House of Brunswick, Hanover Line -- Reigned: 1727-1760
George II was born November 10, 1683, the only son of George I and Sophia. His youth was spent in the Hanoverian court in Germany, and he married Caroline of Anspach in 1705.
He was truly devoted to Caroline; she bore him three sons and five daughters, and actively participated in government affairs, before she died in 1737.
Like his father, George was very much a German prince, but at the age of 30 when George I ascended the throne, he was young enough to absorb the English culture that escaped his father. George II died of a stroke on October 25, 1760.
George possessed three passions: the army, music and his wife. He was exceptionally brave and has the distinction of being the last British sovereign to command troops in the field (at Dettingen against the French in 1743).
He inherited his father's love of opera, particularly the work of George Frederick Handel, who had been George I's court musician in Hanover.
Caroline proved to be his greatest asset. She revived traditional court life (which had all but vanished under George I), was fiercely intelligent, and an ardent supporter of Robert Walpole.
Walpole continued in the role of Prime Minister at Caroline's behest, as George was loathe keeping his father's head Cabinet member. The hatred George felt towards his father was reciprocated by his son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, who died in 1751.
Walpole retired in 1742, after establishing the foundation of the modern constitutional monarchy: a Cabinet responsible to a Parliament, which was, in turn, responsible to an electorate. At that time, the system was far from truly democratic; the electorate was essentially the voice of wealthy landowners and mercantilists. The Whig party was firmly in control, although legitimist Tories attempted one last Jacobite rebellion in 1745, by again trying to restore a Stuart to the throne.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland and marched as far south as Derby, causing yet another wave of Anti-Catholicism to wash over England. The Scots retreated, and in 1746, were butchered by the Royal Army at Culloden Moor. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to France and died in Rome. The Tories became suspect due to their associations with Jacobitism, ensuring oligarchic Whig rule for the following fifty years.
Walpole managed to keep George out of continental conflicts for the first twelve years of the reign, but George declared war on Spain in 1739, against Walpole's wishes.
The Spanish war extended into the 1740's as a component of the War of Austrian Succession, in which England fought against French dominance in Europe. George shrank away from the situation quickly: he negotiated a hasty peace with France, to protect Hanover.
The 1750's found England again at war with France, this time over imperial claims. Fighting was intense in Europe, but North America and India were also theatres of the war. Government faltering in response to the French crisis brought William Pitt the Elder, later Earl of Chatham, to the forefront of British politics.
Thackeray describes George II and Walpole as such, in The Four Georges:
All rights reserved. For details and contact information:
See License Agreement, Copyright Notice.