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George II

George II: King and Elector

Andrew C. Thompson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    George II
    Book Description:

    Despite a long and eventful reign, Britain's George II is a largely forgotten monarch, his achievements overlooked and his abilities misunderstood. This landmark biography uncovers extensive new evidence in British and German archives, making possible the most complete and accurate assessment of this thirty-three-year reign. Andrew C. Thompson paints a richly detailed portrait of the many-faceted monarch in his public as well as his private life.

    Born in Hanover in 1683, George Augustus first came to London in 1714 as the new Prince of Wales. He assumed the throne in 1727, held it until his death in 1760, and has the distinction of being Britain's last foreign-born king and the last king to lead an army in battle. With George's story at its heart, the book reconstructs his thoughts and actions through a careful reading of the letters and papers of those around him. Thompson explores the previously underappreciated roles George played in the political processes of Britain, especially in foreign policy, and also charts the intricacies of the king's complicated relationships and reassesses the lasting impact of his frequent return trips to Hanover. George II emerges from these pages as an independent and cosmopolitan figure of undeniable historical fascination.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17015-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Genealogical table of the early Hanoverians
    (pp. xii-xii)
    (pp. 1-9)

    Any biographer has to worry about the merits of the subject. Is there enough intrinsic interest to justify a study devoted to a particular individual, especially in an age where historians have tended to prefer general, synoptic studies to the narrow concentration on a single life? These fears are partly allayed when the subject is a monarch. The history of an eighteenth-century king was almost inevitably the history of his kingdom as well. Yet for George II some of the doubts remain.

    George II can rightly be described as a forgotten king. He figures not at all in Sellars and...

    (pp. 10-38)

    George of Braunschweig Lüneburg was born on 10 November 1683 NS. He was the eldest son of Georg Ludwig, prince of Calenberg and his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle and took his names from his father and paternal grandfather. Like all elite marriages in late seventeenth-century Germany, his parents’ union had been contracted to achieve dynastic and political aims, rather than for more humdrum, romantic reasons. There was little expectation that the boy born in the Leine palace in Hanover would one day inherit the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland yet it was already clear that George’s familial prospects...

  9. Chapter 2 KING-IN-WAITING
    (pp. 39-68)

    Anne’s death brought enormous upheaval for George and his family. News of his father’s changed status reached Hanover quickly. Georg Ludwig was not in any hurry to make the journey to his new lands. As was traditional, heralds had proclaimed him king on the day of Anne’s death. The list of regents that had been left in London for the occasion had been opened and the regency council it created had begun to act.

    Before departing for London, it was necessary to put in place arrangements to ensure the smooth government of the Electorate in the absence of its Elector....

  10. Chapter 3 POWER AT LAST
    (pp. 69-96)

    George received the news that he had become king from Robert Walpole. The servants accompanying Georg Ludwig on the fateful journey had sealed the gates of Osnabrück following the king’s death to ensure that their courier would take the news back to London before it leaked out in any other way. When the messenger reached London three days later, Walpole took it upon himself to convey the news to the new king in person. It being summer, the royal couple had taken up residence at Richmond Lodge. When Walpole arrived, hot from his journey, he discovered that George and Caroline...

  11. Chapter 4 A DIVIDED HOUSE?
    (pp. 97-126)

    George’s biographers have traditionally lavished attention on the early 1730s. Accounts of his reign invariably have a good deal of detail on life at the court in London from this period – the continuing relationship with Henrietta Howard and its ultimate denouement, the reaction of the royal family to the Excise Crisis of 1733, the frustration of the king at his inability to intervene in the War of the Polish Succession and the breach within the royal family that had not been healed by the time of Caroline’s death in 1737. There is, of course, much at this time that...

    (pp. 127-160)

    Caroline’s death left a significant gap at the heart of George’s court. Yet speculation quickly grew about who would succeed to Caroline’s position of supposed influence over the king. Hervey reported that Newcastle and Grafton wondered whether Princess Amelia would now fill that role but Walpole responded with characteristic directness that George was unlikely to commit incest so instead it would be necessary to consider either Countess Wallmoden or Lady Deloraine.¹ Lady Mary Deloraine had become George’s mistress some time during the summer of 1737, although he does not seem to have been particularly enthused by her, noting that she...

    (pp. 161-191)

    Granville’s departure created as many problems as it solved. The country still had to be governed, an administration formed and, perhaps most importantly, the war prosecuted. The Old Corps hoped that, given time, they could consolidate their influence within the closet and form a workable majority in the Commons. The prospects for the latter seemed reasonable. Granville’s friends were likely to be strong supporters of the war. What was needed was to bring in some members of the opposition to shore things up – something not beyond the bounds of possibility. Influence in the closet would prove to be another...

    (pp. 192-222)

    George’s political position in the aftermath of the Peace of Aachen was complicated. Although a peace deal had been signed, it felt more like a cessation of hostilities than an enduring settlement. Maria Theresa was anxious that the loss of Silesia should not become permanent. The threat of further conflict between Britain and France over extra-European possessions had abated but remained unresolved. Within Britain, the Old Corps Whigs seemed able to maintain a reasonable hold on both the administration and the Commons. Yet Frederick was once again starting to make trouble so it was uncertain how long the parliamentary peace...

  15. Chapter 8 NO MORE PEACE
    (pp. 223-252)

    At the beginning of March 1754, Henry Pelham died. The timing could not have been worse. A general election was due within a matter of weeks. George greeted the news of Pelham’s departure with dismay, noting that ‘now I shall have no more peace’.¹ Pelham proved to be a hard act to follow and ministerial wrangling was once more to become central to political life over the next few years. From George’s perspective two features of the future shape of the administration seem to have been crucial. It should not contain anybody who was personally objectionable to him, and it...

  16. Chapter 9 ULTIMATE VICTORY?
    (pp. 253-290)

    Frederick’s invasion of Saxony was designed as a preventive measure. Since news of the first treaty of Versailles had become public, Frederick had become increasingly worried that an offensive alliance was being formed against him. Russian troop movements and rumours of approaches to Maria Theresa gave him particular cause for concern. The Austrians had been approached by the Russians with a plan for offensive action. However, the Austrian desire to ensure that their new allies, the French, were kept sweet, not least because of hopes that the French could provide subsidies, meant that the Russians were persuaded to postpone offensive...

    (pp. 291-296)

    The reaction to George’s death was swift – many of the shops in London were bedecked with mourning almost as soon as the news became public.¹ The king’s will was opened in the presence of George III, the duke of Cumberland, Princess Amelia and Philipp von Münchhausen on 31 October. Princess Amelia had the 1751 will, while the other two had been kept by Münchhausen. Cumberland renounced his legacy and Berkeley was shocked to hear that provision did not seem to have been made for the pages and valets. By the time that George was buried on 11 November, his...

    (pp. 297-305)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 306-316)