 1742 after over 20 years in office.
    More Details Hide Details He was replaced by Spencer Compton, Lord Wilmington, whom George had originally considered for the premiership in 1727. Lord Wilmington, however, was a figurehead; actual power was held by others, such as Lord Carteret, George's favourite minister after Walpole. When Wilmington died in 1743, Henry Pelham took his place at the head of the government. of George II, 1746. The inscription reads GEORGIUS II DEI GRATIA (George II by the Grace of God). George agreed to send 12,000 hired Hessian and Danish mercenaries to Europe, ostensibly to support Maria Theresa. Without conferring with his British ministers, George stationed them in Hanover to prevent enemy French troops from marching into the electorate. The British army had not fought in a major European war in over 20 years, and the government had badly neglected its upkeep. George had pushed for greater professionalism in the ranks, and promotion by merit rather than by sale of commissions, but without much success.
  • 1740
    Age 56
    George spent the summers of 1740 and 1741 in Hanover, where he was more able to intervene directly in European diplomatic affairs in his capacity as elector.
    More Details Hide Details Prince Frederick campaigned actively for the opposition in the British general election, 1741, and Walpole was unable to secure a stable majority. Walpole attempted to buy off the prince with the promise of an increased allowance and offered to pay off his debts, but Frederick refused.
  • 1739
    Age 55
    Against Walpole's wishes, but to George's delight, Britain reopened hostilities with Spain in 1739.
    More Details Hide Details Britain's conflict with Spain, the War of Jenkins' Ear, became part of the War of the Austrian Succession when a major European dispute broke out upon the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1740. At issue was the right of Charles's daughter, Maria Theresa, to succeed to his Austrian dominions.
  • 1737
    Age 53
    Soon afterwards, George's wife Caroline died on 20 November 1737 (O.S.).
    More Details Hide Details He was deeply affected by her death, and to the surprise of many displayed "a tenderness of which the world thought him before utterly incapable". On her deathbed she told her sobbing husband to remarry, to which he replied, "Non, j'aurai des maîtresses!" (French for "No, I shall have mistresses!"). It was common knowledge that George had already had mistresses during his marriage, and he had kept Caroline informed about them. Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, had moved to Hanover with her husband during the reign of Queen Anne, and she had been one of Caroline's women of the bedchamber. She was his mistress from before the accession of George I until November 1734. She was followed by Amalie von Wallmoden, later Countess of Yarmouth, whose son, Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden, may have been fathered by George. Johann Ludwig was born while Amalie was still married to her husband, and George did not acknowledge him publicly as his own son.
    Further friction between them followed when Frederick excluded the king and queen from the birth of his daughter in July 1737 by bundling his wife, who was in labour, into a coach and driving off in the middle of the night.
    More Details Hide Details George banished him and his family from the royal court, much like the punishment his own father had brought upon him with the exception that he allowed Frederick to retain custody of his children.
    Eventually, in January 1737, he arrived back in England.
    More Details Hide Details Immediately he fell ill, with piles and a fever, and withdrew to his bed. The Prince of Wales put it about that the king was dying, with the result that George insisted on getting up and attending a social event to disprove the gossip-mongers. When the Prince of Wales applied to Parliament for an increase in his allowance, an open quarrel broke out. The king, who had a reputation for meanness, offered a private settlement, which Frederick rejected. Parliament voted against the measure, but George reluctantly increased his son's allowance on the advice of Walpole.
  • 1736
    Age 52
    In May 1736, George returned to Hanover, which resulted in unpopularity in England; a satirical notice was even pinned to the gates of St James's Palace decrying his absence. "Lost or strayed out of this house", it read, "a man who has left a wife and six children on the parish."
    More Details Hide Details The king made plans to return in the face of inclement December weather; when his ship was caught in a storm, gossip swept London that he had drowned.
    Instead, the prince married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in April 1736.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1730
    Age 46
    Walpole directed domestic policy, and after the resignation of his brother-in-law Townshend in 1730 also controlled George's foreign policy.
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  • 1729
    Age 45
    When George visited Hanover in the summers of 1729, 1732 and 1735, he left his wife to chair the regency council in Britain rather than his son.
    More Details Hide Details Meanwhile, rivalry between George II and his brother-in-law and first cousin Frederick William I of Prussia led to tension along the Prussian–Hanoverian border, which eventually culminated in the mobilization of troops in the border zone and suggestions of a duel between the two kings. Negotiations for a marriage between the Prince of Wales and Frederick William's daughter Wilhelmine dragged on for years but neither side would make the concessions demanded by the other, and the idea was shelved.
  • 1728
    Age 44
    In 1728, he was brought to England, and swiftly became a figurehead of the political opposition.
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  • 1727
    Age 43
    George II was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 11/22 October 1727.
    More Details Hide Details The composer George Frideric Handel was commissioned to write four new anthems for the coronation, including Zadok the Priest. It was widely believed that George would dismiss Walpole, who had distressed him by joining his father's government, and replace him with Sir Spencer Compton. George asked Compton, rather than Walpole, to write his first speech as king for him, but Compton asked Walpole to draft it. Caroline advised George to retain Walpole, who continued to gain royal favour by securing a generous civil list (a fixed annual amount set by Parliament for the king's official expenditure) of £800,000. Walpole commanded a substantial majority in Parliament and George had little choice but to retain him or risk ministerial instability. Compton was ennobled as Lord Wilmington the following year.
    George I died on 11/22 June 1727 during one of his visits to Hanover, and George II succeeded him as king and elector at the age of 43.
    More Details Hide Details The new king decided not to travel to Germany for his father's funeral, which far from bringing criticism led to praise from the English who considered it proof of his fondness for England. He suppressed his father's will because it attempted to split the Hanoverian succession between George II's future grandsons rather than vest all the domains (both in Britain and Hanover) in a single person. Both British and Hanoverian ministers considered the will unlawful, as George I did not have the legal power to determine the succession personally. Critics supposed that George II hid the will to avoid paying out his father's legacies.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1720
    Age 36
    In 1720, Walpole encouraged the king and his son to reconcile, for the sake of public unity, which they did half-heartedly.
    More Details Hide Details Walpole and Townshend returned to political office, and rejoined the ministry. George was soon disillusioned with the terms of the reconciliation; his three daughters who were in the care of the king were not returned and he was still barred from becoming regent during the king's absences. He came to believe that Walpole had tricked him into the rapprochement as part of a scheme to regain power. Over the next few years, he and Caroline lived quietly, avoiding overt political activity. They had three more children: William, Mary and Louisa, who were brought up at Leicester House and Richmond Lodge, George's summer residence. In 1721, the economic disaster of the South Sea Bubble allowed Walpole to rise to the pinnacle of government. Walpole and his Whig Party were dominant in politics, as the king feared that the Tories would not support the succession laid down in the Act of Settlement. The power of the Whigs was so great that the Tories would not come to hold power for another half-century.
  • 1717
    Age 33
    His new London residence, Leicester House, became a frequent meeting place for his father's political opponents, including Sir Robert Walpole and Viscount Townshend, who had left the government in 1717.
    More Details Hide Details The king visited Hanover again from May to November 1719. Instead of appointing George to the guardianship, he established a regency council.
    His father distrusted or was jealous of George's popularity, which contributed to the development of a poor relationship between them. The birth in 1717 of George's second son, Prince George William, proved to be a catalyst for a family quarrel; the king, supposedly following custom, appointed the Lord Chamberlain, the Duke of Newcastle, as one of the baptismal sponsors of the child.
    More Details Hide Details The king was angered when George, who disliked Newcastle, verbally insulted the duke at the christening, which the duke misunderstood as a challenge to a duel. George and Caroline were temporarily confined to their apartments on the order of the king, who subsequently banished his son from St James's Palace, the king's residence. The Prince and Princess of Wales left court, but their children remained in the care of the king. George and Caroline missed their children, and were desperate to see them. On one occasion they secretly visited the palace without the approval of the king; Caroline fainted and George "cried like a child". The king partially relented and permitted them to visit once a week, though he later allowed Caroline unconditional access. The following February, George William died, with his father by his side. Banned from the palace and shunned by his own father, for the next several years the Prince of Wales was identified with opposition to George I's policies, which included measures designed to increase religious freedom in Great Britain and expand Hanover's German territories at the expense of Sweden.
  • 1716
    Age 32
    In July 1716, the king returned to Hanover for six months, and George was given limited powers, as "Guardian and Lieutenant of the Realm", to govern in his father's absence.
    More Details Hide Details He made a royal progress through Chichester, Havant, Portsmouth and Guildford in southern England. Spectators were allowed to see him dine in public at Hampton Court Palace. An attempt on his life at Drury Lane Theatre, in which one person was shot dead before the assailant was brought under control, boosted his high public profile.
  • 1714
    Age 30
    George and his father sailed for England from The Hague on 16/27 September 1714 and arrived at Greenwich two days later.
    More Details Hide Details The following day, they formally entered London in a ceremonial procession. George was given the title of Prince of Wales. Caroline followed her husband to Britain in October with their daughters, while Frederick remained in Hanover to be brought up by private tutors. London was like nothing George had seen before: it was 50 times larger than Hanover, and the crowd was estimated at up to one and a half million spectators. George courted popularity with voluble expressions of praise for the English, and claimed that he had no drop of blood that was not English.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1709
    Age 25
    Between 1709 and 1713, George and Caroline had three more children, all girls: Anne, Amelia, and Caroline.
    More Details Hide Details By 1714, Queen Anne's health had declined, and British Whigs, politicians who supported the Hanoverian succession, thought it prudent for one of the Hanoverians to live in England, to safeguard the Protestant succession on Anne's death. As George was a peer of the realm (as Duke of Cambridge), it was suggested that he be summoned to Parliament to sit in the House of Lords. Both Anne and George's father refused to support the plan, although George, Caroline and Sophia were all in favour. George did not go. Within the year, both Sophia and Anne were dead, and George's father was king.
  • 1708
    Age 24
    In 1708, George participated in the Battle of Oudenarde in the vanguard of the Hanoverian cavalry; his horse and a colonel immediately beside him were killed, but George survived unharmed.
    More Details Hide Details The British commander, Marlborough, wrote that George "distinguished himself extremely, charging at the head of and animating by his example Hanoverian troops, who played a good part in this happy victory".
  • 1707
    Age 23
    In early 1707, George's hopes were fulfilled when Caroline gave birth to a son, Frederick.
    More Details Hide Details In July, Caroline fell seriously ill with smallpox, and George caught the infection after staying by her side devotedly during her illness. They both recovered.
  • 1705
    Age 21
    On 22 August / 2 September 1705 Caroline arrived in Hanover for her wedding, which was held the same evening in the chapel at Herrenhausen.
    More Details Hide Details George was keen to participate in the war against France in Flanders, but his father refused permission for him to join the army in an active role until he had a son and heir.
    In June 1705, under the false name of "Monsieur de Busch", George visited the Ansbach court at their summer residence in Triesdorf to investigate incognito a marriage prospect: Caroline of Ansbach, the former ward of his aunt Queen Sophia Charlotte of Prussia.
    More Details Hide Details The English envoy to Hanover, Edmund Poley, reported that George was so taken by "the good character he had of her that he would not think of anybody else". A marriage contract was concluded by the end of July.
    He was naturalized as an English subject in 1705 by the Sophia Naturalization Act, and in 1706 he was made a Knight of the Garter and created Duke and Marquess of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton and Baron Tewkesbury in the Peerage of England.
    More Details Hide Details England and Scotland united in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and jointly accepted the succession as laid down by the English Act of Settlement. George's father did not want his son to enter into a loveless arranged marriage as he had, and wanted him to have the opportunity of meeting his bride before any formal arrangements were made. Negotiations from 1702 for the hand of Princess Hedvig Sophia of Sweden, Dowager Duchess and regent of Holstein-Gottorp, came to nothing.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1701
    Age 17
    She had no surviving children, and by the Act of Settlement 1701 the English Parliament designated Anne's closest Protestant blood relations, George's grandmother Sophia and her descendants, as Anne's heirs in England and Ireland.
    More Details Hide Details Consequently, after his grandmother and father, George was third in line to succeed Anne in two of her three realms.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1694
    Age 10
    Both of George's parents committed adultery, and in 1694 their marriage was dissolved on the pretext that Sophia had abandoned her husband.
    More Details Hide Details She was confined to Ahlden House and denied access to her two children, George and his sister Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, who probably never saw their mother again. George spoke only French, the language of diplomacy and the court, until the age of four, after which he was taught German by one of his tutors, Johann Hilmar Holstein. In addition to French and German, he was also schooled in English and Italian, and studied genealogy, military history and battle tactics with particular diligence. George's second cousin once removed, Queen Anne, ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1702.
  • 1683
    Born
    Born in 1683.
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