George II of Great Britain Biography

George II, the King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 to 1760, was a significant figure in British history. Born in Hanover, Germany, he was the last British monarch to be born outside of Great Britain. Despite having limited control over domestic policy, he made his mark by leading the Battle of Dettingen during the War of the Austrian Succession. George II lived a long life, passing away at the age of almost 77 and being buried in Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his grandson, King George III.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Georg August
  • Died At Age: 76
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Queen Caroline
    • Father: George I of Great Britain
    • Mother: Sophia Dorothea of Celle
    • Children: Anne; Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, Frederick; Prince of Wales, Johann Ludwig; Reichsgraf von Wallmoden-Gimborn, Louise of Great Britain, Prince George William, Prince William; Duke of Cumberland, Princess Amelia of Great Britain, Princess Caroline of Great Britain, Princess Mary of Great Britain
  • Born Country: Germany
  • Died on: October 25, 1760
  • Place of death: London, England
  • Cause of Death: Aortic Dissection
  • City: Hanover, Germany

Childhood & Early Life

George was born in the city of Hanover in Germany, on 30th October 1683 as the son of George Louis, Hereditary Prince of Brunswick-Luneburg, and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. He had a sister named Sophia Dorothea, who was born when he was three years old.

The marriage of his parents was dissolved in 1694 after they both committed adultery. His mother was then confined at Ahlden House and her children never saw her again.

He was brought up in northern Germany. He initially spoke French and later was taught German as well by one of his tutors. He also learnt English and Italian, and was trained in military history and battle tactics.

He became a naturalized British citizen through the Sophia Naturalization Act in 1705 and was created a Knight of the Garter the next year, Duke and Marquess of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton, and Baron Tewkesbury in the Peerage of England.

Marriage & Children

George’s father didn’t wish for his son to have a loveless arranged marriage and wanted him to meet his bride before they made any arrangements. In 1705, in order to investigate a marriage prospect, he visited the Ansbach court anonymously at their summer residence of Triesdorf, to meet a potential bride named ‘Caroline of Ansbach’. George was very impressed by her good character and the two got married very soon.

Although George had a few mistresses, which Caroline knew about, their marriage was very happy and successful. They had a total of eight children, and through their children’s marriages, George and Caroline would eventually become the ancestors of many European royal families.

Their children were Frederick, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Princess Amelia; Princess Caroline; Prince George William (died in infancy); Prince William, Duke of Cumberland; Princess Mary; and Princess Louisa.

Life as a Prince

George was very eager to take part in the war against France in Flanders. However, his father didn’t allow him to join the army until he had a son and an heir. Caroline gave birth to a son in 1707. However, she fell ill with smallpox, and her illness was transmitted to George as well. Both recovered eventually.

In 1708, George took part in the Battle of Oudenarde. During the battle, he fought as a part of the Hanoverian cavalry. Though his horse and a colonel beside him were killed in the fierce battle, George survived unharmed. He played an important role in the war, according to the British commander Marlborough.

In 1714, Queen Anne—the reigning monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland—began experiencing serious health issues and passed away. Following this, George’s father, who had a claim to the throne, became the king and being the king’s son, George was named the Prince of Wales.

When George returned to Hanover for six months, he was given some power as the ‘Guardian and Lieutenant of the Realm’, in order to govern in the absence of his father. As George’s popularity grew, a sense of distrust and jealousy developed between him and his father. This led to a poor relationship between them. Several other issues also contributed to their increasingly troubled relations.

Displeased with his son, the king banished George and Caroline from the court. The couple then went to Leicester Square where they remained for a few years. Their children were kept in the custody of their grandfather.

Ascension & Reign

King George I eventually passed away on 11th June 1727 in Hanover. George succeeded him as George II of Great Britain and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 22 October 1727.

George II decided not to visit Germany for his father’s funeral. This decision didn’t bring him criticism, but instead brought him praise as it showed his fondness for England. He also suppressed his father’s will as it attempted to split the Hanoverian succession between George II’s future grandsons.

Like his father, he also had a poor relationship with his eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales. King George II and his wife Caroline went to live in Great Britain, leaving behind a seven-year-old Frederick in the care of his great-uncle Ernest Augustus.

When Frederick, who was given the title of Duke of Cornwall, was summoned to London after many years, he was not even greeted by officials despite being the heir to the throne.

War broke out with Spain in 1739. Three years later, Robert Walpole, who had been charge of the government since 1721, resigned. George II found another mentor named John Carteret, and they together brought England into the War of the Austrian Succession. George II led his troops into battle against the French at Dettingen, which made him the last British monarch to lead his army into battle.

Meanwhile, Queen Caroline also played an important role in government affairs, with a level of involvement higher than that of any other queen consort since the Middle Ages. She passed away in 1737, after which George II promised never to marry again, though she wanted him to.

His son Frederick passed away in 1751, at the age of 44. King George II was playing cards with his mistress, when he was told of Frederick’s death. However, he continued playing, saying that he was glad. This showed the degree of contempt he had for his son.

It is believed by many historians that during George II’s reign, the important decisions were mostly made by Walpole and other senior ministers; the role that the king played was honorific.

The British National Anthem is known to have originated during the reign of George II. The earliest version ‘God Save Great George Our King’ was first heard when George II attended a gala performance in 1745.

George II eventually started losing interest in politics towards the end of his reign. While Britain was involved in the Seven Years’ War from 1756 to 1763, it was primarily overseen by William Pitt the Elder and not the king. During this period, British influence also grew in their colonies, such as India and Canada.

Major Battles

King George II commanded his troops in the Battle of Dettingen during the War of the Austrian Succession. The British forces allied with the forces of Hanover and Hesse to defeat a French army under the duc de Noailles. This battle marked the last time a British monarch personally led his troops on the field.

Death & Legacy

By late 1760, George II had become hard of hearing as well as blind in one eye. He eventually passed away on 25 October the same year. He was nearly 77 at the time of his death and had lived longer than any of his British predecessors. The cause of his death was found to be an aortic aneurysm.

He was buried at Westminster Abbey, becoming the last monarch to be buried there. He had left instructions for the sides of his and wife’s coffins to be removed, in order for their remains to be together.

He was succeeded by his grandson George William Frederick, known as King George III, who ruled from 1760 to 1820.

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