Last week, I wrote about King George I. Click here to read about his life and reign.
A bust of King George II
Born George Augustus on 30 October 1683 to the future King George I and Sophia Dorothea of Celle, King George II was the last British Monarch to be born outside Great Britain. Like his father, he was born in Hanover, where he spent most of his young life. After his parents’ marriage was dissolved due to “Sophia’s abandonment of her husband,” George and his sister never saw their mother again. This left the young boy extremely resentful of his father. Many believe this resentment began the painful spiral of the breakdown of their father/son relationship.
Unlike his father, George was a highly educated man. He was a fluent speaker of four languages (French, German, English, and Italian) and studied military operations, history and genealogy. His studies would later help George as he brought Britain into countless wars and battles with other nations.
After the 1701 Act of Settlement disinherited all Catholics (making him third in line to the throne) George was made an English subject in 1705. In 1706, George was made a Knight of the Garter. He was also made Duke and Marquess of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton, and Baron Tewkesbury that same year. After his father was crowned King of Great Britain and Ireland, George Augustus was made Prince of Wales in a lavish ceremony on his first trip to London. Soon after his inaugural trip, his wife and daughters made the two day long trip to England, leaving his young son Frederick behind to continue his schooling. After he arrived, George, Prince of Wales praised England. Unlike his father, he once said that he had no blood that wasn’t English.
Although their relationship is extremely different, King George I and King George II remind me a great deal of Prince Charles and Prince William as King George I wanted his son to have more freedom than he himself had had. One shining example of this is King George I’s view on finding a wife for his son. He wanted his son, George II, to have the opportunity to find a wife he loved rather than have an arranged marriage like he had with Sophia Dorothea of Celle. George was sent to several nations to try to find a regal wife, to no avail. Finally, on 22 August 1705, George II married Caroline of Ansbach in Hanover. Once he met Caroline, he wanted nothing to do with any other prospect. He had found his love, something that was rare for a royal at this time.
The future King George II had a passion for all things military and wanted to fight for his country. But, because his main “job” was to produce an heir, George II was unable to fight in the war against France. King George I was afraid that his son would die without producing a son. To both Georges’ delight, Caroline was safely delivered of a son (and heir!) in early 1707: Frederick. By 1713, Caroline and George welcomed three more children, Anne, Amelia, and Caroline. In 1717, Prince George William, their second son, was born. It was Prince George William’s christening that led to the demise of the relationship between the King and his heir. George and Caroline were removed from the royal palace, but their children remained in the King’s custody. Being separated from her children almost killed Caroline, causing her health to decline. Eventually, George and Caroline were allowed visitation rights to see their children once a week. During this time, however, George II entertained The Pretenders at his home. (To read more about the Pretenders, click here.) Between the years of 1721 and 1724, Caroline bore three more children: Prince William and Princesses Mary and Louisa. None of George II and Caroline’s children would ever sit on the British throne due to an early death of Frederick. Instead, Prince Frederick’s son (you guessed it!) George would succeed his grandfather. Before his premature death, however, Frederick and King George II had a very rocky relationship, much like King George II and his father. Frederick had been left behind in Hanover and did not see his parents for fourteen years, causing the young man to resent his father and King.
On his father’s countless trips to Hanover, the Prince of Wales (King George II) was granted “limited” governing powers. With this power, he became more popular than the King. Although this further divided the father and son – it did help the future King George II. Upon his coronation at Westminster Abbey on 22 October 1727 there was much celebration. Sir Robert Walpole served as one of King George II’s prime ministers and, possibly more importantly, his adviser. Sir Walpole wrote the King’s first speech as King of Great Britain and Ireland. Although at the time and for hundreds of years after his reign many believed King George II to be a passive man whom allowed his prime minister and wife to rule over him, royal historians now believe that he had his hand in every decision that was made. He is also perceived as a military genius who excelled in tactical moves.
Outside of his military and tactical achievements, King George II allowed for the advancement of education and literary history. Because he did not like literature and had no interest in reading, King George II donated the Royal Library to the British Museum in 1757. He also founded the Georg-August-University of Gottingen.
King George II, overall, left a positive legacy on the British Monarchy. His decisions and donations allow the British people to share such a rich and diverse history today.
Stay tuned for the next George in this series … King George III!