George I of Great Britain

George I of Great Britain
George I
George I, c. 1714. Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller.
King of Great Britain and Ireland (more...)
Reign 1 August 1714 – 11 June 1727[1]
Coronation 20 October 1714
Predecessor Anne
Successor George II
Prime Ministers Robert Walpole
Elector of Hanover
Reign 23 January 1698 – 11 June 1727[1]
Predecessor Ernest Augustus
Successor George II
Consort Sophia Dorothea of Celle
m. 1682; div. 1694
George II
Sophia, Queen in Prussia
Full name
George Louis
German: Georg Ludwig
House House of Hanover
Father Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover
Mother Countess Palatine Sophia of Simmern
Born 28 May 1660(1660-05-28)
7 June 1660 (N.S.)
Died 11 June 1727(1727-06-11) (aged 67)
22 June 1727 (N.S.)
Burial 4 August 1727
Leineschloss, Hanover; later Herrenhausen, Hanover
Religion Lutheran[2]

George I (George Louis; German: Georg Ludwig; 28 May 1660 – 11 June 1727[1]) was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698.

George was born in Hanover, in what is now Germany, and inherited the titles and lands of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg from his father and uncles. A succession of European wars expanded his German domains during his lifetime, and in 1708 he was ratified as prince-elector of Hanover. At the age of 54, after the death of Queen Anne of Great Britain, George ascended the British throne as the first monarch of the House of Hanover. Although over fifty Roman Catholics bore closer blood relationships to Anne, the Act of Settlement 1701 prohibited Catholics from inheriting the British throne. George, however, was Anne's closest living Protestant relative. In reaction, Jacobites attempted to depose George and replace him with Anne's Catholic half-brother, James Francis Edward Stuart, but their attempts failed.

During George's reign the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime minister. Towards the end of his reign, actual power was held by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first de facto prime minister. George died on a trip to his native Hanover, where he was buried.


Early life

George was born on 28 May 1660 in Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire.[3] He was the eldest son of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and his wife, Sophia of the Rhineland Palatinate. Sophia was the granddaughter of King James I of England through her mother, Elizabeth of Bohemia.[4]

For the first year of his life, George was the only heir to the German territories of his father and three childless uncles. In 1661 George's brother, Frederick Augustus, was born and the two boys (known as Görgen and Gustchen within the family) were brought up together. Their mother was absent for almost a year (1664–5) during a long convalescent holiday in Italy, but she corresponded regularly with her sons' governess and took a great interest in her sons' upbringing, even more so on her return.[5] After Sophia's tour she bore Ernest Augustus another four sons and a daughter. In her letters Sophia describes George as a responsible, conscientious child who set an example to his younger brothers and sisters.[6]

By 1675 George's eldest uncle had died without issue, but his remaining two uncles had married, putting George's inheritance in jeopardy as his uncles' estates might pass to their own sons, should they have had any, instead of to George. George's father took him hunting and riding, and introduced him to military matters; mindful of his uncertain future, Ernest Augustus took the fifteen-year-old George on campaign in the Franco-Dutch War with the deliberate purpose of testing and training his son in battle.[7]

In 1679 another uncle died unexpectedly without sons and Ernest Augustus became reigning Duke of Calenberg-Göttingen, with his capital at Hanover. George's surviving uncle, George William of Celle, had married his mistress in order to legitimise his only daughter, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, but looked unlikely to have any further children. Under Salic law, where inheritance of territory was restricted to the male line, the succession of George and his brothers to the territories of their father and uncle now seemed secure. In 1682, the family agreed to adopt the principle of primogeniture, meaning George would inherit all the territory and not have to share it with his brothers.[8]


George in 1680, when he was Prince of Hanover. After a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The same year, George married his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, thereby securing additional incomes that would have been outside Salic laws requiring male inheritance. The marriage of state was arranged primarily as it ensured a healthy annual income and assisted the eventual unification of Hanover and Celle. His mother was at first against the marriage because she looked down on Sophia Dorothea's mother (who was not of royal birth), and because she was concerned by Sophia Dorothea's legitimated status. However, she was eventually won over by the advantages inherent in the marriage.[9]

In 1683, George and his brother, Frederick Augustus, served in the Great Turkish War at the Battle of Vienna, and Sophia Dorothea bore George a son, George Augustus. The following year, Frederick Augustus was informed of the adoption of primogeniture, meaning he would no longer receive part of his father's territory as he had expected. It led to a breach between father and son, and between the brothers, that lasted until Frederick Augustus's death in battle in 1690. With the imminent formation of a single Hanoverian state, and the Hanoverians' continuing contributions to the Empire's wars, Ernest Augustus was made an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire in 1692. George's prospects were now better than ever as the sole heir to his father's electorate and his uncle's duchy.[10]

Sophia Dorothea had a second child, a daughter named after her, in 1687 but there were no other pregnancies. The couple became estranged—George preferred the company of his mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, by whom he had two daughters in 1692 and 1693;[11] and Sophia Dorothea, meanwhile, had her own romance with the Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck. Threatened with the scandal of an elopement, the Hanoverian court, including George's brothers and Sophia, urged the lovers to desist, but to no avail. According to diplomatic sources from Hanover's enemies, in July 1694 the count was killed, possibly with the connivance of George, and his body thrown into the river Leine weighted with stones. The murder was claimed to have been committed by four of Ernest Augustus's courtiers, one of whom (Don Nicolò Montalbano) was paid the enormous sum of 150,000 thalers, which was about one hundred times the annual salary of the highest paid minister.[12] Later rumours supposed that Königsmarck was hacked to pieces and buried beneath the Hanover palace floorboards.[13] However, sources in Hanover itself, including Sophia, denied any knowledge of Königsmarck's whereabouts.[12]

George's marriage to Sophia Dorothea was dissolved, not on the grounds that either of them had committed adultery, but on the grounds that Sophia Dorothea had abandoned her husband. With the concurrence of her father, George had Sophia Dorothea imprisoned in Ahlden House in her native Celle, where she stayed until she died more than thirty years later. She was denied access to her children and father, forbidden to remarry and only allowed to walk unaccompanied within the mansion courtyard. She was, however, endowed with an income, establishment, and servants, and was allowed to ride in a carriage outside her castle, albeit under supervision.[14]

Electoral reign

George in 1706, when he was Elector of Hanover. After Johann Leonhard Hirschmann.

Ernest Augustus died on 23 January 1698 leaving all of his territories to George with the exception of the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück, an office he had held since 1661.[15] George thus became Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (also known as Hanover, after its capital) as well as Archbannerbearer and a Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.[16] His court in Hanover was graced by many cultural icons such as the mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and the composer George Frideric Händel.

Shortly after George's accession to his paternal dukedom, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, who was second-in-line to the English and Scottish thrones, died. By the terms of the English Act of Settlement 1701, George's mother, Sophia, was designated as the heir to the English throne if the then reigning monarch (William III) and his sister-in-law, Princess Anne of Denmark (later Queen Anne) died without surviving issue. The succession was so designed because Sophia was the closest Protestant relative of the British Royal Family; fifty-six Catholic relations with superior hereditary claims were bypassed.[17] The likelihood of any of them converting to Protestantism for the sake of the succession was remote; some had already refused.[18]

In August 1701 George was invested with the Order of the Garter and, within six weeks, the nearest Catholic claimant to the throne of England, ex-King James II, died. William III died the following March and was succeeded by Anne. Sophia became heir presumptive to the new Queen of England. Sophia was in her seventy-first year, older than Anne by thirty-five years, but she was very fit and healthy and invested time and energy in securing the succession either for herself or her son.[19] However, it was George who understood the complexities of English politics and constitutional law, which required further acts in 1705 to naturalise Sophia and her heirs as English subjects, and to detail arrangements for the transfer of power through a Regency Council.[20] In the same year, George's surviving uncle died and he inherited further German dominions: the Principality of Lüneburg-Grubenhagen, centred at Celle.[21]

Sketch map of Hanover, c.1720, showing the relative locations of Hanover, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück. During George's lifetime Hanover acquired Lauenburg and Bremen-Verden.

Shortly after George's accession in Hanover, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out. At issue was the right of Philip, the grandson of King Louis XIV of France, to succeed to the Spanish throne under the terms of King Charles II of Spain's will. The Holy Roman Empire, the United Dutch Provinces, England, Hanover and many other German states opposed Philip's right to succeed because they feared that the French House of Bourbon would become too powerful if it also controlled Spain. As part of the war effort, George invaded his neighbouring state, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, which was pro-French, writing out some of the battle orders himself. The invasion succeeded with few lives lost. As a reward, the prior Hanoverian annexation of the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg by George's uncle, was recognised by the British and Dutch.[22]

In 1706, the Elector of Bavaria was deprived of his offices and titles for siding with Louis against the Empire. The following year, George was invested as an Imperial Field Marshal with command of the imperial army stationed along the Rhine. His tenure was not altogether successful, partly because he was deceived by his ally, the Duke of Marlborough, into a diversionary attack, and partly because Emperor Joseph I appropriated the funds necessary for George's campaign for his own use. Despite this, the German princes thought that he had acquitted himself well. In 1708 they formally confirmed George's position as a Prince-Elector in recognition of, or because of, his service. George did not hold Marlborough's actions against him which he understood were part of a plan to lure French forces from the main attack.[23]

In 1709, George resigned as Field Marshal, never to go on active service again. In 1710, he was granted the dignity of Archtreasurer of the Empire,[24] an office formerly held by the Elector Palatine—the absence of the Elector of Bavaria allowed a reshuffling of offices.[25] The death of the Emperor in 1711 threatened to destroy the balance of power in the opposite direction, so the war ended in 1713 with the ratification of the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip was allowed to succeed to the Spanish throne but was removed from the line of succession to the French throne, and the Elector of Bavaria was restored.

Accession in Great Britain

George ca. 1714, the year of his succession, as painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Though both England and Scotland recognised Anne as their Queen, only the English Parliament had settled on Sophia, Electress of Hanover, as the heir. The Parliament of Scotland had not formally settled the succession question for the Scottish throne. In 1703, the Estates passed a bill that declared that their selection for Queen Anne's successor would not be the same individual as the successor to the English throne, unless England granted full freedom of trade to Scottish merchants in England and its colonies. At first Royal Assent was withheld but the following year Anne capitulated to the wishes of the Estates and assent was granted to the bill, which became the Act of Security 1704. In response the English Parliament passed measures which threatened to restrict Anglo-Scottish trade and cripple the Scottish economy if the Estates did not agree to the Hanoverian succession.[26][27] Eventually, in 1707, both Parliaments agreed on an Act of Union which united England and Scotland into a single political entity, the Kingdom of Great Britain, and established the rules of succession as laid down by the Act of Settlement 1701.[28] The union created the largest free trade area in eighteenth century Europe.[29]

Whig politicians believed Parliament had the right to determine the succession, and bestow it on the nearest Protestant relation of the Queen, while many Tories were more inclined to believe in the hereditary right of the Stuarts. In 1710, George announced that he would succeed in Britain by hereditary right, as the right had only been removed from the Catholic Stuarts, and he retained it. "This declaration was meant to scotch any Whig interpretation that parliament had given him the kingdom [and] ... convince the Tories that he was no usurper."[30]

George's mother, the Electress Sophia, died on 28 May 1714[31] at the age of 83. She had collapsed after rushing to shelter from a shower of rain in Herrenhausen gardens. George was now Queen Anne's direct heir. He swiftly revised the membership of the Regency Council that would take power after Anne's death, as it was known that Anne's health was failing and politicians in Britain were jostling for power.[32] She suffered a stroke, which left her unable to speak and died on 1 August. The list of regents was opened, the members sworn in, and George was proclaimed King of Great Britain and Ireland.[33] Partly due to contrary winds, which kept him in The Hague awaiting passage,[34] he did not arrive in Britain until 18 September. George was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 20 October.[4]

James I
King James I of England and VI of Scotland by John De Critz the Elder.jpg
King of England,
Scotland and Ireland
See Descendants
Daughter Granddaughter Great-grandson
Elizabeth of Bohemia
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Gerrit van Honthorst.jpg
Electress Palatine and
Queen of Bohemia
Sophia of Hanover
Sophia Electress of Hanover.jpg
Electress of Hanover
George I
King of Great Britain and Ireland

George mainly lived in Great Britain after 1714 though he visited his home in Hanover in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725;[35] in total George spent about one fifth of his reign as King in Germany.[36] A clause in the Act of Settlement that forbade the British monarch from leaving the country without Parliament's permission was unanimously repealed in 1716.[37] During all but the first of the King's absences power was vested in a Regency Council rather than his son, George Augustus, Prince of Wales.[38]

Wars and rebellions

George in 1718, by George Vertue, after Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Within a year of George's accession the Whigs won an overwhelming victory in the general election of 1715. Several members of the defeated Tory Party sympathised with the Jacobites, and some disgruntled Tories sided with a Jacobite rebellion which became known as "The Fifteen". The Jacobites sought to put Anne's Catholic half-brother, James Stuart (called "James III" by his supporters and "the Pretender" by his opponents), on the Throne. The Pretender's supporters, led by Lord Mar, an embittered Scottish nobleman who had previously supported the "Glorious Revolution", instigated rebellion in Scotland where support for Jacobitism was stronger than in England. "The Fifteen", however, was a dismal failure; Lord Mar's battle plans were poor, and the Pretender arrived late with too little money and too few arms. By the end of the year the rebellion had all but collapsed. Faced with impending defeat, Lord Mar and the Pretender fled to France in February 1716. After the rebellion was defeated, although there were some executions and forfeitures, George acted to moderate the Government's response, showed leniency, and spent the income from the forfeited estates on schools for Scotland and paying off part of the national debt.[39]

George's distrust of the Tories aided the passing of power to the Whigs.[40] Whig dominance would grow to be so great under George that the Tories would not return to power for another half-century. After the election, the Whig-dominated Parliament passed the Septennial Act 1715, which extended the maximum duration of Parliament to seven years (although it could be dissolved earlier by the Sovereign).[41] Thus Whigs already in power could remain in such a position for a greater period of time.[42]

After his accession in Great Britain, George's relationship with his son (which had always been poor) worsened. George Augustus, Prince of Wales, encouraged opposition to his father's policies, including measures designed to increase religious freedom in Britain and expand Hanover's German territories at the expense of Sweden.[43] In 1717 the birth of a grandson led to a major quarrel between George and the Prince of Wales. The King, supposedly following custom, appointed the Lord Chamberlain, the Duke of Newcastle, as one of the baptismal sponsors of the child. The King was angered when the Prince of Wales, disliking Newcastle, verbally insulted the Duke at the christening, which the Duke misunderstood as a challenge to a duel. The Prince was told to leave the royal residence, St. James's Palace.[44] The Prince's new home, Leicester House, became a meeting place for the King's political opponents.[45] George and his son were later reconciled at the insistence of Robert Walpole and the desire of the Princess of Wales, who had moved out with her husband but missed her children who had been left in the care of the King. Following the quarrel at the baptism, father and son would never again be on cordial terms.[46]

George was active in directing British foreign policy during his early reign. In 1717 he contributed to the creation of the Triple Alliance, an anti-Spanish league composed of Great Britain, France and the United Provinces. In 1718 the Holy Roman Empire was added to the body which became known as the Quadruple Alliance. The subsequent War of the Quadruple Alliance involved the same issue as the War of the Spanish Succession. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) had recognised the grandson of King Louis XIV of France, Philip, as the King of Spain on the condition that he gave up his rights to succeed to the French throne. Upon the death of Louis XIV in 1715, however, Philip sought to overturn the treaty.

Spain supported a Jacobite-led invasion of Scotland in 1719 but stormy seas allowed only about three hundred Spanish troops to arrive in Scotland.[47] A base was established at Eilean Donan Castle on the west Scottish coast, only for it to be destroyed by British ships a month later.[48] Attempts by the Jacobites to recruit Scottish clansmen yielded a fighting force of only about a thousand men. The Jacobites were poorly equipped, and were easily defeated by British artillery at the Battle of Glen Shiel.[49] The clansmen dispersed into the Highlands, and the Spaniards surrendered. The invasion never posed any serious threat to George's government. With the French this time fighting against him in the War, Philip's armies fared poorly. As a result the Spanish and French thrones remained separate.

Simultaneously Hanover gained from the resolution of the Great Northern War which had been caused by rivalry between Sweden and Russia for control of the Baltic. The Swedish territories of Bremen and Verden were ceded to Hanover in 1719, with Hanover paying Sweden monetary compensation for the loss of territory.[50]


A 1718 quarter-guinea coin from the reign of George I, showing him in profile.

In Hanover the King was absolute monarch. All government expenditure above 50 thalers (between 12 and 13 British pounds), and the appointment of all army officers, all ministers, and even government officials above the level of copyist, was in his personal control. In contrast in Great Britain George had to govern through Parliament.[51]

In 1715 when the Whigs came to power, George's chief ministers included Sir Robert Walpole, Lord Townshend (Walpole's brother-in-law), Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland. In 1717 Lord Townshend was dismissed and Walpole resigned from the Cabinet over disagreements with their colleagues;[52] Lord Stanhope became supreme in foreign affairs, and Lord Sunderland the same in domestic matters.[53]

Lord Sunderland's power began to wane in 1719. He introduced a Peerage Bill which attempted to limit the size of the House of Lords by restricting new creations. The measure would have solidified Sunderland's control of the House by preventing the creation of opposition peers but it was defeated after Walpole led the opposition to the bill by delivering what was considered "the most brilliant speech of his career".[54] Walpole and Townshend were reappointed as ministers the following year and a new, supposedly unified, Whig government formed.[54]

Greater problems arose over financial speculation and the management of the national debt. Certain government bonds could not be redeemed without the consent of the bondholder and had been issued when interest rates were high; consequently each bond represented a long-term drain on public finances, as bonds were hardly ever redeemed.[55] In 1719 the South Sea Company proposed to take over £31 million (three fifths) of the British national debt by exchanging government securities for stock in the company.[56] The Company bribed Lord Sunderland, Melusine von der Schulenburg and Lord Stanhope's cousin, Charles Stanhope, who was Secretary of the Treasury, to support their plan.[57] The Company enticed bondholders to convert their high-interest, irredeemable bonds to low-interest, easily-tradeable stocks by offering apparently preferential financial gains.[58] Company prices rose rapidly; the shares had cost £128 on 1 January 1720,[59] but were valued at £500 when the conversion scheme opened in May.[60] On 24 June the price reached a peak of £1050.[61] The company's success led to the speculative flotation of other companies, some of a bogus nature,[62] and the Government, in an attempt to suppress these schemes and with the support of the Company, passed the Bubble Act.[63] With the rise in the market now halted,[64] uncontrolled selling began in August, which caused the stock to plummet to £150 by the end of September. Many individuals—including aristocrats—lost vast sums and some were completely ruined.[65] George, who had been in Hanover since June, returned to London in November—sooner than he wanted or was usual—at the request of the ministry.[66]

The economic crisis, known as the South Sea Bubble, made George and his ministers extremely unpopular.[67] In 1721 Lord Stanhope, though personally innocent,[68][69] collapsed and died after a stressful debate in the House of Lords, and Lord Sunderland resigned from public office. Lord Sunderland retained a degree of personal influence with George until his sudden death in 1722 allowed the rise of Sir Robert Walpole. Walpole became de facto Prime Minister, although the title was not formally applied to him (officially, he was First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer). His management of the South Sea crisis, by rescheduling the debts and arranging some compensation, helped the return to financial stability.[70] Through Walpole's skillful management of Parliament, George managed to avoid direct implication in the Company's fraudulent actions.[71] Claims that George had received free stock as a bribe[72] are not supported by evidence; indeed receipts in the Royal Archives show that he paid for his subscriptions and that he lost money in the crash.[73]

Later years

Portrait of King George by Georg Wilhelm Lafontaine (1680–1745).

As requested by Walpole, George revived The Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1725 which enabled Walpole to reward or gain political supporters by offering them the honour.[74] Walpole became extremely powerful and was largely able to appoint ministers of his own choosing. Unlike his predecessor, Queen Anne, George rarely attended meetings of the Cabinet; most of his communications were in private, and he only exercised substantial influence with respect to British foreign policy. With the aid of Lord Townshend, he arranged for the ratification by Great Britain, France and Prussia of the Treaty of Hanover, which was designed to counter-balance the Austro-Spanish Treaty of Vienna and protect British trade.[75]

George, although increasingly reliant on Walpole, could still have replaced his ministers at will. Walpole was actually afraid of being removed towards the end of George I's reign,[76] but such fears were put to an end when George died during his sixth trip to his native Hanover since his accession as King. He suffered a stroke on the road between Delden and Nordhorn on the 9 June 1727,[77] and was taken by carriage to the Prince-Bishop's palace at Osnabrück[78] where he died in the early hours of 11 June 1727.[79] He was buried in the Chapel of Leine Castle but his remains were moved to the chapel at Herrenhausen after World War II.[4]

George was succeeded by his son, George Augustus, who took the throne as George II. It was widely assumed, even by Walpole for a time, that George II planned to remove Walpole from office but was prevented from doing so by his wife, Queen Caroline. However, Walpole commanded a substantial majority in Parliament and George II had little choice but to retain him or risk ministerial instability.[80] In subsequent reigns the power of the Prime Minister increased further at the expense of the power of the Sovereign.


George surrounded by his family, in a painting by James Thornhill.

George was ridiculed by his British subjects;[81] some of his contemporaries, such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, thought him unintelligent on the flimsy grounds that he was wooden in public.[82] Though he was unpopular due to his supposed inability to speak English, such an inability may not have existed later in his reign as documents from that time show that he understood, spoke and wrote English.[83] He certainly spoke fluent German and French, good Latin, and some Italian and Dutch.[36] His treatment of his wife, Sophia Dorothea, became something of a scandal.[84] The British perceived him as too German, and in the opinion of historian Ragnhild Hatton, wrongly assumed that he had a succession of German mistresses.[85] However in Europe he was seen as a progressive ruler supportive of the Enlightenment who permitted his critics to publish without risk of severe censorship, and provided sanctuary to Voltaire when the philosopher was exiled from Paris in 1726.[81] European and British sources agree that George was reserved, temperate and financially prudent;[36] George disliked to be in the public light at social events, avoided the royal box at the opera and often travelled incognito to the house of a friend to play cards.[37]

Despite some unpopularity, the Protestant George I was seen by most of his subjects as a better alternative to the Roman Catholic Pretender James. William Makepeace Thackeray indicates such ambivalent feelings as he wrote:

His heart was in Hanover. He was more than fifty-four years of age when he came amongst us. We took him in because we wanted him, because he served our turn. We laughed at his uncouth German ways, and sneered at him ... I, for one, would have been on his side in those days. Cynical and selfish as he was, he was better than a King out of St Germains [James, the Stuart Pretender] with a French King's orders in his pocket, and a swarm of Jesuits in his train.[86]

Writers of the nineteenth century, such as Thackeray, Sir Walter Scott and Lord Mahon, were reliant on biased first-hand accounts published in the previous century such as Lord Hervey's memoirs, and looked back on the Jacobite cause with romantic, even sympathetic, eyes. They in turn, influenced British authors of the first half of the twentieth century such as G. K. Chesterton, who introduced further anti-German and anti-Protestant bias into the interpretation of George's reign. However, in the wake of World War II continental European archives were opened to historians of the later twentieth century and nationalistic anti-German feeling subsided. George's life and reign were re-explored by scholars such as Beattie and Hatton, and his character, abilities and motives re-assessed in a more generous light.[87] John H. Plumb noted that:

Some historians have exaggerated the king's indifference to English affairs and made his ignorance of the English language seem more important than it was. He had little difficulty in communicating with his ministers in French, and his interest in all matters affecting both foreign policy and the court was profound.[88]

Yet the character of George I remains elusive—he was in turn genial and affectionate in private letters to his daughter, and then dull and awkward in public. Perhaps his own mother summed him up when "explaining to those who regarded him as cold and overserious that he could be jolly, that he took things to heart, that he felt deeply and sincerely and was more sensitive than he cared to show."[6] Whatever his true character, he ascended a precarious throne, and either by political wisdom and guile, or through accident and indifference, he left it secure in the hands of the Hanoverians and of Parliament.[36]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal styles of
George I of Great Britain
Royal Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Titles and styles

  • 28 May 1660 – 18 December 1679: His Highness Duke Georg Ludwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg
  • German: Herzog Georg Ludwig von Braunschweig und Lüneburg
  • 18 December 1679 – October 1692: His Highness The Hereditary Prince of Brunswick-Lüneburg
  • October 1692 – 23 January 1698: His Serene Highness The Electoral Prince of Hanover
  • 23 January 1698 – 1 August 1714: His Most Serene Highness George Louis, Archbannerbearer of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince-Elector, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
  • 1 August 1714 – 11 June 1727: His Majesty The King

In Great Britain George I used the official style "George, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." In some cases (especially in treaties), the formula "Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" was added before the phrase "etc."


As King his arms were: Quarterly, I, Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England) impaling Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); II, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France); III, Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland); IV, tierced per pale and per chevron (for Hanover), I Gules two lions passant guardant Or (for Brunswick), II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure (for Lüneburg), III Gules a horse courant Argent (for Westphalia), overall an escutcheon Gules charged with the crown of Charlemagne Or (for the dignity of Archtreasurer of the Holy Roman Empire).[89][90][91]

Arms of George I Louis as Elector-Designate of Hanover 1689–1708 
Arms of George I Louis as Elector of Hanover 1708–1714 
See adjacent text
Coat of Arms of George I as King of Great Britain 1714–1727 


Name Birth Death Marriage
George II 9 November 1683 25 October 1760 married, 1705, Caroline of Ansbach; had issue
Sophia, Queen in Prussia 26 March 1687 28 June 1757 married, 1706, Frederick William, Margrave of Brandenburg (later Frederick William I of Prussia); had issue
Dates in this table are New Style

He also had three illegitimate children with his mistress Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg:


See also

Fictional portrayals
Actor Work (year)
Peter Bull Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)
Eric Pohlmann Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953)
Otto Waldis (uncredited) The Iron Glove (1954)
Steve Plytas "A Bed-Full of Miracles" (1969)
episode of Rogues' Gallery (TV series)

Notes and sources

  1. ^ a b c Throughout George's life, Great Britain used the Old Style Julian calendar. Hanover adopted the New Style Gregorian calendar on 1 March 1700 (N.S.) / 19 February 1700 (O.S.). Old Style is used for dates in this article unless otherwise indicated; however, years are assumed to start from 1 January and not 25 March, which was the English New Year.
  2. ^ Lathbury, Thomas (1858). A History of the Book of Common Prayer and Other Books of Authority. Oxford: John Henry and James Parker. p. 430. "George I. remained a Lutheran as long as he lived, and had his German chaplain; but he conformed on some occasions with the Church of England. George II. was in the same position. Though Lutherans, they exercised acts of supremacy in the Church of England; and the common opinion was, that there was no opposition between the views of the two Churches" 
  3. ^ The story that George I died in the same room as that in which he was born at Osnabrück (in, for example, Le Grand Dictionnaire Historique of 1759) is contradicted by the Electress Sophia in her Memoiren der Herzogin Sophie nachm. Kurfürstin von Hannover (ed. A. Köcher, Leipzig, 1879, pp. 1 and 68) who says that her two eldest sons were born at Hanover, and by four notifications from Hanover to the court at Wolfenbüttel preserved in the Wolfenbüttel state archives (Huberty, Michel; Giraud, Alain; Magdelaine, F. et B. (1981) (in French). L'Allemagne Dynastique, Tome III. Le Perreux: Alain Giraud. p. 85. ISBN 2-901138-03-9. ).
  4. ^ a b c Weir, Alison (1996). Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, Revised edition. Random House. pp. 272–276. ISBN 0-7126-7448-9. 
  5. ^ Hatton, Ragnhild (1978). George I: Elector and King. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 26–28. ISBN 0-500-25060-X. 
  6. ^ a b Hatton, p.29
  7. ^ Hatton, p.34
  8. ^ Hatton, p.30
  9. ^ Hatton, pp.36, 42
  10. ^ Hatton, pp.43–46
  11. ^ There would be one other daughter, born in 1701. Melusine von der Schulenburg acted as George's hostess openly from 1698 until his death.
  12. ^ a b Hatton, pp.51–61
  13. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.152. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0-7394-2025-9.
  14. ^ Hatton, pp.60–64
  15. ^ The Prince-Bishopric was not an hereditary title; instead it alternated between Protestant and Roman Catholic incumbents.
  16. ^ Schemmel, B. "Hanover". Retrieved 21 August 2007. 
  17. ^ Schama, Simon (2001). A History of Britain – The British Wars 1603–1776. BBC Worldwide Ltd. ISBN 0-563-53747-7. 
  18. ^ Hatton, p.74
  19. ^ Hatton, pp.75–76
  20. ^ Hatton, pp.77–78
  21. ^ Hatton, p.90
  22. ^ Hatton, pp.86–89
  23. ^ Hatton, pp.101–104, 122
  24. ^ Hatton, p.104
  25. ^ Velde, François R. (26 September 2006). "Holy Roman Empire". Retrieved 20 August 2007. 
  26. ^ Whatley, Christopher A. (2001). Bought and Sold for English Gold?: Explaining the Union of 1707, Second edition. East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press. ISBN 1-86232-140-X. 
  27. ^ Riley, P. W. J. (1978). The Union of England and Scotland: A Study in Anglo-Scottish Politics of the Eighteenth Century. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-6155-5. 
  28. ^ Official text of the Union with Scotland Act 1706 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database
  29. ^ "The Treaty of Union". The Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 20 August 2007. 
  30. ^ Hatton, p. 119
  31. ^ 8 June in the New Style Gregorian calendar adopted by Hanover in 1700.
  32. ^ Hatton, p.108
  33. ^ Hatton, p.109
  34. ^ Hatton, p.123
  35. ^ Hatton, p.158
  36. ^ a b c d Gibbs, G. C. (September 2004; online edn, January 2006) "George I (1660–1727)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10538, retrieved 30 July 2007 (subscription required)
  37. ^ a b Plumb, J. H. (1956). The First Four Georges. 
  38. ^ "George I". The Official Web Site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 6 March 2009. 
  39. ^ Hatton, pp.174–179
  40. ^ Williams, Basil; Revised by C. H. Stuart (1962). The Whig Supremacy 1714–1760. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 151–152. 
  41. ^ "Septennial Act 1715 (c.38)". The UK Statute Law Database, Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 20 August 2007. 
  42. ^ Lease, Owen C. (1950). "The Septennial Act of 1716". The Journal of Modern History 22: 42–47. doi:10.1086/237317. 
  43. ^ Hatton, pp.199–202
  44. ^ Hatton, pp.207–208
  45. ^ Dickinson, Harry T.; Introduced by A. L. Rowse (1973). Walpole and the Whig Supremacy. London: The English Universities Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-340-11515-7. 
  46. ^ Arkell, R. L. (1937). "George I's Letters to His Daughter". The English Historical Review 52: 492–499. doi:10.1093/ehr/LII.CCVII.492. 
  47. ^ Hatton, p.239
  48. ^ Lenman, Bruce (1980). The Jacobite Risings in Britain 1689–1746. London: Eyre Methuen. pp. 192–193. ISBN 0-413-39650-9. 
  49. ^ Szechi, Daniel (1994). The Jacobites: Britain and Europe 1688–1788. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-7190-3774-3. 
  50. ^ Hatton, p.238
  51. ^ Williams, pp.13–14
  52. ^ Dickinson, p.49
  53. ^ Carswell, John (1960). The South Sea Bubble. London: Cresset Press. p. 72. 
  54. ^ a b Hatton, pp.244–246
  55. ^ Carswell, p.103
  56. ^ Carswell, p.104; Hatton, p.249 and Williams, p.176
  57. ^ Carswell, p.115 and Hatton, p.251
  58. ^ Carswell, pp.151–152; Dickinson, p.58; and Hatton, p.250
  59. ^ Erleigh, Viscount (1933). The South Sea Bubble. Manchester: Peter Davies Ltd. p. 65. 
  60. ^ Erleigh, p.70
  61. ^ Dickinson, p.58; Erleigh, pp.77, 104; and Hatton, p.251
  62. ^ Dickinson, p.59 and Erleigh, pp.72, 90–96
  63. ^ Dickinson, p.59 and Erleigh, pp.99–100
  64. ^ Dickinson, p.59
  65. ^ Erleigh, pp.112–117
  66. ^ Erleigh, p.125 and Hatton, p.254
  67. ^ Erleigh, pp.147–155 and Williams, p.177
  68. ^ Erleigh, p.129; Hatton, p.255 and Williams, p.176
  69. ^ Black, Jeremy (2001). Walpole in Power. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 0-7509-2523-X. 
  70. ^ Black, pp.19–20 and Dickinson, pp.61–62
  71. ^ Dickinson, p.63
  72. ^ e.g. Black, pp.19–20
  73. ^ Hatton, pp.251–253
  74. ^ "Order of the Bath". Official website of the British monarchy. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  75. ^ Hatton, p.274
  76. ^ "George I" (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press
  77. ^ Hatton, p.282
  78. ^ His younger brother, Ernest Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, was Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück from 1715 until 1728.
  79. ^ 22 June in the New Style Gregorian calendar adopted by Hanover in 1700.
  80. ^ Black, pp.29–31, 53, and 61
  81. ^ a b Hatton, p.291
  82. ^ Hatton, p.172
  83. ^ Hatton, p.131
  84. ^ Ashley, Mike (1998). The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens. London: Robinson. p. 672. ISBN 1-84119-096-9. 
  85. ^ Hatton, pp.132–136
  86. ^ Thackeray, W. M. (1860). The Four Georges: Sketches of Manners, Morals, Court and Town Life. 
  87. ^ Smith, Hannah (2006). Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714–1760. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–9. ISBN 0-521-82876-7. 
  88. ^ Plumb, J. H. (1967). "George I". Collier's Encyclopedia. 10. p. 703. 
  89. ^ Williams, p.12
  90. ^ Louda, Jiří; Maclagan, Michael (1999). Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. London: Little, Brown. p. 29. ISBN 1-85605-469-1. 
  91. ^ Pinches, John Harvey; Pinches, Rosemary (1974). The Royal Heraldry of England. Heraldry Today. Slough, Buckinghamshire: Hollen Street Press. p. 203. ISBN 0-900455-25-X. 


  • Black, Jeremy (2001). Walpole in Power. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2523-X. 
  • Carswell, John (1960). The South Sea Bubble. London: Cresset Press. 
  • Dickinson, Harry T.; Introduced by A. L. Rowse (1973). Walpole and the Whig Supremacy. London: The English Universities Press. ISBN 0-340-11515-7. 
  • Erleigh, Viscount (1933). The South Sea Bubble. Manchester: Peter Davies Ltd. 
  • Gibbs, G. C. (September 2004; online edn, January 2006) "George I (1660–1727)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10538, retrieved 30 July 2007 (subscription required)
  • Hatton, Ragnhild (1978). George I: Elector and King. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-25060-X. 
  • Plumb, J. H. (1956). The First Four Georges. 
  • Williams, Basil; Revised by C. H. Stuart (1962). The Whig Supremacy 1714–1760. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Further reading

  • Beattie, John M. (1967). The English Court in the Reign of George I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Lundy, Darryl. "George I". Retrieved 21 August 2007. 
  • Marlow, Joyce; Introduction by Antonia Fraser (1973). The life and times of George I. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-76592-2. 
  • Michael, Wolfgang; Translated/adapted by Lewis Namier (1936 and 1939). England under George I (2 volumes). 
George I of Great Britain
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 28 May 1660 Died: 11 June 1727
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ernest Augustus
Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Calenberg)
Elector-designate of Brunswick-Lüneburg
as George I Louis

23 January 1698 – 28 August 1705
Inherited Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle
Preceded by
as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Calenberg)
George William

as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle
Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Elector-designate of Brunswick-Lüneburg
as George I Louis

28 August 1705 – 7 September 1708
Title of elector recognised
New title
Leopold I constituted a ninth electorate
rewarding George I for his support in the Nine Years' War
Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg
as George I Louis

7 September 1708 – 11 June 1727
Succeeded by
George II
Preceded by
King of Great Britain
King of Ireland

1 August 1714 – 11 June 1727
British royalty
Preceded by
Electress Sophia
Heir to the Throne
by Act of Settlement 1701
8 June 1714 – 1 August 1714
Succeeded by
George, Prince of Wales
later became King George II

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