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House of Hanover - King George I

Name: King George I
Father: Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick and Elector of Hanover
Mother: Sophia Stuart
Born: May 28, 1660 at Osnabruck, Hanover
Ascended to the throne: August 1, 1714 aged 54 years
Crowned: October 20, 1714 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Sophia Dorothea of Celle, on 1682
Children: One son, one daughter, three illegitimate children
Died: June 11, 1727 at Osnabruck, aged 67 years, and 12 days
Buried at: Leineschlosskirche, Hanover

He was the son of the first elector of Hanover, Ernest Augustus (1629–1698), and his wife Sophia who was a granddaughter of James I of England. He was heir through his father to the hereditary lay bishopric of Osnabrück and the duchy of Calenberg, which was one part of the Hanoverian possessions of the house of Brunswick. He acquired the other part by his marriage in 1682 to his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle. They had two children George (who later became George II) and Sophia (who married Frederick William of Prussia in 1706 and was the mother of Frederick the Great).

It was not a happy marriage. George had several mistresses, and his wife Sophia eloped with Swedish Count Philip Konigsmark who in 1694 mysteriously disappeared believed killed with George’s connivance and his body thrown in a river. Sophia was imprisoned in Castle Ahlden in Celle where she remained until she died 30 years later. In England Queen Anne had no surviving children and in 1701 Parliament passed the Act of Settlement to ensure a Protestant line of succession and oppose the claim of the Catholic James Edward Stuart. George’s mother Sophia became heiress to the British throne, but she died in May 1714 a few weeks before Queen Anne so when Anne died in August that year George became King George I of Great Britain..

George arrived in England aged 54 speaking only a few words of English, with 18 cooks and two mistresses one very fat and the other thin and tall who became nicknamed ‘Elephant and Castle’ after an area in London. In Hanover he was absolute ruler but in England found that he had to work with Parliament and his Whig ministers particularly Lord Townshend who was dismissed, Earl Stanhope and Robert Walpole. The king grew frustrated in his attempts to control Parliament and more and more dependent upon his advisers as scandal surrounded him; his supporters turned against him, demanding freedom of action as the price of reconciliation. George rarely attended meetings with his ministers, and particularly Walpole became powerful and effectively Britain’s first Prime Minister.

Jacobite rebellions in Scotland in 1715 led by Lord Mar, and in 1719 supported by Spanish troops intending to place James Edward Stuart (‘The old Pretender’) on throne found little support and were quickly defeated. The ‘South Sea Bubble’ in which shares in companies were purchased in rash financial speculation before a stock market crash in 1720 left many investors ruined, and George was implicated in the scandal. Walpole’s management of the crisis by rescheduling debts and paying compensation using Government money helped return financial stability. George quarrelled with his son George (a trait inherited by successive Hanoverian kings) and became increasingly unpopular. He spent more and more time in Hanover where he died of a stroke in 1727.

King George I's Signature

Timeline for King George I

1714 George I, the first Hanoverian King, succeeds his distant cousin, Anne.
1714 A new Parliament is elected with a strong Whig majority led by Robert Walpole.
1715 The Jacobite rising begins in Scotland intending to place the ‘Old Pretender” James Edward Stuart, heir to James II on the throne. The rebellion is defeated at Sheriffmuir.
1716 The Septennial Act allows for General Elections to be held
1717 Townshend is dismissed from the government by George, causing Walpole to resign
1719 Daniel Defoe publishes Robinson Crusoe
1720 South Sea Bubble bursts, leaving many investors ruined.
1721 Sir Robert Walpole returns to government as First Lord of the Treasury where he remains in office until 1742. He is effectively the first Prime Minister.
1722 Death of the Duke of Marlborough.
1726 First circulating library in Britain opens in Edinburgh, Scotland.
1726 Jonathan Swift publishes Gulliver’s Travels.
1727 Death of the scientist, Isaac Newton.
1727 George I dies in Hanover, aged 67.