Tag Archives: Queen Anne

FATHER OF ENGLAND’S RULING DYNASTY

 (My brother Nigel's official website is http://www.nigelrhodesfineart.com/.   He has been in the art business for over 30 years.   This picture is of the portrait he has for sale.)
My brother, Nigel, has been in the art business for over 30 years. This picture is of the rare portrait of George I, by C. Fontaine, he has for sale.

My brother Nigel in England asked me to write this article to accompany a portrait of King George I that is being sold by his art and antique business.   I find George I interesting, so here is the story.   (My brother’s official website is http://www.nigelrhodesfineart.com/.)

The first Hanoverian king did not get the dynasty off to a good start.

So desperate were the English to guarantee the Protestant succession after Queen Anne’s death in 1714, that they turned to a distant relative who lived in Germany and asked him to become King.   More than fifty closer relatives were passed over because of their Roman Catholicism.   It had taken almost two centuries to secure England’s freedom from Rome – there was clearly no turning back.

George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from August 1st, 1714, to his death in 1727.   At the same time, he retained his German titles that he had held since 1698. He was also ruler of the Duchy of Brunswick-Luneberg and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.   His two successors, George II and George III would also hold the same titles, until the dismantling of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

George I was never comfortable speaking English.   If someone did not speak his native German, he would converse in French.

Although the people were thankful to have a protestant monarch, George was never popular.   He had a bad reputation even before he arrived on England’s shores.   After his wife had committed adultery with a Swedish guardsman, he had the man murdered and then imprisoned her and would not let her see their two children, one of whom was the future George II.   While Prince of Wales, the future George II, was anxious for the death of his father, not so much to be king himself, but to be able to see his mother again.   However, she died shortly before her husband.

“He was by nature neither warm nor congenial (“the Elector is so cold that he freezes everything into ice,” his cousin remarked), and those who had to deal with him soon discovered that beneath his shy, benign reserve their lurked a deeply suspicious, even vindictive nature.   Accustomed to unquestioning obedience, George was selfish and easily offended. And once offence was given, the wrong could never be made right.” (Royal Panoply, George I, by Carolly Erickson, 2003.)

When George became king, he journeyed to England to ascend the throne, but had intended to return to Hanover as soon as possible. His acceptance of his new responsibility owed more to his conviction that it would be good for Hanover, than to any desire to serve the British people.

The year after his ascension, he faced rebellion at home. Jacobites, loyal to the Catholic Stuarts, wanted to place the son of James II on the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland.   When the Pretender landed in Scotland and raised his standard against the king, many Scottish towns declared themselves for James.   But George was resolute – he had faced the Turks and the French and was not about to be defeated by the Stuart usurper. James soon returned to France, discouraged by the lack of support he received from the people.

Immediately after this victory, George returned to Hanover, one of five visits he made to his old home during his reign. At the time, Hanover was at war with Sweden. George had allied his electorate with Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, in hopes of acquiring territory from the Swedes after their defeat.   But George was soon faced with a crisis in his new home and had to return to London, where the government had degenerated into squabbles.

Without realizing it, after 1720, George contributed to the modern democracy that has given the United Kingdom three centuries of stability. Robert Walpole was his first prime minister. Indeed, he was also the first prime minister of the country, one of the most competent prime ministers in a long line of, arguably, questionable heads of government.   Walpole blended the power of the Crown with the growing power of parliament, in a balance that remains with us to this day.

Although the king shunned public appearances, on warm summer nights, he would board his open barge at Whitehall with a small party of friends, travelling upriver to Chelsea.   Other barges would soon join the royal barge, one of which had a full orchestra of fifty musicians on board.   The music they played filled the air and was very popular with Londoners.   George had brought with him his favorite musician George Frederick Handel, who composed much of the music played on these royal evenings, music that is still popular today.

George will also be remembered for the South Sea Bubble, one of the greatest financial catastrophes in history. Its collapse ruined thousands of people.

The company was set up to refinance thirty thousand pounds of government debt, a vast sum in those days. The debts were converted into shares of the company’s stock. As investors rushed in to make a killing, the value of the shares kept rising, shares in other companies rising along with them. Inevitably, the bubble burst and the shares became worthless.   As the king was the Governor of the company, he got the blame, inspiring the Jacobites to plan another insurrection, which also failed.

While George I may not be anybody’s favorite monarch, his legacy lives on to this day in his descendant Queen Elizabeth II. George I founded a dynasty, which has lasted more than three centuries and given the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms unrivalled political stability. For this we should all be thankful. Thanks also to the first Hanoverian who had a small part in this achievement.

 

Advertisements

RANDOM THOUGHTS

queen-anne-1702-crop

There’s been a lot of talk following the murder of James Foley, the release of another journalist, and an appeal from the mother of a third. The talk assumes that the US government has a responsibility to protect Americans wherever they go in the world.

Whereas France and Germany will pay ransoms to rescue their nationals held by terrorists, the US and UK will not deal with them. The demand for James Foley’s life was 80 million pounds ($132 million). Small change for Washington but should our leaders deal with these people?

When Diane and I lived in Africa, we often found ourselves in very difficult situations. Sometimes these were life threatening. But never once did I expect either of our governments to come to our rescue. On one occasion, I remember a car coming into our driveway with all three of our children in it, when they should have been in school.

It turned out that soldiers had landed by helicopter in the school playground, shooting as they landed. The British High Commission decided to send the children home. This happened after a coup when everybody was rather nervous. We were never billed for this rescue. I am truly thankful that they took the action they did. But I really never thought they had a responsibility to come to our aid whenever we were in trouble.

____________________________________________________

Talking of Great Britain, the country seems to have overlooked a very important anniversary this month. Earlier in August, there were commemorations for the centenary of the start of the First World War on August 4th. This tragic event, which changed our world beyond all recognition, should be remembered.

But August 2014 is also the tercentenary of the establishment of the dynasty that continues to reign over the UK and other countries in the Commonwealth.

When Queen Anne died in 1714, she left no heirs, though she was pregnant seventeen times. Her nearest living Protestant relative was the Elector of Hanover, Prince George, who was asked to come to England and be king. There were actually 56 closer relatives but they were all Catholics and, therefore, denied the throne under the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement. Realize if any of the other 56 had changed religion and assumed the throne, there would never have been a Queen Victoria or Elizabeth II.

Things did not get off to an auspicious start for the new King George – he divorced his wife before leaving Germany and had his mistress with him when he arrived in England.  In addition, there was rioting in at least twenty British cities and towns when he became king. But the British wanted a king – memories of the republic 60 years earlier were not good and they did not want to go down that route again. That king also had to be a Protestant.

George remained as king until his death in 1727. He continued to speak German and never really felt at home in his new country. In fact, he died while visiting his native Hanover.

At the time, nobody would have thought that they were establishing a system of government that would endure for three centuries and be exported to other countries around the world. George’s prime minister was Robert Walpole, who is now looked upon as the first prime minister. By the end of George’s reign, it was clear that the PM ran the country and the king was merely a figurehead, though an effective head of state in checking executive power. It’s a system that has given Britain and other countries a secure and stable political arrangement that continues to this day.

George was succeeded by three other Georges, none of whom could be considered a great monarch. In 1830, William IV became king but died seven years later.

His niece Victoria then assumed the throne and reigned for 64 years. Her marriage to her cousin Prince Albert earned her a great deal of respect and the monarchy became a lot more popular. That popularity continues to this day.

Under Victoria and Albert, the family’s name changed to Saxe-Coburg. In 1917, during a time of great anti-German feeling, the family wisely changed their name to Windsor, after the town west of London where they live.

Perhaps it was wise not to celebrate the tercentenary – it would not be a good idea to encourage people to look too closely into the lives of some of the monarchs who reigned during that 300 years. Not all have been like Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II.

_______________________________________________________

If you’ve always suspected the media of bias, here’s the latest proof.

Last week, an unarmed 20-year-old white male was shot dead by a black police officer in Utah. This incident was not reported on national news broadcasts.

You will remember that when a black male, aged 18, was shot dead by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, we had nightly coverage on the news for almost two weeks.

The deaths of young people are always a tragedy. It’s awful that their families have suffered such a loss. But the media is the issue here – they clearly need to be more even-handed and not take sides, jumping on the liberal bandwagon whenever the opportunity presents itself.