Childhood & Early Life
George V of Hanover was born Prince George of Cumberland, on May 27, 1819, to Prince Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland and Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. His father was the fifth son of George III, King of the United Kingdom and Hanover. He was chosen as the heir to the throne as none of his elder brothers had a male heir. Women were debarred from succession under ‘Salic Law’ so he became the rightful heir.
George V was born as the only son in the family and hence, the natural successor to his father’s legacy. George’s baptism ceremony took place on July 8, 1819, in a hotel in Berlin. His parents were staying in the same hotel at that time. He had many Godparents from the royal families.
George spent most of his childhood years in Great Britain and Berlin, as his grandfather ruled both the lands. After his grandfather’s death in 1820, the crown of the UK and Hanover went to King William IV, Ernest’s eldest brother. But following his death in 1837, Ernest became the King of Hanover, while his sister Queen Victoria took the throne of the UK.
George V led a very comfortable life since childhood. He became blind in one eye due to an illness that he contracted in 1828. An accident in 1833 caused blindness in his other eye as well. Blindness created a huge roadblock in his princely education.
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The Crown Prince & King
The Kingdom of Hanover and Great Britain had a personal union for more than a century. It lasted 123 years and came to an end following the death of King William IV of Great Britain and Hanover. It was due to the operation of ‘Salic Law’ in the German States.
Prince Ernest was Duke of Cumberland at that time and following the death of King William in 1837, he ascended the throne of Hanover as Ernst Augustus. As George was his only son, he became the Crown Prince of Hanover in the same year. However, George remained a part of the British Royal Family as a male-line descendent of King George III. He was also the second in line to the throne of Great Britain, until Queen Victoria gave birth to an heir, Princess Victoria, in 1840.
George’s blindness created doubts in the minds of many. Several councillors and parliament members silently opposed the move to make him the next King, but King Ernest was known to be an autocratic ruler who had little to no belief in democracy. He decided that his son George was the right man to be his heir and that his disability would not come in the way of him becoming an effective ruler.
During the last few months of his life, King Ernest embarked on travels throughout Germany and in his absence, George looked after Hanover. King Ernest passed away in November 1851 after contracting a fatal illness. Following his demise, George was named King George V, as he became the King of Hanover.
He took inspiration from his father and his maternal uncle, Prince Charles Frederick of Prussia, who was one of the most powerful men in the court of Prussia. Hence, George V grew up believing democracy was a sign of a ruler’s weakness. He ruled with autocracy, which meant that one man held all the powers.
The parliamentarians of Hanover were not especially happy with that. Quite naturally, they were ardent believers of democracy, in which the decisions were made taking everybody’s point of view in mind. During his entire reign, King George V never quite established a rapport with his parliamentarians.
In the Diet of the entire German Confederation, George had always supported Austria, considering them their best ally. Thus, in the ‘Austro–Prussian War’ of 1866, Hanover naturally sided with Austria. The Prussians knew it already and they warned Hanover to submit to Prussia. Considering George V’s mother was from Prussia, this was an extreme measure.
Although George knew that Hanover could not stand a direct battle with Prussia in any way, he still refused the ultimatum and refused to leave his throne. Once again, autocracy got the best of democracy - his parliamentarians decided that Hanover shall not go to war siding with Austria, but George V still sent his troops and joined Austria in the Austro-Prussian War.
When the Prussian army entered Hanover, it was not difficult for them to annex Hanover. The Hanoverian army surrendered on June 29, 1866. King George V and the royal family took refuge in Austria.
The Hanoverian government was officially annexed by Prussia in September 1866. King William I, the first cousin of George V from their mother’s side, was King of Prussia.
However, King George V never quite renounced his claim to the throne and kept trying to receive help from other European powers, but that never materialised.
Later, he was treated well by the Great Britain and was made an honorary full general in the British Army, starting 1876.
Personal Life & Death
George V of Hanover married Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg, on February 18, 1843. He had three children- Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover; Princess Frederica of Hanover and Princess Marie of Hanover.
George V passed away on June 12, 1878, in Paris, France.