Childhood & Early Life
George I was born on May 28, 1660, in Hanover, located in the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg of the great Roman Empire. He was born into the royal family of Ernest Augustus, the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and his wife, Sophia of the Palatinate. George was the eldest son in the family and the great-grandson of King James I of England.
When he was born, George was the sole successor of all the lands and fortunes that his entire family owned. His uncles were all childless and he became the rightful heir to their fortunes, too. That was until 1661, when his mother gave birth to another son, Frederick Augustus.
However, little George was away from his mother’s love for the first year of his life. She was mostly away on long holidays in Italy, but she kept corresponding to make sure George was taken care of. Upon coming back, she took care of George and his baby brother.
She later gave birth to five more children. She noted in her writings that George was a very mature young boy and that he took good care of all of his little siblings.
In 1675, one of his uncles died without having any sons of his own. This made his father the sole ruler of the territory. However, George’s remaining two uncles had married and this put a danger to his aspirations of inheriting the fortunes of his uncles.
When George was a teenager, his father took him to battles to train him in warfare. In 1679, another of George’s uncles died without any legitimate successor of his own. Subsequently, the territory went to Ernest. By 1692, George inherited all the territories that belonged to his uncles and father, by the principle of primogeniture.
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Wife & Children
George married his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, in 1682. The marriage took place with the intention of strengthening the bond between Celle and Hanover, as marrying into Celle meant there would be a good inflow of income for Hanover.
The next year, George Augustus was born, followed by a daughter, Dorothea. However, the couple did not have a happy married life. While George had a German mistress, Sophia Dorothea had her own affair. This led to problems that continued for many years.
The marriage was officially dissolved in 1694, on the grounds that Sophia Dorothea had abandoned her husband. George put Sophia Dorothea in jail, where she stayed until the day she died, almost 30 years later.
Rise as a Monarch
In 1701, the ‘Act of Settlement’ stated that George’s mother was to be named the successor to the British throne, if reigning monarch William III and his wife, Anne, passed away without any successor. The act was passed after it was decided that Protestant succession was the best option available.
However, there was some trouble on the way to the throne. Anne and William III had 50 close Catholic relatives who had more claim to the throne than George and his mother. However, some tweaks in the parliamentary laws made George’s mother, Sophia, the successor to the British throne after the death of Anne.
Sophia passed away in 1714. Following that, George was named the successor to the throne. Anne died in August 1714, and by then, George had made sure that he would be the one to inherit the throne after her, after he made a few amendments in the parliament. He was proclaimed the king of England and Ireland, upon Queen Anne’s death.
His coronation took place in October 1714, and the historical event also saw some unrest in the country. Unhappy to see an outsider on the throne of Britain, some rioters went loose. There was mayhem in many parts of England.
Soon after he was declared as the king, the Catholics and a close relative of Queen Anne, James Stuart, gathered a force of Jacobites and started protesting against George. George did not take this lightly and curbed the rebellion in a very short time. Another similar rebellion occurred in 1719. This was again easily suppressed by George.
The rebellion also received support from the Spanish, and the defeat they had to face had Spain pulling out of the rebellion. This weakened the relations between the English and Spanish monarchs.
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George was opposed by British nationalists on several accounts. The first issue was that he was not British. He was a German citizen and had refused to learn the English language. He also continued to visit his native land of Hanover almost once every year.
Meanwhile, George’s eldest son, the prince of Wales, was gradually turning against his father. George used the support of the ‘Whigs’ to form a parliamentary government system. However, he was far from being a popular monarch.
He earned a bad reputation for his refusal to learn English, and there were rumors that he treated his wife badly. He had two mistresses in Germany, and this worsened his position among the masses.
He had also stopped attending the cabinet meetings, which led to the dissemination of the cabinet. He organized all the important meetings with just a few key members at a private place. In a desperate attempt to win over the English public, he strengthened his political ties with France. His frequent visits to Hanover led the public to believe that George had tweaked the foreign policies in favor of Hanover.
Robert Walpole, who belonged to the ‘Whig Party,’ was one of the strongest figures in domestic politics. George lacked the diplomatic finesse required to deal with him. Robert and a few other politicians formed alliances with George’s son, George II, to prepare a strong opposition.
Robert and another politician, Charles Townshend, started working toward establishing a strong political movement in the country. They became close to George I when they successfully rescued him from a corruption scandal. Robert made sure that the ‘House of Commons’ freed George of the charges. As a result, Robert was given a significant place in the ministry.
By 1724, Robert and Charles took over the governance and threw many of George’s friends out of the ministry. George thus became helpless and had to rely on Robert’s judgements.
Shortly after this, Robert was made the first de-facto British prime minister after a cabinet government was established in the United Kingdom.
On June 9, 1727, George I suffered a lethal stroke on his way to Hanover. Two days later, he died at the prince-bishop’s palace at Osnabrück. He was buried in Hanover.
His son, George Augustus, took over the throne after him, as George II.