The Stuart dynasty has ceased to exist and Queen Anne of Great Britain is dead. The year is 1714 and the reign of the House of Hanover is only just beginning…
Almost instantly, the question of how this new, foreign dynasty came to rule Great Britain springs to mind. The Act of Settlement 1701 was passed in the instance that Queen Anne died without an heir. Even after baring many children, when she died Anne did not leave a living child to succeed her and so the Protestant succession was secured by that of her closest successor; her third cousin, George Elector of Hanover.
George was immediately proclaimed King of Great Britain and Ireland after Anne’s death on 1st August 1714. However, he did not arrive at his new realm until over a month later on 18th September and was subsequently crowned on 20th October.
Compared with their Tudor and Stuart forebears, the House of Hanover, or the Georgians as they are more popularly known, seem to be at the back of peoples minds when we think of the British Monarchy. And yet, the 300th anniversary of their accession seems to be the perfect time to remember just what this dynasty achieved in its 187 year-long reign on the British Throne.
Hanoverian Britain was a time that the works of Jane Austen, James Watt and Alexander Pope emerged, while the British Museum flourished. Samuel Johnson published the Dictionary of the English Language, and Romantic poets and artists, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, William Blake and J. M. W. Turner, came to define the Georgian age. Architecture developed in ways that had never been seen before, with architects such as John Wood, establishing new styles of palladian and neoclassical buildings which we are lucky enough to still see today in cities such as Bath and Edinburgh. This was even an era when a free press was founded. (However, people chose to dismiss this because of the somewhat unpopular King George II, the ‘madness’ of King George III and King William IV’s decision to dismiss his government.)
If none of this is convincing enough then just remember that the House of Hanover gave this country our longest reigning monarch to date; Queen Victoria. Surely the Victorian era is an achievement alone to convince people that the Hanoverians were worthy of their place on the British Throne.
What we must not forget is that although the 1st August 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian succession, it also marks the 300th anniversary of the death of a Queen who is often overlooked. Anne presided over an age of artistic, literary and political advancement and as Queen, she held her own in a male dominated society and in an age where the influence of the Crown could be argued as seen as decreasing. What’s more, Queen Anne became the first Sovereign of Great Britain after the Acts of Union was passed. Surely she is a monarch worth remembering?
So the House of Hanover may not appear in many big budget films or be on the school syllabus, but for me and for many others they were worthy of their place on the British Throne. When Dr Lucy Worsley gave an interview to Royal Central on the Georgians recently, she summed them up perfectly: “They were not flashy or charismatic but they brought stability and showed that when necessary, they could put down rebellions with considerable brutality. By 1760, George III, who’d been born in Britain, could claim to be truly British. I think of them as like successful stepfathers, grafted on to a family, but eventually becoming part of it”.
So, without sounding too clichéd, I would like to wish a Happy Anniversary to one of the greatest dynasties Britain has ever seen.