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George I - 1714-1727

Key Facts about George I

George, Elector of Hanover, acceded to the thrones of England and Scotland because he was a Protestant directly descended, through his grandmother, Elizabeth of Bohemia, from James VI and I. The Act of Settlement of 1701 forbade Catholics from ascending the throne.

George's ignorance of the English language and customs actually became the cornerstone of his style of rule: leave England to it's own devices and live in Hanover as much as possible. His accession began the process by which the King's first minister, for most of his reign Robert Walpole, became Prime Minister and the real political leader of the nation.

Not everyone accepted the new foreign King, least of all the Scots who wanted to continue the direct Stuart line. They rebelled in support of James II, but were defeated. Though successful in the field, George I was less so in his home. His wife, Sophia Dorothea, betrayed him with Count Konigsmark and was imprisoned for her disloyalty while Konigsmark disappeared.

As a result of this scandal George became the butt of popular jokes. When his guards refused to wear the uniform he had designed for them, and when it was discovered that he intended to plant turnips in St. James's Park, the jokes turned to ridicule. A further scandal was what came to be known as the South Sea Bubble, an investment scheme which ruined hundreds of Georges subjects.

It was at this point that Walpole, who had resigned, was recalled and became first Lord of the Treasury and virtually took over running the country. Britain now became involved in a war over Spanish possessions in America and the Spaniards attempted to take Gibraltar. Both were fruitless exercises in which George showed very little interest. For him, his kingdom was Hanover and he spent a great deal of time there, dying at Osnabruck whilst travelling.

In the opinion of Lady Wortley Montague, a writer and traveller of the time, George was an honest blockhead.

Key Events during the Reign of George I

1714 - George I succeeds his distant cousin Anne. A new Parliament is elected with a strong Whig majority, led by Charles Townsend and Robert Walpole.

1715 - Jacobite Rising in Scotland is easily defeated.

1716 - The Septennial Act allows for General Elections to be held every seven years.

1717 - Townsend 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.

1722 - Death of the Duke of Marlborough.

1726 - Jonathan Swift publishes Gulliver's Travels. Death of Sophia Dorothea, wife of George I.

1727 - Death of the scientist, Isaac Newton. Death of George I in Hanover.

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