King George II of Great Britain in 5 Minutes

King George II of Great Britain

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It’s no secret that George II didn’t like his father, George I of Great Britain. One thing he hated was his father’s treatment of his mother after their divorce. There were also political differences between father and son, which led to tensions.

That being said, George II was still named heir to the throne. His father didn’t really have a choice. He was the only boy born to George I and the British people expected the Prince of Wales to become the next king.

He has so far gone down as the last British monarch to be born outside of the United Kingdom, born in Hanover before his father even became king. Like his father, he isn’t the most interesting monarch for me, but I still stand by my original statement that he had some hard acts to follow!

The Early Life of George Augustus

George was born in Hanover on October 30, 1683. His birthday is sometimes given as November 9 and that is based on the new calendar. Despite there being 30 people before his grandmother in the line of succession, they were all Catholics and barred from the British throne. It meant that Sophia of Hanover was heir to the British throne at the time of George’s birth.

Despite being raised at home and likely around his parents, George didn’t get to see his mother after George and Sophia Dorothea of Celle divorced in 1694. Sophia Dorothea was (in my opinion, unfairly) placed under house arrest for the last 30 years of her life. That didn’t make him and his sister any closer. In fact, George greatly disliked his younger sister, named after their mother.

Until he was four, he only spoke French and was then only taught German for a short time. It would take a little longer to learn English and Italian, as well as many other subjects that were necessary for a royal.

By 1706, he had a number of British titles and was a neutralized English subject due to his place in the line of succession. Some of the titles included Duke of Cambridge and Knight of the Garter.

The Chance of a Marriage Full of Love

Unlike his sister, George had the chance of marrying for love. His father didn’t want his arranged marriage to be loveless like his own. However, George II didn’t have full control over his new bride. He just got to meet his potential bride before formal arrangements could be made.

The first meetings with potentials came to nothing. It was only in the summer of 1706 that something came out of a visit. Pretending to be “Monsieur de Busch,” George went to the Ansback Court and met Caroline of Ansbach without her realizing who he really was. By the end of July, he had been so taken by her character that a marriage contract was quickly drawn up. The two married on August 22, 1705 and fell pregnant within the year.

It looked like the George’s father’s instincts were good, but the young prince wanted to join the military and fight against the French. George I insisted that he have a son first. The Georgian line had to be cemented. In early 1707, Frederick was born and it all looked promising for George. That was  until Caroline fell ill with smallpox, and he caught it because he remained by her side while she suffered. Luckily, both recovered and George was allowed to fight with his army. Many died at the Battle of Ourdenarde, but George survived and he was commended for his efforts and ability to keep morale high. It showed him as a true leader.

When George returned, Caroline fell pregnant again. From 1709 to 1713, they had three girls in Hanover, Anne, Amelia and Caroline. As Queen Anne of Great Britain became ill, there were suggestions that George move to Britain to serve as a peer in Parliament. While George and his wife, along with his grandmother, were supportive of the idea, his father wasn’t. He ended up not going but eventually would leave Germany in that year as Queen Anne died.

George Augustus Becomes Prince of Wales

On September 16, 1714, George II made his way to Britain with his father, the new George I of Great Britain. He was given the title of Prince of Wales the very next day and the month later his wife and three daughters joined him. Frederick would remain in Hanover for the time being. Despite London being very different from Hanover, he proved himself a popular man with his praise of the culture and the people.

He was soon given the chance to govern when his father returned to Hanover temporarily in 1716. It would be the only time he had such a chance. At one point, there was an attempted assassination while on a royal progress at Drury Lane Theater. The attempt only helped boost his already high public profile.

Problems were quickly created between father and son. George I may have been jealous or untrustworthy of his son’s popularity, and the tensions started. After Caroline gave birth to Prince George William in 1717, things got even worse. At the time of the child’s baptism, George Augustus insulted the Duke of Newcastle, and the duke believed he wanted to duel. George I was furious and had his son and daughter-in-law confirmed to their apartments, eventually banished from St. James’ Palace. While the Prince of Wales was made to leave, his children had to stay.

George and Caroline wanted to see their children and even visited without permission. It is said that the two  were overwhelmed when they finally saw them, and the two were allowed to see their children once a week after that. Eventually, George allowed his daughter-in-law more regular access. It was just in time, as tragedy struck the family and George’s second son died in the February after.

George II Develops Different Policies to His Father

Over the time spent away from Court, George developed some different policies to his father. He wanted more religious freedom and also wanted to see the German territories of Hanover expand. He met with a number of his father’s opponents.

There were attempts to get the two to reconcile, and it looked like they partially tried. However, George wasn’t happy with the terms, especially when he would not get the care of his daughters and was not allowed to be regent during his father’s times away from London. George decided to stay out of politics after that and remained at Leicester House and Richmond House with Caroline. They had three more children after that, a boy and two girls.

George Augustus Becomes George II of Great Britain

On June 11, 1727 (given as June 22 according to the new calendar), George I died of a stroke and the Prince of Wales became King George II of Great Britain. His father had been in Germany at the time, and George refused to travel there. Instead of suspected criticism, the English people supported his decision, saying that it showed he was English at heart. He also suppressed the will of his father, splitting the Hanoverian succession between future grandsons of George II. He wanted one person to inherit it all. He had support of both the British and Hanoverian Governments, since his father didn’t have the power to decide the succession on his own anymore. This wasn’t the time of Henry VIII!

Despite thoughts that George would dismiss his Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, George II decided to keep him on. It was more at the request of his wife, as he had a substantial Parliament majority. It made sense to keep Walpole, even though he didn’t want to, and make his personal choice Spencer Compton a lord.

It turned out that it was the best decision for the new king. Walpole did offer some excellent advice for both domestic and foreign police. George was a fan of war, but his ministers encouraged him to hold off. When George had an unpopular excise bill in April 1733, George even dismissed the opponents from office to make sure it went through.

George II Changes Tactics

Things weren’t easy for him personally. It was only in 1728 that Frederick, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, was welcomed into Britain. He had spent 14 years in Germany without either of his parents, and was not allowed to see them. When George did visit Hanover, Frederick wasn’t even made regent; his mother was.

On top of that, George found he had problems with Sophia Dorothea’s husband Frederick William I of Prussia. Demands between the two sides meant that the possible marriage between Frederick and George’s niece Wilhelmine never occurred. Frederick married Augusta, Princess of Saxe-Gotha instead.

It was shortly after the marriage that George decided to go back to Hanover, which was extremely unpopular with the British people. When he did return in January 1737—amid rumors that he had drowned on the way home—he fell severely ill. His son passed a rumor that he was dying, meaning that George felt the need to attend social events, despite not feeling up to it.

Further tensions between father and son developed throughout 1737, especially when George and Caroline were banned from seeing the birth of their grandson. George decided to act similarly to his father, by banishing Frederick from Court. The difference was that Frederick as allowed to take his children with him.

When Caroline died in November of that same year, George was devastated. Caroline had wanted her husband to remarry, but he refused to. Instead, he decided that he would have mistresses, which he had already knowingly had. Caroline was kept informed of all his mistresses during their marriage, and it looked like they had a positive relationship because of it.

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It was after this that his tactics in Court changed. Rather than follow Walpole’s advice of no war, he entered into conflict with Spain. He spent some time in Hanover working with his military, and Walpole started to suffer for support. After 20 years in office, Walpole retired in 1742 and Spencer Compton became Prime Minister, although didn’t exercise the control. The next year, Compton died and Henry Pelham took the role.

The Death of Frederick, Prince of Wales

George II was never supposed to be succeeded by George III. It was always supposed to be Frederick, but he died suddenly in 1751. The title of heir apparent passed onto his son, George. There were worries that George would die while his grandson was still a minor. The British Regency Act was passed, which would mean the Dowager Princess of Wales would become the regent if that did happen. She would have a council led by the Duke of Cumberland, who would also lead Hanover as sole regent.

That same year, George’s daughter Louisa also died. He admitted how he hadn’t loved his children while they were young, and was glad of the death of Frederick. However, he now loved them.

Augusta never did have to become regent for her son. George II lived until 1760, but his health did suffer. By the time of his death, he struggled to hear and he was blind in one high. He was 77 at the time of his death on October 25, 1760, when he died suddenly. It was the longest any English monarch had lived. The cause of death was an aortic aneurysm.

George III of Great Britain succeeded the British throne, and would go down as being known as being one of the maddest kings. George was buried in Westminster Abbey. The sides of his and Caroline’s coffins were removed so the two would be able to lie together. While he may not have loved his children fully, he did love his wife.

George II of Great Britain is one monarch that I don’t mind researching more about, but I don’t find him as interesting as some of the monarchs that came before him. He does seem like one of the most fair, and learned from some of his father’s mistakes.

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