Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Georg Ludwig von
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Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Georg Ludwig von
Prince Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1698-1727), King of Great Britain and Ireland (1714-27)
born 7 June 1660, Leineschloss, Hanover, Holy Roman Empire
died 22 June 1727, Castle of Osnabrück, Lower Rhine, Holy Roman Empire
Georg Ludwig was born in 1660. He was heir through his father Ernest Augustus to the hereditary Bishopric of Osnabrück, and to the Duchy of Calenberg, which formed one portion of the Hanoverian possessions of the house of Brunswick.
In 1675, during the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), Georg Ludwig, then only 14 years old, took part in his first military campaign on the Moselle and was present at the Battle of Konzer Brücke.
On 18 November 1682, Georg Ludwig married with his cousin Sophia Dorothea, thus securing the reversion of the Duchy of Celle, the other portion of the Hanoverian possessions.
In 1683, during the Great Turkish War, Georg Ludwig fought in the Battle of Vienna. In 1684 and 1685, he campaigned in Hungary.
During the Nine Years' War (1688-97), Georg Ludwig campaigned in the Netherlands where he became acquainted with John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough.
On 28 December 1694, Sophia Dorothea was divorced, because of her affair with the Count of Königsmark two years earlier, and would remain in seclusion till her death on 13 November 1726.
On 23 January 1698, Georg Ludwig succeeded to his father as Prince Elector of Hanover.
In 1703, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the Elector of Hanover joined the alliance concluded between the Empire, the Dutch Republic and Great Britain at The Hague against France. He also supported Sweden against Russia during the Great Northern War (1700-21).
In 1705, at the death of Duke Georg Wilhelm, the Prince Elector Georg Ludwig inherited the Principality of Lüneburg-Celle which was integrated in the Electorate of Hanover.
In September 1707, the Elector of Hanover assumed command of the Reichsarmee on the Upper-Rhine. In 1709, he retired from active military service.
On 1 August 1714, at the death of Queen Anne the Elector of Hanover was chosen as her successor. On 20 October, he was crowned King George I of Great Britain.
In some respects the position of the new king Was not unlike that of William III a quarter of a century before. Both sovereigns were foreigners, with little knowledge of British politics and little interest in British legislation. Both sovereigns arrived at a time when party spirit had been running high, and when the task before the ruler was to still the waves of contention. In spite of the difference between an intellectually great man and an intellectually small one, in spite too of the difference between the king who began by choosing his ministers from both parties and the king who persisted in choosing his minister., from only one, the work of pacification was accomplished by George even more thoroughly than by William.
George I was fortunate in arriving in Great Britain when a great military struggle had come to an end. He had therefore no reason to call upon the nation to make great sacrifices. All that he wanted was to secure for himself and his family a high position which he hardly knew how to occupy, to fill the pockets of his German attendants and his German mistresses, to get away as often as possible from the uncongenial islanders whose language he was unable to speak, and to use the strength of Great Britain to obtain petty advantages for his German principality. In order to do this he attached himself entirely to the Whig party, though he refused to place himself at the disposal of its leaders. He gave his confidence, not to Somers and Wharton and Marlborough, but to Stanhope and Townshend, the states- men of the second rank.
At first George seemed to be playing a dangerous game. The Tories,whom he rejected,were numerically superior to their adversaries, and were strong in the support of the country gentlemen and the country clergy. The strength of the Whigs lay in the towns and in the higher aristocracy. Below both parties lay the mass of the nation, which cared nothing for politics except in special seasons of excitement, and which asked only to be let alone.
In 1715, a Jacobite insurrection in the north, supported by the appearance of the Pretender, the son of James II, in Scotland, was suppressed, and its suppression not only gave to the government a character of stability, but displayed its adversaries in an unfavourable light as the disturbers of the peace. Even this advantage, however, would have been thrown away if the Whigs in power had continued to be animated by violent party spirit. What really happened was that the Tory leaders were excluded from office, but that the principles and prejudices of the Tories were admitted to their full weight in the policy of the government. The natural result followed. The leaders to whom no regard was paid continued in opposition. The rank and file, who would personally have gained nothing by a party victory, were conciliated into quiescence. This mingling of two policies was conspicuous both in the foreign and the domestic actions of the reign.
A fortunate concurrence of circumstances enabled George's ministers, by an alliance with the regent of France, the Duc d’Orléans, to pursue at the same time the Whig policy of separating France from Spain and from the cause of the Pretender, and the Tory policy of the maintenance of a good understanding with their neighbour across the Channel. The same eclecticism was discernible in the proceedings of the home government. The Whigs were conciliated by the repeal of the Schism Act and the Occasional Conformity Act, whilst the Tories were conciliated by the maintenance of the Test Act in all its rigour. The satisfaction of the masses was increased by the general well-being of the nation. Very little of all that was thus accomplished was directly owing to George I. The policy of the reign is the policy of his ministers. Stanhope and Townsbend from 1714 to 1717 were mainly occupied with the defence of the Hanoverian settlement. After the dismissal of the latter in 1717, Stanhope in conjunction with Sunderland took up a more decided Whig policy. The Occasional Conformity Act and the Schism Act were repealed. But the wish of the liberal Whigs to modify if not to repeal the Test Act remained unsatisfied.
In the following year the bursting of the South Sea bubble, and the subsequent deaths of Stanhope in 1721 and of Sunderland in 1722, cleared the way for the accession to power of Sir Robert Walpole, to whom and not to the king was due the conciliatory policy which quieted Tory opposition by abstaining from pushing Whig principles to their legitimate consequences. Nevertheless something of the honour due to Walpole must be reckoned to the king's credit. It is evident that at his accession his decisions were by no means unimportant. The royal authority was still able within certain limits to make its own terms. This support was so necessary to the Whigs that they made no resistance when he threw aside their leaders on his arrival in Great Britain. When by his personal intervention he dismissed Townshend and appointed Sunderland, he had no such social and parliamentary combination to fear as that which almost mastered his great-grandson in his struggle for power. If such a combination arose before the end of his reign it was owing more to his omitting to fulfill the duties of his station than from the necessity of the case. As he could talk no English, and his ministers could talk no German, he absented himself from the meetings of the cabinet, and his frequent absences from England and his want of interest in English politics strengthened the cabinet in its tendency to assert an independent position. Walpole at last by his skill in the management of parliament rose as a subject into the almost royal position denoted by the name of prime minister. In connexion with Walpole the force of wealth and station established the Whig aristocracy in a point of vantage from which it was afterwards difficult to dislodge them. Yet, though George had allowed the power which had been exercised by William and Anne to slip through his hands, it was understood to the last that if he chose to exert himself he might cease to be a mere cipher in the conduct of affairs.
On the night of 21 to 22 June 1727, George I died in a carriage on his way to Hanover. His only children were his successor George II and Sophia Dorothea (1687-1757), who married in 1706 Frederick William, crown prince (afterwards king) of Prussia. She was the mother of Frederick the Great.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 11, 1911 – George I
Wikipedia (German Edition) Georg I. (Großbritannien)