King George II
George II (1683-1760) was king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 until his death. He was the second Hanoverian king of Great Britain; the son of George I, he reigned 1727-1760. He is noted for enhancing the stability of the constitutional system, with a government run by Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745) during the period 1730-42, and building up the British Empire, including the seizure of Canada from France. Simultaneously he was elector and rule of the German state of Hanover. Born and raised in Hanover, he nevertheless managed to gain a better understanding of English culture than his father.
The reign of George II saw a Jacobite rebellion in 1745 and wars with Spain and France, during one of which he became the last British monarch to lead troops in the field. A passionate music-lover, George II was a patron of the composer G. F. Handel.
At his death in 1760, George II was succeeded by his grandson (George III), his eldest son having died in 1751.
He was born George Augustus at Hanovers' German castle, on November 10, 1683. He was the only son of Georg Ludwig, then elector (ruler) of Hanover and later king of England as George I, and of Sophia Dorothea, daughter of the duke of Lüneburg-Celle. In 1705, George Augustus married the extremely able and attractive Caroline of Anspach.
On the accession of his father to the throne of England in 1714, George Augustus became Prince of Wales; three years later the prince quarreled so violently with his father that he was placed, for a time, under house arrest. He and his brilliant wife set up a rival court at Leicester House, near London, which became the center for those in opposition to his father's court. Among the visitors to Leicester House was Sir Robert Walpole, the Whig leader, who had the strong support of Princess Caroline. It was Walpole who negotiated the reconciliation between the king and his son in 1720; even so the prince felt that he had been cheated and so nursed a grudge against Walpole.
George II was a courageous soldier who delighted in arms, armies and personal combat, as at the 1708 Battle of Oudenaarde. In 1743 when he personally led his troops against the French at the Battle of Dettinghen, in Bavaria.
At his own accession in June 1727 George II peremptorily dismissed Walpole; but Caroline persuaded him to recall the minister, and he soon became as devoted to Walpole as his wife was. He came to prefer Walpole to all other ministers, trusted him, and backed him at every crisis.
As a king he played a secondary role in both domestic and foreign affairs, enjoying the illusion, of ruling as Walpole and senior ministers made the major decisions. Although unwavering in his personal loyalties, as his support of both Walpole and John Carteret demonstrated, he usually gave way to his advisers if they pressed him strongly enough on policy issues. He aided Walpole in purging the cabinet in 1733, and the same year the king yielded to Walpole's opposition to the War of the Polish Succession; George II wanted Britain to support its allies, the Austrians and Russians but Walpole said no. Henry Pelham (1696–1754) served as chief minister 1743-54. In 1744, under pressure, the king dismissed Carteret, his favourite minister; in 1746, he acceded to the demands of his ministers to admit to office William Pitt, whom he despised.
George loved parades and hunting, and his days were ordered with military precision. He had limited interests off the field. He enjoyed music and was a patron of both Johann Friedrich Heidegger and George Frederick Handel.
In 1737, his beloved Caroline died and the king's grief was profound; he refused to remarry, consoling himself for the rest of his days with his mistress Madame de Walmoden, who became Countess of Yarmouth. Otherwise he was a cold man with no friends.
Although he may have been avaricious, insensitive, and intellectually limited, his wise choice of ministers and his honesty of purpose did much to establish the Hanoverian parliamentary monarchy in England. Financially the kingdom was in good shape thanks to Walpole's policies, especially the creation of a sinking fund to reduce the national debt. Walpole had mollified the largely Tory gentry by reducing of the land tax; he promoted trade by awarding bonuses for exports and encouraging the production of raw materials by the colonies. Just as his father had quarreled with him, George II quarreled violently with his heir, Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–51), who lived at Leicester House, which became a center of political opposition to the king and to the ministries of Walpole and Henry Pelham. Outliving his son, the king died in London on October 25, 1760, and was succeeded by his grandson George III (1738-1820), who reigned 60 years.
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