Meet Great Britain’s Georgian Kings

King George I

The reign of George I ushered in the Georgian years in the history of Great Britain. The reign of four Georges would begin in 1714 and end in the death of King George IV in 1830.

George I (born 1660, ruled 1714-1727). George Louis succeeded his father as elector of Hanover, a north German state, in 1698. His mother, Sophia, was a granddaughter of James I if the English Stuart line. The English act6 the settlement (1701) had barred Catholics from the throne and exiled the Catholics heirs of the Stuarts. When Queen Anne died, in 1714, George succeeded to the British throne as the nearest Protestant heir. In 1715 a rebellion in Scotland in favor of the Stuart “pretender” was easily put down.

George was 55 years old when he became king of Great Britain. He was more interested in Hanover—which he continued to rule—than in Britain and divided his time in the two countries. Since he spoke only German, he left almost of his business of the British government to his ministers. Finally he even stops attending cabinet meetings. Sir Robert Walpole, his chief minister, headed the cabinet in the in king’s place and thus became in effect Britain’s first “prime” minister.

Long before George became to England, he had divorce his wife Sophia Dorothea, for misconduct. She was imprisoned in Hanover until her death in 1726. There were two children of the marriage. The daughter married the elector of Prussia. The son succeeded his father in Hanover and Great Britain.

King George II

George II (born 1683, ruled 1727-1760). Like his father, George I, George II was more interested in Hanover than in Britain. He was a vain, pompous little man, fond of show, but extremely economical. One of his favorite diversions, it was said, was counting his money like the in the nursery rhyme.
George II followed his father’s example in staying away from the cabinet meetings. He left government affairs to Sir Robert Walpole and later to other political leaders after Walpole retired under the elder William Pitt. Just as the reign was ending Britain gained brilliant victories in the French and Indian War. The Jacobite rising of 1745 was much more serious affairs than that of 1715, but it too proved unsuccessful. George’s consort, Queen Caroline of Anspach, was a  woman of remarkable ability who proved a tower of  strength to her weak  husbands and to his ministers.

George III

George III (born 1738, ruled 1760-1820) George III was a grandson of George II. (His father Frederick, Prince of Wales, died in 17 51.) He was the first of the Hanoverian rulers to be born and educated in Britain. His mother, ignorant and to devoted, continually urged him, “George be king!” following this advice, he attempted to restore the kingship of great Britain to a position of power not unlike that which was held by his cousin, Frederick the Great of Prussia. Unlike his cousin, George had only average ability, but he had more than average obstinacy. He refused to give up his course until he had lost for Great Britain the 13 American colonies and “inflicted more profound and enduring injuries upon his country than any other modern English king.” William Lecky, the British  historian just quoted, says also that  George III spent his 60-year reign—longer than that of any other British ruler expect  Queen Victoria—in “obstinately resisting measures which are now almost universally admitted to have been good and in supporting measure which are as universally admitted to have been bad.” By gifts of offices, titles, contracts, and even money bribes, he sought to build up in parliament a party known as “the king’s friends.”  When the American colonist triumphed at Yorktown in 1781, the liberal-minded Whigs took control of the government. George had long been subjects to periodic attacks of insanity. During the last ten years of his life was both insane and blind.

George IV

George IV (born 1762, ruled 1820-30). For ten years George IV reigned ask king. For nine years before his accession, he was prince regent because of the insanity of his father, George III. He was a dissolute and incompetent ruler, though he posed as “the first gentleman of the Europe.” His treatment of his young Queen, Caroline of Brunswick was abominable, and when he attempted to divorce her the British people were indignant. The government, both in Great Britain and in Hanover, was in the hands of ministers. Since his only child, a daughter, had died his brother, William IV, succeeded him.


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