Like Father, Like Son. The Impact of the Hanoverian Family Dispute on British Policy

Term Paper, 2010

16 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The Hanoverian Family Dispute

3. The Impact on British Politics of the Family Dispute
3.1 Court Life
3.2 Domestic Policies
3.3 Foreign Policies

4. Conclusion



1. Introduction

This assignment questions the family dispute within the early Hanoverian court, more precisely those between George Louis, Prince of Brunswick-Luneburg and his son George August, Prince of Wales and how far their relationship influenced governmental and administrative procedures in British domestic and foreign policy. Therefore the timeframe of the early eighteenth century is pertained, that is to say both the reigns of George I (1714- 1727) and George II (1727-1760).

Within the scope of the history of British monarchy, there is a considerable, growing specialist literature on British foreign policy and therefore an increasing interest on the Hanoverian Electorate. Most of the works concentrate on biographical data of George I and George II and historical effects of their political procedures, such as the Glorious Revolution or the Jacobite Rebellions. However, the core theme of this assignment lies in the relationship between both the kings, with relevance to the British monarchy’s history and to what extent the Hanoverians have a bearing on imminent British policy.

By contrast, with contemporaries, there is less information on both George I and George II. The amount of information, research and publications continues to fall on the second half of the eighteenth century. In the account of the eighteenth century as a whole, works on the first half do not play a main role but in recent decades an interest in George II looms what calls for the reference to his father, George I, as well.

Especially Jeremy Black’s The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty and The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy by John Cannon and Ralph Griffiths are the most determining research literature to the early Hanoverians. All of these academic works are authoritative accounts to British monarchy guiding through the British history and emphasising George I’s and George II’s importance to British history, especially George II’s importance and independence by focusing on his role in foreign policy.

At first, the research concentrates on the major issues of the family dispute that laid the foundation to the discord in the Hanoverian family. Subsequently, Georges I and II governments are in the centre of attention: the dispute’s impact on their actions or the measure of relevance their procedures had on their further disagreement. Here, the focus lies in their domestic and foreign policies, including ministerial and governmental as well as courtly affairs. Eventually, not only the king’s disputes but as well the king’s impact on British history is resumed.

Lastly here it is important to mention that a complete description of the historical events during the forty-six years that are displayed in this research will not take place. There have only be declared particular events for a wider historical understanding. For more debate on the history of the late seventeenth and eighteenth century the bibliography cited at the end of this research is to be referred to.

2. The Hanoverian Family Dispute

The father-son relationship between the Hanoverians George I and George II has a reputation for being extremely strained, estranged and frigid (Black 2004, Cannon and Griffiths 1992) what can mostly be seen from the fact that their meetings are traversed by choleric quarrels and disputes.

Historians such as Jeremy Black are convinced that the tension between ruler and heir is a classic feature of dynastic politics (cp. Black 2004, 65), but the escalation of their quarrel is not anymore just tensed, but considerably more desperate. The personal friction between father and son is already established in early years before the reigns of George I or George II and comprised the King’s wife and mother of Prince of Wales, Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Luneburg. She was the heiress to George William, Duke of Celle. Her relationship to the Swedish count and Hanoverian colonel Philipp Christoph von Königsmarck “did not remain a secret for long” (Black 2004, 57) and as a direct consequence of her adultery, Sophia was detained and confined under her father’s care at the manor house of Ahlden, where she was kept until her death. Here, Black mentions that the impact on George II of his parent’s divorce is unclear (cp. Black 2004,84), whereas it has to be considered that the early separation from his mother from the year 1692 on, must have essentially influenced the young George. The entire humiliation of his mother led by his grandfather and father, who “was interested in ensuring that George William kept his promise to detain Sophia Dorothea” (Black 2004, 58), must have scarred the prince. Thus, it must be assumed that from early on George I made a major contribution to his son’s alienation, discord and impeachment of his parental authority.

George I experienced a secure family background including maternal love and encouragement (cp. Black 2004, 84), but adapted interventions by his father, Ernest August, the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg. To adduce as a first instance, Ernest August arranged Maria Katharine von Meysenburg, the younger sister of his own mistress, to become his son‘s mistress after he had made the under-governess of his sister pregnant. Secondly, he introduced primogeniture to enhance the family’s position by the undivided inheritance of the eldest son, namely George I. Although Ernest August herewith influenced his son’s situation in positive manner securing his succession to the throne, he isolated George from his brothers and made them alienated by the loss of their prospects (cp. Black 2004, 57). The primogeniture then followed George I’s marriage to Sophie Dorothea, “a marriage that was a crucial step in the consolidation of the family’s interests” (Black 2004, 57).

Considering the procedures that Ernest August had met, it is less surprising for whatever reasons George I made decisions for his son, after all, he himself had never experienced a different paternal education. Best example and most public clash between father and son is those which revolves around the baptism of George II’s son George William. The choice of George Williams’ godfather in 1717 is to blame for the struggle. King George I supported the Duke of Newcastle who claimed traditional rights to be the godfather (cp. Cannon and Griffiths 1992, 465), whereas George II has not been in favour of the Lord Chamberlain and wished to have his brother, the Duke of York and Albany, assigned as the godfather at the baptismal ceremonies, instead. The rift between father and son widened because the Duke of Newcastle affirmed that the prince was inclined to fight him. As a consequence, the King arrested and temporarily confined his son from all public ceremonies in which the royal family occasionally appeared, he furthermore was expelled from St. James Palace, the King’s royal residence.

With this outcome, the differences between the king and his heir reached the climax. Not only the past had drastically worsened the father-son relationship, also during the reign of George I clashes were continued. Their disputes turned to the major domestic issue, and “fitted into a parliamentary framework” (Black 2004, 62), wherefore the reconciliation of George I and the Prince of Wales most concerned the parliament. The choleric quarrel, as Jeremy Black goes on, “interacted with and seriously worsened the political disputes” (Black 2004, 65). In historian reviews it is widely common that George II did all in his power to encourage opposition to his father’s policies. The disputes within the royal family mainly affected British policies at that time, Black says here, The ambitions and interests of George I and George II maintained the dynamism of Hanoverian policy; one, however, that was unwise and, in large part, unsuccessful in itself, and a source of concern and anger to numerous British ministers and diplomats (Black 2004, 41).

In what manner the criticism of the both George’s governmental and administrative procedures finds expression, how far they differ and how far these differences are concerned with the family disputes, is to be resolved in the following chapter.

3. The Impact on British Politics of the Family Discord

3.1 Court Life

George I’s succession to the English throne was not secured from the beginning. Since neither William III and Maria II, nor Queen Anne had any children who could have followed them in the succession to the throne, and Anne being the last heir in the Stuart line, the crown would return to the deposed Roman Catholic James II and his heirs. The Act of Settlement was designed in 1701 to avoid the continuation of the hereditary Stuart heir, therefore it excluded the Catholics and Stuarts out of the British succession to the throne, and instead passed it to the German Protestant cousins, the House of Hanover. Sophia of Hanover, the mother of George I, herewith was placed above them, even if there were relatives whose claims were stronger, and after the death of both Sophia and Queen Anne, George succeeded the English throne in 1714 (cp. Cannon and Griffiths 1992, Black 2004, Sieper 2002).

After George I’s difficult succession in terms of the Act of Settlement, he struggled with his new situation and role as the new head of England. Within his early years as King of England, he was faced with numerous problems. First of all and most crucial to his difficulties in his new kingdom was his disinterest and dislike of England, his lack of knowledge of British politics and his obvious preference for Hanover. As the Prussian envoy Friedrich Bonet reported, George disliked England, for its language, constitution, political parties and continual importunities for royal favour” (cit. Black 2004, 59).

For that reason, George I did not speak and made little effort to learn the English language (cp. Black 2004, 51). All ministerial documents therefore had to be translated into French and the ceremonial of his coronation had to be explained into Latin (cp. Black 2004, 59). Consequentially, George I felt indisposition in his new home country, wherefore he was unable to develop British national interests (cp. Black 2004, 59) and was more concerned about Hanoverian affairs. This in turn means that, on the one hand, he excluded himself from British society. As Beattie describes, George I was a man with an extreme shyness of crowds, a dislike of formality and a preference to a quite and retired life. He always remained in background, never courted popular acclaim and rarely showed himself to his people (cp. Beattie 1966, 26-27). Therefore, George I was faced with his extreme unpopularity among the British society:

The British found their new ruler to an unglamorous elderly gentleman (Cannon and Griffiths 1992, 466). He always remained a passive actor in court life what “allowed him the more easily to indulge his preference for privacy and informality” (Beattie 1966, 27).

In contrast to his father, the prince, who had accompanied his father in 1714, was closely linked to all of these matters. He was very much in evidence in court life (cp. Beattie 1966, 27) and with great knowledge of the English language. Therefore, the king’s son and his daughter-in-law, Caroline of Ansbach-Bayreuth, were in great advantage and of much popularity within the English society nearly leading court life (cp. Beattie 1966, 28).

This imbalance and difference of the character traits of father and son are without any doubt the reason for the never ending struggle between them. As well king George I’s jealousy of his son’s popularity and the fear his son could completely lead social court life, further worsened the conflict. The king obviously disliked and distrusted his son such that he would never led him control over the crown’s patronage, despite the fact that George always has been willed to remain a passive actor of court life. Beattie offers an explanation for the father’s dislike, he says, “the prince’s open declaration of political independence drove a much more serious breach between them” (Beattie 1996, 28).


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Like Father, Like Son. The Impact of the Hanoverian Family Dispute on British Policy
Martin Luther University  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
British Monarchy from Henry VIII to the Present
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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574 KB
British History, British Monarchy, Hanoverian Monarchy, George I, George II, British Politics
Quote paper
B.A. Anna Stumpe (Author), 2010, Like Father, Like Son. The Impact of the Hanoverian Family Dispute on British Policy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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