A Royal His­tory Of Eng­land

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This England - - A Royal History Of England - PAUL JAMES.

W E ueen Anne died at en­s­ing­ton Palace in 1714, the reign of the Stu­arts came to a close in Eng­land af­ter more than a cen­tury. It was her Ger­man cousin, Ge­orge, who ar­rived at Green­wich in a thick Lon­don fog to be­come our first monarch from the House of Hanover, and the Royal Fam­ily’s sur­name changed to Guelph.

He was the first of four Ge­orges in suc­ces­sion to sit on the English throne reigns that saw the power of the monar­chy di­min­ish, along with pub­lic af­fec­tion.

One of only nine mon­archs since Wil­liam the Con ueror to have been born out­side the Bri­tish Isles, Ge­orge was a great-grand­son of ames I of Eng­land. Chris­tened Ge­org Lud­wig (Ge­orge Louis), he was born on May 2 , 1660, at Leineschloss, Osnabr ck, in Lower Sax­ony.

His mother was Sophia, a daugh­ter of the “Win­ter ueen”, Eli abeth of Bo­hemia, and his fa­ther was Ernest Au­gus­tus, Elec­tor of Hanover. Ge­orge suc­ceeded his fa­ther as Elec­tor and was made a night of the Garter in 1701 and be­came a nat­u­ralised Bri­tish sub­ject in 1705.

A dili­gent child, he was brought up with his brother Fred­er­ick and the pair were known by the fam­ily nick­names of G rgen and Gustchen. Their par­ents had four more sons and a daugh­ter, but Ge­orge was al­ways clos­est to Fred­er­ick.

Ge­orge was trained as a sol­dier and was present at a cam­paign dur­ing the FrenchDutch War, and fought at the Bat­tle of Vi­enna in Septem­ber 16 3, one of a series of con­flicts known as the Great Turk­ish War be­tween the Ot­toman Em­pire and var­i­ous Euro­pean al­lies.

Ge­orge made a visit to Eng­land when he was twenty as a po­ten­tial hus­band for the fif­teen-year-old Princess Anne (later ueen Anne), but she found him dull and he did not con­sider her to be at­trac­tive, so he sailed back home to Ger­many.

Two years later he mar­ried his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle.

Although she was con­sid­ered very at­trac­tive, it was an un­happy match, ar­ranged mainly for the fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages it brought by unit­ing the ter­ri­to­ries of Celle and Hanover.

There was also the mat­ter of a large dowry that Ge­orge was al­lowed to keep for him­self.

“He did not like it,” his mother wrote, “but the money tempted him.”

The cou­ple had two chil­dren a son, Ge­orge, who later be­came ing Ge­orge II of Bri­tain, and a daugh­ter, Sophia, who

lit­tle town of Hanover, that if the am­bi­tion of those about him had not been greater than his own, we should never have seen him in Eng­land.”

In Hanover, Ge­orge was au­to­cratic and had great power, but in Eng­land he was happy to leave af­fairs of state in the hands of oth­ers. This was partly due to com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems.

Although he did even­tu­ally learn some of the lan­guage, his com­mand of the English vo­cab­u­lary re­mained poor and he tended to speak in French.

Ge­orge took lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics, which led to a change in how the coun­try was gov­erned. Whereas pub­lic af­fairs had once been con­trolled by the monarch, with ad­vice from the Privy Coun­cil, Ge­orge was con­tent to let Par­lia­ment have greater power.

Sir Robert Walpole be­came Bri­tain’s first Prime Min­is­ter, or First Lord of the Trea­sury as he would have been known. Walpole stood in for the ing at meet­ings, as not only did Ge­orge have lit­tle in­ter­est, he could not un­der­stand what was be­ing said, and his own speeches were read out by the Lord Chan­cel­lor.

Min­is­te­rial meet­ings with­out the monarch even­tu­ally led to the for­ma­tion of the Cab­i­net. A new law was passed dur­ing Ge­orge’s reign that al­lowed Gen­eral Elec­tions to take place ev­ery seven years. The bal­ance of power shifted.

“Though a despot in Hanover, he was a mod­er­ate ruler in Eng­land,” Wil­liam Make­peace Thack­eray wrote. “His aim was to leave it to it­self as much as pos­si­ble, and to live out of it as much as he could. His heart was in Hanover . . . We laughed at his un­couth Ger­man ways, and sneered at him.”

Ge­orge per­son­ally designed a new uni­form for his guards, but they re­fused to wear it be­cause the cloth was too coarse, and he was mocked when he came up with a scheme to plant turnips in St ames’s Park. This plan that never came to fruition led to him be­ing dubbed the “Turnip ing”.

Although he was crowned ing of Eng­land and Scot­land, he was not uni­ver­sally ac­cepted in ei­ther coun­try. He had been on the throne barely a year when he en­coun­tered prob­lems with the Ja­co­bite sup­port­ers of ames II’S son, the “Old Pre­tender”.

ames Fran­cis Ed­ward Stu­art was a Ro­man Catholic and had there­fore been barred from the English line of suc­ces­sion, but Ja­co­bites con­sid­ered him to be the right­ful ing ames III.

In 1715, some of ames’s fol­low­ers took up arms to try to gain him the crown at the Bat­tle of Sher­iff­muir in Scot­land, but the Ja­co­bites had very lit­tle sup­port and were uickly de­feated.

It was to be the last re­bel­lion in the Old Pre­tender’s life­time and three decades were to pass be­fore his son, Bon­nie Prince Char­lie, at­tempted to up­hold the Ja­co­bite claims and tried to re­store the throne to the Stu­arts. He was equally un­suc­cess­ful and the Bat­tle of Cul­lo­den was the fi­nal Ja­co­bite in­sur­rec­tion.

In the comfort of his palace, Ge­orge ban­ished fin­ger bowls from the royal ta­ble, be­cause it was known that Ja­co­bites had used them to toast “The ing Over The Water”, ever since ames II’S ex­ile to France dur­ing the Glo­ri­ous Rev­o­lu­tion of 16 .

It was Ed­ward VII who re­vived the use of fin­ger bowls in the early 20th cen­tury, be­liev­ing that the throne was se­cure from Ja­co­bite threats by that time.

Five years into the reign came a no­to­ri­ous de­ba­cle known as the South Sea Bub­ble. When Ge­orge suc­ceeded to the throne, the na­tional debt stood at up to more than 50 mil­lion, with an as­tro­nom­i­cal amount of in­ter­est added to it an­nu­ally. The South Sea Com­pany, a Bri­tish com­pany trad­ing in the Amer­i­can South Seas, con­vinced the govern­ment that a num­ber of fi­nan­cial ven­tures could help re­duce this vast debt.

Although Robert Walpole was du­bi­ous about the scheme and ad­vised against any in­volve­ment, many in­vestors, in­clud­ing the ing, put money into en­ter­prises which brought a lit­tle re­turn in the first year, and there­after none at all.

In­evitably the bub­ble burst and thou­sands of pounds were lost. Some promi­nent peo­ple went bank­rupt as a re­sult. Most had bought shares in the South Sea Com­pany at prices be­tween 100 and 1,000, but when they came to sell them, there were no tak­ers.

In 1721, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­posed a web of de­ceit and cor­rup­tion, with the per­pe­tra­tors be­ing pros­e­cuted, but some in­vestors never re­cov­ered from the debts they had in­curred.

It was typ­i­cal of ing Ge­orge’s re­served per­son­al­ity that he lived in just two rooms at St ames’s Palace, looked af­ter by two Turk­ish ser­vants, Mustapha and Mo­hammed. He did not like be­ing seen in pub­lic and sel­dom used the royal box if he went to the opera, pre­fer­ring to re­main incog­nito.

In his youth he had en­joyed stag hunt­ing, but as he grew older he was more likely to be found cut­ting out pa­per pat­terns in his room.

Up un­til the time of Ge­orge I’s reign, there had been a prac­tice in Eng­land of touch­ing for the ing’s Evil, in the be­lief that the skin con­di­tion scro­fula could be cured by the touch of a royal hand.

Queen Anne had con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion, but it was dis­con­tin­ued by Ge­orge, pos­si­bly be­cause it brought him in too close a con­tact with the pub­lic. Soon af­ter his ac­ces­sion a man ap­plied to have his son touched by the ing, but Ge­orge re­fused. The man took his son to France where he was touched by the “Old Pre­tender” and was cured.

Ge­orge was not a great pa­tron of the arts, fa­mously say­ing in his poor English, “I hate all boets and bain­ters.” But he loved mu­sic and em­ployed Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del as Kapellmeis­ter while he was still Elec­tor of Hanover.

Han­del moved to Lon­don dur­ing the reign of Queen Anne in 1712 and con­certs at St ames’s Palace led to his pop­u­lar­ity.

It was dur­ing Ge­orge I’s reign that Han­del wrote the opera “Sci­pio” from which the slow march be­came the reg­i­men­tal march of the Gre­nadier Guards.

Ge­orge also en­joyed ar­chi­tec­ture and gar­den­ing, and de­vel­oped a gar­den at Her­ren­hausen to try to ri­val that at Ver­sailles.

Although it was his Protes­tant faith that brought Ge­orge I to the throne, he lacked the re­li­gious fa­nati­cism and fer­vour of many of his royal pre­de­ces­sors.

He went ui­etly to ser­vices at St Martin-in-the-fields Church in Lon­don, and was even a church­war­den there.

He also gave money to the church to pur­chase an or­gan, although this has long since been re­placed. The royal pew is to the left of the main al­tar and the royal coat of arms can be seen on the ceil­ing.

There was one ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­curence to­wards the end of the ing’s life. A naked wild boy was dis­cov­ered in Hertswold For­est, near Hamelin, who had the agility of a squir­rel, walked on his hands and feet, and sur­vived by eat­ing berries, nuts and plants. He was un­civilised and had no lan­guage.

Per­haps re­al­is­ing that their child was dis­abled, his par­ents had abandoned him in the for­est and mirac­u­lously he had sur­vived. Ge­orge de­cided to adopt the boy and he was brought back to Eng­land with the royal party. He was known as Peter the Wild Boy.

The ing’s daugh­ter-in-law, Caro­line, Princess of Wales, took a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in Peter and at­tempts were made to teach him to speak, read and write, but these failed. He was only ever ca­pa­ble of say­ing “Peter” and “ ing Ge­orge”, and could hum a few tunes.

The fas­ci­na­tion and af­fec­tion that the Royal Fam­ily had for the boy is shown in the fact that the painter Wil­liam ent in­cluded Peter in a paint­ing of ing Ge­orge I’s courtiers on the stair­case at en­s­ing­ton Palace, where Peter can still be seen dressed in green, hold­ing a bunch of acorns in his hand.

Peter long out­lived the ing, spent his last years on a farm in Berkham­sted and died at around seventy years of age. He is buried in the church­yard of St Mary’s, Northchurch in Hert­ford­shire, where his grave­stone can still be seen and flow­ers are reg­u­larly placed there in his mem­ory.

Ho­race Walpole, the son of Sir Robert, de­scribed ing Ge­orge I as “an el­derly man, rather pale, and ex­actly like his pic­tures and coins not tall of an as­pect rather good than au­gust with a dark tie-wig, a plain coat, waist­coat and breeches of snuff-coloured cloth, and stock­ings of the same colour, and a blue riband over all.”

By this time, Ge­orge was not a well man and suf­fer­ing badly from gout. He was also trou­bled by a prophecy that he would die shortly af­ter his wife. So when Sophia Dorothea died in 1726, the ing be­came con­cerned and re­fused to bury her body for a long time.

Six months later he was in Hol­land, on his way to his palace at Osnabruck, Hanover, when he was taken ill af­ter eat­ing an enor­mous din­ner and a “sur­feit of mel­ons”.

Des­per­ate to get home, it is said that he trav­elled in a car­riage, shout­ing, “Osnabruck Osnabruck ” out of the win­dow.

He was taken to his palace, but died in there on une 11, 1727, in the same room that he had been born. He was sixty-seven years old and had reigned for less than 13 years.

In­stead of be­ing buried in Eng­land, as so many of our mon­archs have been, it is not sur­pris­ing that Ge­orge I was laid to rest in his beloved Hanover.

The palace was destroyed by bombs dur­ing World War II and the ing’s re­mains, along with those of his par­ents, were moved to the Guelph mau­soleum of his former sum­mer palace at Her­ren­hausen, where Ge­orge had spent a lot of time de­vel­op­ing the gar­dens and was at his hap­pi­est.

“Ge­orge the First knew noth­ing and de­sired to know noth­ing did noth­ing and de­sired to do noth­ing,” Sa­muel ohn­son wrote, “and the only good thing that is told of him is that he wished to re­store the crown to its hered­i­tary suc­ces­sor.”

TOP TIP: There is no need to stick to gin as long as the al­co­hol con­tent is around 35 or above then fruit can go in and you can make an in­fu­sion, so you can try uincevodka, Seville orange whisky and sloe rum.

King Ge­orge I.

Robert Walpole.

St Martin-in-the-fields.

Her­ren­hausen gar­dens.

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