As the last of the Stuart line died with Queen Anne, there were no more Protestant members of the line to take the throne. What happened next ultimately changed the future of the throne and of the United Kingdom when George Louis of Hanover was invited by Parliament to become king. George developed a reputation as one of Britain’s most hated monarchs, but he gave birth to a legacy that will carry on to the present House of Windsor. Join us on a journey through interesting facts about the first Hanoverian monarch and how he influenced British history.
No, no, not those Stuarts
I know what you’re thinking after reading the first paragraph, and it’s “But there will still be Stuarts after Anne.” The problem, however, was that British law had been changed by the Act of Settlement 1701 to prevent Catholics from becoming king or queen. This excluded Anne’s younger half-brothers, who had been raised Catholic. That’s why next in line for the throne was Sophia, Electress of Hanover, who was the granddaughter of King James I. Sadly, she died in the same year as Queen Anne, which means next in line was his son, George.
The quick nature of Electress Sophia’s death and George’s unlikely ascension to the throne earned him the “not a compliment” nickname “Lucky George”. His other nickname was the “King of Turnips” as many considered him a country thug.
Coming from Hanover, George I spoke almost exclusively in German. He knew some English but was not proficient and apparently refused to learn. This made him unpopular with most of his subjects, who considered him too “foreign” to be king, especially after Anne’s more nationalistic attitude. In an attempt to appease the British public, he began signing his name “George Rex” instead of the Germanic “Georg Ludwig”, which did absolutely nothing to endear him to the people.
Not the most social person
When George was a boy, his mother Sophia was struck down with illness and had to travel to a warmer climate to recuperate. Sophia tried to keep in touch with her sons by writing to them regularly, but her absence caused George to become more withdrawn and sensitive. This change in personality remained with George for the rest of his life, and his British subjects often described him as “wooden” in public.
The great restorer
And speaking of wood, George was responsible for the extensive renovation of Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace during his reign.
George was the favorite of his father, Elector Ernest Augustus of Hanover, which had dire consequences for George’s relationship with his siblings. Ernest taught George courtship, warfare, took him hunting, etc., but not any of his other children. When Ernest proclaimed that George would inherit all of Ernest’s land, it was straw that broke the camel’s back, and a permanent rift developed between George and his brothers.
At the time of his ascension to the throne, George I was the oldest person to become king at 54. His descendants would later surpass him for this record, including his great-grandson King George IV, as well as King Edward VII and King William IV (the current record holder at 64). Prince Charles will take the record when he becomes king because he is already 73 years old.
What made his personal life even more complicated was that he was in love with his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea de Celle. Although not particularly unusual for the time, George’s mother, Sophia, refused to sponsor the wedding due to young Sophia’s low birth. George eventually convinced his mother to grant her blessing not because of how much he loved his cousin, but because of the huge tracts of land she would bring to the marriage via young Sophia’s dowry. So, it should come as no surprise that after they were married in 1687, the marriage fell apart quite quickly, and George and Sophia began to cheat on each other. George had his marriage dissolved because of this and locked up Sophia for her infidelity.
The real queen
George’s mistress was Duchess Museline von der Schulenburg. They were together for most of their lives and had three illegitimate children together. Although she and George never married, she was more of a queen in reality than Sophia ever was.
fathers and sons
Naturally, all this negative treatment of Sophia did not sit well with the son of George I, also named George. In fact, father and son had an unmistakable hatred for each other that lasted the rest of their lives.