King George II


George II (George Augustus) (November 10, 1683–October 25, 1760) was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover), and Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire from June 11, 1727 until his death. He was the second British monarch of the House of Hanover, and the last British monarch to personally lead his troops into battle.

George II was famous for his numerous conflicts with his father and afterwards with his son, a seemingly common problem for members of the Hanoverian dynasty. His relationship with his wife was much better, despite his numerous mistresses. George II exercised little control over policy during his early reign, the government instead being controlled by Great Britain's first (unofficial) "Prime Minister," Sir Robert Walpole.

George II succeeded to the throne at the time of his father's death on June 11, 1727, but a battle of wills continued with his son and heir, The Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales. George II may have planned to exile his son to the British colonies, but, in any event, did not actually do so. George was crowned at Westminster Abbey on October 4th. The Hanoverian composer George Frideric Handel was commissioned to write four new anthems for the coronation; one of them, Zadok the Priest, has been sung at every coronation since.

It was widely believed that George would dismiss Sir Robert Walpole, who had distressed him by joining his father's government. It was widely believed that Walpole would be replaced by Sir Spencer Compton; George requested Compton—not Walpole—to write his first speech for him. Compton, however, requested Walpole for aid in the task, leading George's wife, Queen Caroline, an ardent supporter of Sir Robert Walpole, to claim that he was incompetent.

George did not behave obstinately; instead, he agreed with his wife and retained Sir Robert Walpole as Prime Minister. Walpole slowly gained the royal favor, securing a generous civil list of £800,000 for the king. He also persuaded many Tory politicians to accept the succession laid down in the Act of Settlement as valid. In turn, George II helped Sir Robert Walpole gain a strong Parliamentary majority by creating peers (who sat in the House of Lords) sympathetic to the Whigs.

While Queen Caroline was still alive, Sir Robert Walpole's position was secure. He was a master of domestic policy, and he still exerted some control over George II's foreign policy. While George II was eager for war in Europe, Walpole was more cautious. Thus, in 1729, he encouraged George II to sign a peace treaty with Spain.

George's relationship with the Prince of Wales worsened during the 1730s. When the Prince of Wales married Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, an open quarrel broke out; George II banished him and his family from the royal court in 1737. After losing his son, George also lost his wife, who died on November 20, 1737. When she reputedly asked George II to remarry, he said "Non, j'aurai des maitresses!" (French for "No, I will have mistresses!"). George had already had (1736) an illegitimate son, Johann Ludwig, Graf von Wallmoden-Gimborn. In 1734 he founded the Georg August University of Göttingen.

For the remainder of his life, George II did not take any active interest in politics or war. During his last years, the foundation of the Industrial Revolution was laid as the population rose rapidly. British dominance in India increased with the victories of Robert Clive at the Battle of Arcot and the Battle of Plassey.

In 1752, Great Britain reformed its calendar. It had previously operated under the Julian Calendar, but, after 1752, used the Gregorian Calendar. Furthermore, January 1 became the official beginning of the New Year, instead of March 25. The former date had been commonly regarded as the beginning of the New Year for a long time, but the latter was retained in formal usage. The calendar change required omitting several days; thus, September 2 was followed by September 14. This eventually ended up as a curiosity in the unix computer cal command, which when invoked with the parameters 9 and 1752 ('cal 9 1752'), will print out a diminutive month of September missing several days.

George II's Prime Minister, Henry Pelham died in 1754, to be succeeded by his brother, Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, and thereafter by William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire in 1756. Another notable minister was William Pitt the Elder. Pitt was appointed a Secretary of State in the administration of the Duke of Devonshire, but was disliked by the king, for he had previously opposed involvement in the War of the Austrian Succession. The hostility was marked by George's criticism of Pitt's speeches in early 1757. In April of the same year, George II dismissed Pitt, but later recalled him. At the same time, the Duke of Newcastle returned as Prime Minister.

As Secretary of State for the Southern Department, William Pitt the Elder, guided policy relating to the Seven Years' War (which may be viewed as a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession). Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, made an alliance with her nation's former enemies, Russia and France, and became the enemy of Great Britain and Hanover.

George II feared that this new alliance would invade Hanover; thus, he aligned himself with Prussia. Great Britain, Hanover, and Prussia were thus pitted against many major European powers, including Austria, Russia, France, Sweden, and Saxony. The war spread from Europe to North America, where the conflict was known as the French and Indian War, and to India, where it was termed the Second Carnatic War.

George II died on October 25, 1760 from an aortic dissection while using his toilet. He was subsequently buried in Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his grandson, who became George III.

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