It is appropriate that today, the day that Scotland decides whether it wants to stay in the warm embrace of the United Kingdom, that in 1714 King George I of Great Britain landed here for the first time since his accession as King. The fact that George became King of Great Britain was in itself a remarkable story; so settle down and read – it gives us something to focus on whilst the votes in Scotland are being counted…
Following the death of King Charles II of England, the Catholic (and rather unpopular) Duke of York succeeded his brother as King James II of England and VII of Scotland. James’ Catholicism was a major issue in a world where the “Popish Cause” was seen as dangerous and wicked in Protestant England. Following the birth of a son to James and his Catholic wife Mary of Modena, the likelihood of England becoming Catholic from the top down again was heightened. James’ daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, invaded England, starting the Glorious Revolution and took the throne; restoring Protestantism to the British Royal Family. However, William and Mary (who ruled as joint monarchs) both died childless. The Throne then passed to Mary’s sister, Anne, who had had a run of miscarriages and failed pregnancies. With James’s son, known as the “Old Pretender” hovering in the wings waiting to come on stage, the succession had to be secured for the protestant line… not easy when virtually everyone in Europe was Catholic.
The best bet was to look to Germany, and a successor was found in Sophia of the Palatinate, George’s mother. She was the granddaughter of King James I of England and VI of Scotland who had bonded England and Scotland in the “Personal Union” when he came south to take up the empty throne left vacant by Elizabeth I. Incidentally, we will revert to a Personal Union should Scotland gain independence with the Queen being both Queen of Scotland and Queen of England… all very confusing but I digress.
Anyway, Sophia collapsed and died after a sudden downpour of rain caught her in the garden. George was now the heir to both the Electorate of Hanover and Great Britain. When Anne died in 1714, George became King George I of Great Britain beginning a string of Georges that can sometimes get a tad confusing, and an unbroken Protestant line in British Monarchs. He actually became King on the 1st of August but he couldn’t get a connecting flight out of Hanover… typical EasyJet.
It is from George I that we get the usual claim that our Monarchy is German (a major issue during World War One) but the Hanovarians were pretty determined to appear as English as possible with George II and III declaring that they had noting in their veins but English blood. The Hanoverian line finally ended in 1901 when Queen Victoria’s successor King Edward VII took his father’s family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – even more German!
So, today in 1714, King George I finally took up his throne in England; King of a United Kingdom. We can only hope that at the end of today, we shall still be a United Kingdom.
Photo Credit: IMonarchy