George II (Great Britain)

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George II in coronation regalia

George Augustus II. ( English George Augustus ; born October 30, jul. / 9. November  1683 greg. In Herrenhausen , Hannover ; †  25. October 1760 in London ) was from 1727 until his death King of Great Britain and Ireland , German Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Hanover) and nominally one of the dukes of Braunschweig and Lüneburg .

He was the second King of the House of Hanover and the last British monarch born outside of Great Britain who personally led troops into battle. He was an ally of Maria Theresa in the War of the Austrian Succession and of Friedrich II in the Seven Years War .

Georg II, married to Caroline von Ansbach , was known for his numerous conflicts with his father Georg I and later with his eldest son Friedrich Ludwig .

Early life

Prince Georg August was born in Herrenhausen Palace near Hanover . He was the son of Georg I (at that time still Georg Ludwig Herzog zu Braunschweig-Lüneburg, hereditary prince of the principalities of Calenberg and Grubenhagen ) and his wife Sophie Dorothea von Celle . It got its name after his two grandfathers. The parents' marriage was divorced by judgment of January 7, 1695 due to malicious abandonment on the part of the mother, Sophie Dorothea had been refused a new marriage as the guilty party and her name was eliminated from all official documents, the title of electoral princess was revoked.

In 1692 the territories of his grandfather Ernst August were elevated to the 9th electorate of the Holy Roman Empire , his father thus became elector prince, he himself followed as such in 1698 when his father rose to elector. In 1705 he married Caroline von Ansbach , with whom he had eight children. Caroline was Georg August's great love throughout his life, even though he was mistress on the side.

The Act of Settlement , enacted in 1701, provided that the British royal dignity would be transferred to Georg August's grandmother Sophie von der Pfalz if the then ruling King Wilhelm III. and his sister-in-law, later Queen Anne , die without offspring. This law gave the Hanoverian Crown Prince English citizenship in 1705. Anne, who had ascended the English throne in 1702, made him a member of the Order of the Garter in 1706 and awarded him the titles Duke of Cambridge , Earl of Milford Haven , Viscount Northallerton and Baron Tewkesbury that same year . Anne, however, valued her distant Hanoverian relatives little and had only reluctantly resigned herself to the succession to the throne decided by parliament; she would have preferred to see her Catholic half-siblings from the second marriage of her exiled father on the throne. There was therefore no reason for the electoral family to move to England before Anne's death.

Coat of
arms of George II as Prince of Wales

Anne died on August 1, 1714, a few weeks after the death of Electress Sophie on June 8. As a result, Sophie's son Georg Ludwig inherited the British throne and became King George I. His eldest son Georg August automatically became Duke of Cornwall , Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Carrick . On September 27, 1714, his father made him Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester .

The young prince had an extremely bad relationship with his father. After Princess Caroline gave birth to Georg Wilhelm in 1717, a family dispute broke out at the baptism. The Prince of Wales insisted on the godfather of his choice, but the king chose another. After verbally abusing his father, the Prince of Wales was briefly arrested. Thereafter, the king banished his son from St James's Palace , the royal residence, and excluded him from all public ceremonies.

Georg August did everything in his power to support the opposition against his father. His new rented residence in London, Leicester House , became a meeting place for well-known opposition figures, including Robert Walpole and Viscount Townshend . It was Walpole who persuaded the king in 1720 to reconcile with his son.

Due to the severe economic crisis after the South Seas Bubble , Walpole rose to the top of the government in 1721. Walpole and his Whig party dominated politics because King George I feared that the Tories would not support the succession to the throne laid down in the Act of Settlement . The Whigs were so powerful that it took half a century for the Tories to regain power. Robert Walpole practically controlled the British government. However, since he had sided with the king, he lost the favor of the Prince of Wales.

First years of rule

George II (after 1727)

After the death of his father on June 11th, July / June 22, 1727 greg. followed Georg August as Georg II. to the throne. Georg's relationship with his eldest son Friedrich Ludwig was very tense. There is evidence that the new king may have wanted to exile his son to one of the British colonies ; but finally he refrained from it. George II was born on October 11th . / October 22nd greg. crowned at Westminster Abbey . Georg Friedrich Handel was commissioned to compose four new hymns for the coronation .

George II sought a change of government and wanted to replace Robert Walpole with Spencer Compton . He asked Compton to write his first speech for him. But he let Walpole help him with this task. This led Queen Caroline to declare Compton was incompetent. Surprisingly, Georg shared his wife's opinion and left Walpole in the post of prime minister. Walpole was slowly but surely able to win the king's favor and secured a generous civil list of £ 800,000 for him in Parliament . As long as Queen Caroline was still alive, Walpole's position was secured. He was responsible for almost all domestic policy and also exercised some influence on Georg's foreign policy. In 1729 he managed to get Georg to sign a peace treaty with Spain .

In the same year, on March 18, 1729, the king laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Wülfinghausen monastery, which burned down the year before .

1/6 Thaler Georg II. On the opening of the "Universitas Georgia Augusta" on September 17, 1737. (Welter 2617A) 1/6 Thaler Georg II. On the opening of the "Universitas Georgia Augusta" on September 17, 1737. (Welter 2617A)
1/6 Thaler Georg II. On the opening of the "Universitas Georgia Augusta" on September 17, 1737. ( Welter 2617A)

Since the summer of 1729, Georg II had been considering founding a university in Göttingen. Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen is believed to be the driving force behind this thought . The role model and competition was the University of Halle, which was maintained by Prussia. In addition to the expected gain in prestige, economic considerations were behind the location decision, as Göttingen was still suffering from the consequences of the Thirty Years' War. The planning was concretized from 1732, and from October 14, 1734, lectures began at the Georg-August University of Göttingen , which was named after him and officially opened on September 17, 1737.

With a decree of July 27, 1735, he commissioned the Hanover government to set up a state stud to promote farm horse breeding. In addition, the Hanoverian cavalry should be supplied with remonts . The Celle State Stud was founded in the same year .

During the 1730s his personal relationship with his eldest son deteriorated. The situation escalated in 1736 after Friedrich Ludwig's marriage to Augusta von Sachsen-Gotha . In 1737 George II banned his son and his family from the royal court. Queen Caroline died on November 20th of the same year. It is said that she asked her husband to remarry before her death. Georg is said to have replied: «  Non, j'aurai des maitresses!  »(German:“ No, I will have mistresses ! ”) Georg and his mistress Amalie Sophie von Wallmoden had already become the father of their illegitimate son Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn in 1736 .

Georg's efforts to develop his Electorate of Hanover were expressed in numerous initiatives, which, however, often failed due to the resistance of the landowning nobility, the clumsy administrative apparatus and the conservative population. Maritime trade should be expanded, especially with the help of British investors. In particular, Stade and Harburg were to be developed as seaports and trading companies founded. This is how an English manufacturing company came into being in Harburg . A capital market was to be created by founding a bank, establishing paper money and a mortgage system. In contrast, on March 27, 1750, on the initiative of Georg Wilhelm Ebell , who in turn took up a suggestion by Leibniz from 1678, a Brand Assecurations Society was founded, from which the present-day Hannover Insurance Group emerged . With the company FJ Seeger the first tea shop in Germany was founded in Hanover in 1743. Also noteworthy are the efforts at the behest of George II. In 1740 throughout the Principality of Lüneburg from specially set up for this purpose commissions a "forest inventory" in all "Dominalforsten in Luneburg Heath to let" (stately forests) perform to forestry reforms with the aim of improving the condition of these forests - which initially failed mostly due to the resistance of the heather farmers , for whom this would have meant a restriction of their hat and grazing rights and the use of litter in the forests that were previously used in this way.

War of Austrian Succession and Jacobite Uprising

Half-Crown coin of George II, 1746. The inscription reads GEORGIUS II DEI GRATIA (George II by the grace of God). At the bottom is the word LIMA, which means that the coin was minted with silver that came from the captured Spanish treasure fleet near Lima .

Against Walpole's advice, George II declared war on Spain in 1739 (the so-called War of Jenkins' Ear ). After the death of Charles VI. , Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , Europe was drawn into a war in 1740. The war broke out because several German and European princes did not recognize the pragmatic sanction by which Maria Theresa of Austria was declared Karl's successor in the Habsburg lands. The war between Great Britain and Spain soon became part of the War of the Austrian Succession .

Robert Walpole could not prevent a major European conflict. In addition, the opposition led by John Carteret grew in power. After accusations of having falsified the results of a by-election in Chippenham in favor of a supporter, Walpole resigned in 1742 after a term of 27 years. He has now been replaced by Spencer Compton . However, this only served as a figurehead, the real power lay with Carteret. When Compton died in July 1743, Henry Pelham succeeded him.

Carteret led the pro-war faction that feared an increase in power in France should Maria Theresa fail to ascend the Austrian throne. George II agreed to send more troops to Europe; The primary aim was to support Maria Theresa, but the real task was to prevent the occupation of Hanover by foreign troops. The British Army had not been involved in a war in Europe for more than twenty years, so maintenance and training had been neglected. Nevertheless, Georg accompanied his troops and led them into the battle of Dettingen ; thus he was the last British monarch to be personally present on a battlefield. The troops were commanded by his militarily gifted son, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland . King George II did not participate in most of the battle because his horse ran away and he did not come back in time. The war was not very popular with the British public; it was believed that George II and Carteret placed British interests below those of Hanover.

George II in the battle of Dettingen
George II (1747)

France took advantage of the British involvement in the War of the Austrian Succession and supported a Jacobite revolt . The Jacobites were followers of the Roman Catholic King James II , who had been deposed in 1689 and replaced by his Protestant daughter Maria II . Jacob's son James Francis Edward Stuart , known as "Old Pretender" (old pretender called), twice had instigated a rebellion. After the uprising of 1715 he had to flee to France and the second uprising in 1719 ended before it had even started. His son Charles Edward Stuart (better known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie"), however, led a far more threatening uprising in 1745.

Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in Scotland in July 1745 . Many Scots supported his cause. He was victorious on September 21 in the Battle of Prestonpans and on January 17, 1746 in the Battle of Falkirk against British government troops. The French King Louis XV. had promised to send 12,000 soldiers to support the uprising, but then changed his mind. The rebel army had already advanced into the north of England , but was then pushed back by the troops under the command of George's son William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. On April 16, 1746, the exhausted, starving and poorly equipped Jacobite rebel army was defeated in the Battle of Culloden . This would be the last land battle ever to take place on British soil.

Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to France, but many of his Scottish supporters were captured and executed. After the suppression of the uprising, the War of the Austrian Succession continued. With the peace treaty in 1748, Maria Theresa was recognized as Archduchess of Austria. As a result, she dissolved the alliance with Great Britain because she found the country too unreliable.

Late years

Statue of George II in St. Helier, Jersey

On March 20, 1751, his son Friedrich Ludwig died unexpectedly.

In 1751 he founded the Royal Society of Sciences . In the remaining years of his life, George II showed no active interest in politics or wars. During this time the industrial revolution began with a rapid increase in population.

In 1752 there was a calendar reform in Great Britain . The Julian calendar , which was valid up to this year , was replaced by the Gregorian calendar . Eleven days had to be canceled; September 2 was followed by September 14. In addition, January 1st was declared the official start of the year, previously it was March 25th. The first date had long been considered the first day of the year, but the second date had been used for formal purposes. In order to bring the bookkeeping into line and to avoid having to make annual payments early, the fiscal year was not cut. For this reason, the UK fiscal year started on April 6th.

Prime Minister Henry Pelham died in March 1754. He was followed by his brother Thomas Pelham-Holles . This was replaced in November 1756 by William Cavendish . Cavendish was only able to hold on to the head of government until June 1757 and had to relinquish his office to Pelham-Holles.

George II came to terms with the Pelham administration and enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Hanover every two to three years thanks to the internal and external peace it had achieved. In response to criticism from England of these trips, he replied that all the noble English would go to their country houses in the summer and that Hanover was his country house.

In 1756 the Seven Years War began . The Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa allied herself with her former enemies Russia and France against Great Britain; Saxony and Sweden also joined this alliance . George II feared the conquest of Hanover and therefore allied himself with Prussia . The war took place not only in Europe, but also in India and North America (known there as the French and Indian War). British influence in India was finally consolidated after Robert Clive's victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 . The Battle of Minden , led by Duke Ferdinand von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , brought about a turning point on the continent in 1759 in favor of Georg and his allies.

George II died of an aortic dissection on October 25, 1760 and was buried in Westminster Abbey . Since his eldest son Friedrich Ludwig had died nine years earlier, his grandson Georg Wilhelm Friedrich entered as Georg III. the succession.


King George II's coat of arms

The Seven Years' War continued after George's death and ended in 1763 with significant territorial gains for the British in North America and Asia. But the war had drained the treasury. The attempts by the British government to tax the colonists in North America were the cause of the American independence movement . On the other hand, British rule in India was finally secured with the help of the East India Company . During George's reign, the power structure in Great Britain shifted further away from the royal house and towards a strengthening of the parliament and the prime minister.

His biographer Mijndert Bertram critically appreciates him as “not a great, but nevertheless suitable ruler, both for England and for Hanover”. His good qualities, also attested by his opponents, such as justice, straightforwardness and truthfulness, combined with common sense, a sense of responsibility and diligence have definitely qualified him for his high office. In contrast, he lacked "intellectual depth, inspiration, willpower and charisma". In addition, his power as King of England was already clearly subject to the constitutional restrictions.

The patriotic song God Save the King was written during the reign of George II. It is believed that it was first played during the 1745 uprising. God Save the King (or God Save the Queen ) is now the national anthem of Great Britain and one of the two national anthems of New Zealand (equal to God Defend New Zealand ). It is also the royal anthem of Australia and Canada .

His book collection with around 17,000 volumes formed the basis of the library of the British Museum in the 18th century . Today it is in the British Library .

The US state of Georgia and the asteroid (359) Georgia bear his name.


He is also considered the father of the illegitimate son Johann Ludwig Graf von Wallmoden-Gimborn (1736-1811).


Web links

Commons : George II (Great Britain)  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 24.
  2. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 37.
  3. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector . Göttingen 2004, p. 105 f.
  4. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector . Göttingen 2004, p. 122.
  5. ^ Uriel Then: Hanover and England 1740–1760. Diplomacy and self-assertion , Hildesheim 1986, p. 146 f .; quoted from: Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector . Göttingen 2004, p. 159 f.
  6. ^ Waldemar R. Röhrbein and Alheidis von Rohr: Hanover in the splendor and shadow of the British world empire. The effects of the personal union on Hanover from 1714-1837. Contributions to the exhibition , Hanover 1977, p. 64 f; quoted from: Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 159 f.
  7. Own information on the shop's website
  8. ^ Gerd Völksen: Landscape development of the Lüneburg Heath. Formation and change of an old cultural landscape . In: Dieter Brosius, Gerhard Fischer, Holger Mantey & Gerd Völksen (eds.): The Lüneburger Heide (=  landscapes of Lower Saxony and their problems ). Episode 3. Rautenberg, Leer 1984, p. 22 .
  9. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 152 f.
  10. Uriel Then; Hanover and England 1740–1760. Diplomacy and self-assertion; Hildesheim 1986, p 167; quoted from: Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 157.
  11. ^ Mijndert Bertram: Georg II., King and Elector. Göttingen 2004, p. 178 f.
predecessor Office successor
George I. King of Great Britain,
King of Ireland,
Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg
George III
New title created Duke of Cambridge
Title merged with the crown
New title created Prince of Wales
Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Rothesay
Friedrich Ludwig