George I (b.1660 r.1714-1727)
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George I (b.1660 r.1714-1727)

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George I, the Elector of Hanover was invited to take the English throne in 1714. He was fifty four years of age when he arrived in the country, and was completely unable to speak the English language. He reigned for seventeen years, but spent as little time in Britain as possible, leaving power in the hands of Walpole and Parliament.

This painting from the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller is a variant of one which was produced by Kneller for the Corporation of London in about 1716, that is a couple of years after George's coronation as King of England. He wears the Robes of the Order of the Garter, the order of chivalry which was instituted by Edward III around 1344, and which still ranks first among the orders of knighthood of Europe.

George the First was an honest, dull, German gentleman, lazy and inactive even in his pleasures, which were therefore lowly and sensual. He was diffident of his own parts, which made him speak little in public and prefer in his social, which were his favourite, hours the company of wags and buffoons.
- The Earl of Chesterfield.

(2) George I (b.1660 r.1714-1727)

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George I (b.1660 r.1714-1727)

The death of Queen Anne heralded a complicated situation, namely the question of who would be the next British monarch. Anne had no children and therefore no direct heir. The rightful heir, James Edward Stuart, refused to renounce his Catholic faith, and by The Act of Settlement (1701) this meant he could never ascend the throne. The next Protestants in line were the ruling house of Germany - The Hanoverians, descendants of Charles I's sister Elizabeth. So on Anne's death the crown was passed to George, Elector of Hanover.

George arrived in England aged fifty-four and had a very limited knowledge of his new kingdom, but nonetheless was the closest possible Protestant heir to the throne after Queen Anne's death. His was a difficult inheritance, not helped by the facts that he could only speak German, did not like his new country and spent as little time there as possible. He much preferred his autocratic rule in Hanover.

Surpassingly, he suffered little opposition once a feeble Stuart revolt was put down in 1715. This peace was largely due to the successful governing of a new constitutional development - the Prime Minister. George was lazy and dull-witted and had no interest in the politics and governing of his country, so he left it in the hands of his Hanoverian associates and a chosen minister. In 1721 the minister Robert Walpole was given the role of speaking for the king in all meetings. He became the king's representative in Parliament, and came to be known as the 'prime' or chief minister, and thus, in effect, the role of the Prime Minister was created.

As a result of George's lack of interest in governing, by the end of his reign the power of the monarchy had drastically reduced. In turn, the change in balance saw the dramatic rise in Parliamentary power - something which has grown ever since.


George I knew nothing, and desired to know nothing and desired to do nothing, and the only good thing that is told of him is that he wished to restore the crown to its hereditary successor.
- Samuel Johnson, Quoted Boswell, The Life of Johnson, 1775.

No woman came amiss to him, if they were very willing and very fat. The standard of His Majesty's taste made all those ladies who aspired to his favour, and who were near the statutable size, strain and swell themselves like the frogs in the fable, to rival the bulk and dignity of the ox. Some succeeded, and others burst.
- Lord Chesterfield.

George the First was always reckoned
Vile, but viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard
Any good of George the Third?
When from earth the Fourth descended,
God be praised, the Georges ended.
- Walter Savage Landor, 1775-1864. Advanced Category Search

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