Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



The Rise of England



The Hanoverian Kings and the Growing Power of the Prime Minister


The Hanoverian Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland:

George I (r.1714-1727)
George II (r.1727-1760)
George III (r.1760-1820)

George IV (r.1820-1830)
William IV (r.1830-1837)
Victoria (r.1837-1901)


Parliament continued to gain power under the kings of the House of Hanover. Great Britain was able to expand its colonial territories at France's expense, but was forced to accept the American colonies' independence.


7 Robert Walpole (1676- 1745) was the first "modern" British prime minister in that he established collegiate Cabinet responsibility.

7 Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Oxford

He served the Hanoverian kings as Secretary for War, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then Chief Minister.

Completely trusted by King 6 George I and then after 1727 by his son 9 George II, as well as by a majority of the Whigs in Parliament, he determined Great Britain's policies between 1721 and 1742.

6 King George I
King George II
King George III

He tried to ensure peace in foreign affairs, and when Great Britain became involved in the War of Austrian Succession, he resigned in 1742.

King George I
Handel and George I at the Thames enjoying a performance of Handel's "Water Music"
Composer George Frideric Handel


The Baroque Era


The Catholic pretender to the throne, 11 Charles Edward Stuart—a grandson of James II and commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie—used a British defeat by the French as an excuse to land in Scotland.

After initial successes, he and his Scottish supporters from the highland clans were crushed at Culloden in 1746.

Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
The Battle of Culloden (1746) by David Morier

The balance of European powers remained a foreign policy aim.

Upon the urging of 8 William Pitt the Elder, Great Britain intervened in the Seven Years' War and, under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, was able to take the French colonies in North America and India.

George II was followed by his grandson, 10 George III, in 1760.

To become independent of the Whigs and gain more weight in the government, he turned to the Tories. His policies led to the war of independence of the American colonies. The focus of political decision making now clearly rested in Parliament. The king's mental illness also weakened the position of the crown. From 1811 until the death of George III in 1820, his son, the future George IV, reigned as regent.

The most important prime minister under George III, 12 William Pitt the Younger (1759 - 1806), reduced state debt and brought the East India Company under government control. In 1793, war with France began.

8 William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778)


12 Caricature of William Pitt the Younger
at a Parliament debate entitled
"The Back-Less Pitt," etching, 1792



William Pitt, the Younger

William Pitt the Younger

prime minister of United Kingdom

born May 28, 1759, Hayes, Kent, Eng.
died January 23, 1806, London

British prime minister (1783–1801, 1804–06) during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. He had considerable influence in strengthening the office of the prime minister.

Early life.
William Pitt was the second son of William Pitt, 1st earl of Chatham, a famous statesman of the mid-18th century, whose energy contributed much to Britain’s successful prosecution of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) with France. His mother was Lady Hester Grenville, sister of George Grenville (who headed the government from 1763 to 1765). Both because he was extremely delicate and because his father disliked public schools, he was educated at home. He was a precocious boy and went to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, at the age of 14. Because of persistent ill health, he made use in 1776 of the antiquated privilege that allowed noblemen’s sons to graduate without examination. Left, after his father’s death in 1778, with an income of less than £300 a year, he was called to the bar in 1780 and joined the western assize circuit. In September 1780, because of his youth, he failed to secure election to Parliament for Cambridge University but four months later was provided with a seat for Appleby in Westmorland, on condition that he should resign it should his views and those of his patron diverge. Pitt made a successful maiden speech and, in March 1782, when it was clear that a new ministry would soon be formed, announced with astonishing self-confidence that he had no intention of accepting a subordinate position.

Under Lord Shelburne, who succeeded as prime minister in July 1782, Pitt became chancellor of the Exchequer. With Shelburne’s consent, Pitt, in February 1783, sought a compact with Charles James Fox, who had gone into opposition, but Fox absolutely refused to serve under Shelburne. According to his contemporary biographer, his form tutor and friend George Tomline, Pitt then replied that he had not come there to betray Lord Shelburne. This interview marked the beginning of the long political duel between Pitt and Fox and also rapidly brought to an end Shelburne’s ministry, since Fox now surprisingly allied himself with Lord North, a politician who had always been willing to work in accordance with the King’s wishes, and defeated Shelburne. King George III, unwilling to accept the coalition that would give office to Fox, whom he hated, invited Pitt to form a government; but Pitt declined, knowing he would not have a majority in the House of Commons, and the King had to commission Fox and North. To embarrass the new government, which, under the nominal premiership of the Duke of Portland, consisted of an admixture of reformers and anti-reformers, Pitt brought forward the question of parliamentary reform, with which he had already once, a year earlier, concerned himself. He suggested no extension of the franchise but recommended measures to prevent bribery and to make the representation more realistic. Although his resolutions were defeated, reformers now looked to him, rather than to Fox, as their parliamentary leader.

Pitt’s first ministry, 1783–1801.
In December 1783, after the defeat in the House of Lords of Fox’s East India Bill, George III at once took the opportunity to dismiss the coalition and asked Pitt to form a government. Pitt clearly did not take the premiership as the King’s tool, for his first step was to try, on his own terms, to include Fox and his friends in the new ministry. But Fox would not consent to join a government from which his ally Lord North would have been excluded.

When Parliament reassembled in January 1784, the government was at once defeated by 39 votes on a virtual motion of censure, but Pitt refused to resign, and George III was prepared to abdicate rather than again surrender to the Fox–North coalition. Pitt admitted that his situation was without precedent but denied that he was prime minister through backstairs influence. He hung on, and gradually the coalition’s majority in Parliament began to crumble; many members, fearing the loss of their seats at a general election, went over to Pitt’s side during February and March, doubtless in the hope that he would gain a majority in the existing house sufficient to make a dissolution unnecessary. By March 8 the majority against him was one vote, and on March 25 Parliament was dissolved.

No 18th-century government lost a general election, and Pitt’s success in 1784 was never in doubt. The “influence of the Crown” ensured that the new House of Commons was chosen by the Treasury. Patronage and corruption gave Pitt a majority, and secret service money paid election bills. Although public opinion aided Pitt in the open constituencies, it is nevertheless misleading to say that he was “the choice of the people”; he was the dispenser of royal patronage. Pitt himself was returned for the University of Cambridge; only once again (1790), at subsequent elections, did he have to stand a contest.

When Pitt became prime minister, the national credit was impaired by the heavy cost of the American Revolution. The debt was about £250,000,000, a staggering amount for those days. Pitt imposed new taxes to wipe out the deficit, checked smuggling by reducing the high duties that encouraged it, and reduced frauds in the revenue by establishing an improved system of auditing. He also simplified customs and excise duties, bringing them into a single consolidated fund, out of which all public creditors were to be paid. In 1786 he introduced a sinking fund on a new principle: an annual surplus of £1,000,000 was to be appropriated to the purchase of stock and allowed to accumulate at compound interest for 28 years, by which time the income from it would amount to £4,000,000 a year. In 1792 another act provided that a sinking fund of 1 percent should be attached to every new loan, which would thereby be redeemed within 45 years. The system worked reasonably well in peacetime because there was an annual surplus of revenue, but, after the outbreak of war in 1793, the government redeemed debt bearing a low interest by fresh borrowing at a higher rate of interest.

Fox’s East India Bill had been defeated, but the problems it was designed to solve remained. Britain’s increased possessions in India made it necessary for the administration there to be supervised by the government rather than be left in the hands of the commercial East India Company. Pitt, therefore, introduced his own East India bill (1784). He set up a new government department, the Board of Control, to supervise the directors of the company. He also ended an inappropriate division of authority in India by making the governor general supreme over the subordinate governments of Bombay and Madras. In 1786 a supplementary act increased the authority of the governor general over his own council. Warren Hastings, governor general of Bengal since 1773, returned home in 1785, having greatly strengthened British power in India, only to undergo the ordeal of an impeachment for his conduct. Pitt honestly believed that there was a case against Hastings and, determined that the British name should be freed from the suspicion of injustice or oppression in the government of Asian peoples, supported the demand for an inquiry. But those who conducted the impeachment acted with unwarrantable rancour; the trial dragged on for seven years and, although Hastings was finally acquitted, the expenses almost ruined him.

Another imperial problem with which Pitt had to deal was that of the future of Canada. By the Constitutional Act of 1791 the then province of Quebec was divided into a predominantly French province of Lower Canada and a predominantly English province of Upper Canada. Pitt, who was in office when men were first transported to Australia, never regarded that country as anything more than a convict settlement.

Pitt’s foreign policy was only moderately successful. In 1788 he made alliances with Prussia and with Holland, aimed at restricting French influence. But, in effect, the alliance served only one useful purpose: Prussia’s diplomatic support enabled Pitt in 1790 to triumph over the Spanish without having to go to war in the Nootka Sound dispute. Thus, the Spanish claim to a monopoly of trade and settlement on the western seaboard of North America was finally destroyed. Pitt’s intervention in eastern Europe, however, bore no such marks of triumph. Catherine II of Russia was bent on establishing her supremacy in the Black Sea. In March 1791 Pitt sent her an ultimatum demanding the restoration to the Sultan of all conquests except the Crimea. But his policy of bolstering up the Turkish Empire was supported neither by the entire Cabinet nor by public opinion, and the government, badly shaken, had to reverse its policy.

Although the British government clung to neutrality as long as possible, in face of the European wars started by the leaders of the French Revolution, war proved unavoidable. It was not the execution of the French king Louis XVI in January 1793 that made a continuation of peace impossible but it was the provocative French decrees of late 1792, which authorized their armies to violate neutral territory and which promised military assistance to any European people wishing to depose its rulers. The French, confident of victory after their successes against the Austro-Prussian forces and believing that England was ripe for revolution, declared war on England and Holland on Feb. 1, 1793. Pitt refused to intervene to restore the French monarchy. He fought to protect Britain’s vital commercial and colonial interests.

The French Revolution had revived the agitation for parliamentary reform, dormant since a bill introduced by Pitt in 1785 had been defeated, but the cause of reform was soon discredited because its advocates were thought to approve of the violence in France. The unwise demonstrations of the radicals caused the government to have recourse to repressive legislation. In May 1792 a proclamation against seditious publications was issued; and the Habeas Corpus Act, which normally prevented the detention of persons without trial, was suspended in 1794 and remained so until 1801.

The French Revolution had disastrous repercussions in Ireland, too, creating new hatreds to exacerbate the old religious feuds and a rebellion in 1798. As early as 1792 Pitt had held that an ultimate union of the two countries was the only solution of the Irish religious problem; the events of 1798 convinced him that union was most urgently necessary. Large-scale corruption carried the measure through the Irish Parliament, but opposition from Pitt’s Cabinet and particularly from the King prevented him from carrying his supplementary proposals—Catholic emancipation and state provision for Catholic and Dissenting clergy. As a result, Pitt resigned on Feb. 3, 1801, and his friend Henry Addington formed a government. The crisis again drove the King insane, and after his recovery in March he accused Pitt of having caused his illness. Pitt replied that he would never again press the Catholic question during the King’s reign.

Patriotic motives induced Pitt to support the new ministry, but for several months during the session of 1802–03 he never attended Parliament, living in Walmer Castle, where, holding the ancient office of warden of the Cinque Ports, he organized a local volunteer force. In March 1803 Addington invited Pitt to join the government, but Pitt made it clear that he would return only as prime minister. War broke out again in May 1803, and by 1804 Pitt was increasingly critical of the government’s financial polity and its measures to meet the growing danger of invasion. Addington’s majority fell steadily, and he decided to resign. On April 30 Pitt was informed that the King wished him to plan a new ministry. Pitt replied that a nonparty government was desirable but fell in with the King’s determination that Fox be excluded.

Pitt’s second ministry, 1804–06.
Pitt’s second ministry was weaker than the first, for the Addington group, as well as others, went into opposition. The Third Coalition against Napoleon’s France—an alliance with Russia, Sweden, and Austria engineered by Pitt—collapsed after the battles of Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, and the year closed in disaster, in spite of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in October, which ended the invasion threat and ensured Britain’s naval supremacy for the rest of the war. Pitt’s health, never robust, was now failing. He made his last public speech at the Guildhall in London on Nov. 9, 1805. By Jan. 15, 1806, some of his colleagues were determined to force him to resign as the only means of saving his life, and the King was thinking about his successor. He died a few weeks later and was buried in Westminster Abbey on February 22. A motion for a grant of £40,000 to pay his debts was unanimously carried in the Commons. Earlier (1801), his friends had raised £12,000 in order to relieve him from embarrassment. Careless to a fault about money and engrossed with public affairs, he had allowed his large official income to be squandered by irresponsible servants and tradesmen.

Private life and character
Though eloquent and forceful in Parliament and Cabinet, Pitt made no impact in society and altogether lacked the common touch. He was always notably withdrawn. He never married. He had few friends. Even members of the government complained of his inaccessibility. In 1801 his resignation from office caused extraordinarily little sensation; a contemporary wrote that “nobody speaks of him; no addresses, no subscriptions, no stir of any kind any where.” Long before his death, bodily infirmities, increased by his addiction to port, curtailed his working day.

Pitt’s experience was remarkably limited. He never set foot in Scotland or Ireland; the greater part even of England was unknown to him. He was once in France—for a few weeks. He never came into touch with men of letters or original thinkers; in his official patronage he neglected literature, science, and the arts. He was long overconfident of success in every cause he espoused; in the end only the weight of ill health and Napoleon’s great victories of 1805 began to shatter his optimism. Although at first connected with the movement for parliamentary reform, he made no attempts to reintroduce the issue after the failure of his bill in 1785. He made no effort to deal with the social problems caused by the Industrial Revolution; and in all his long years of office, nothing was done to reform the barbarous criminal law, the harsh game laws, prison administration, and local government. Nevertheless, by reason of his superb debating powers he dominated the House of Commons, even in that age of notable oratory. His conduct in Parliament had a mixture of prudence, firmness, and transcendent ability never before seen and hardly ever again surpassed.

Historical importance.
The constitutional significance of Pitt’s career has often been misunderstood. He was not a prime minister of the modern type. At no time was he the leader of a well-organized, coherent party commanding a majority of the House of Commons, which itself owed its existence to the will of the electorate. He was not at all the choice of the country; he was the nominee of the King, and he retained office only as long as he retained the King’s confidence. He had to resign in 1801 because his Irish policy was not acceptable to George III. Even though the inadequacy as a wartime prime minister of his successor made Pitt’s return to office almost inevitable three years later, Pitt did not return on his own terms but on the King’s. He was more dependent on the King’s favour than he was on the support of the House of Commons. His most serious crisis came in the winter of 1788–89, when, during George III’s madness, Pitt lost the support of the crown. Had the dissolute Prince of Wales, who favoured the opposition, become regent, Pitt would certainly have been dismissed. Without the support of the crown, neither he nor anyone else could remain long in office. Moreover, there were obvious limitations to his absolute authority in the Cabinet, where various colleagues opposed him on all the great questions of the day. And, finally, Pitt had to deal with a sovereign of narrow intellect and with intense and irrational prejudices—though, indeed, these were shared by a great many of George III’s subjects.

Although Pitt’s supremacy in the Cabinet has often been exaggerated, the necessity for a prime minster who would supervise and coordinate the work of the various departments and possess the chief confidence of the king was never again questioned after his ministries. Pitt’s achievement of this status, while depending upon his forcefulness of character, was only made possible by his long tenure of office. His total of 19 years in power exceeded by almost 7 years the tenure of office, earlier in the 18th century, of Sir Robert Walpole, often regarded as “the first” British prime minister, and that of Lord North, nearer Pitt’s own time.

It is sometimes claimed that Pitt emerged as the leader of a new Tory Party. Certainly, as a minister who accepted the royal prerogative, he represented the traditions of the Tory, or Court, Party, as distinct from those of the Whigs, who sought to dictate to the crown the choice of its servants; but he was far from being a great party leader commanding the votes of a majority in the House of Commons. He had a personal following of little more than 50. In spite of persistent efforts, great speeches, and the support of powerful and eloquent members, he failed to pass a slave trade abolition bill, a parliamentary reform bill, and Catholic relief bills.

Arthur C.V.D. Aspinall

Encyclopaedia Britannica


In A new way to pay the National Debt (1786), James Gillray caricatured George III and Queen Charlotte
awash with treasury funds to cover royal debts, with Pitt handing him another moneybag.


Gillray caricatured Pitt's resignation in Integrity retiring from Office! (1801).


In Britannia between Death and the Doctor's (1804), Gillray caricatured Pitt as a doctor kicking Addington
(the previous doctor) out of Britannia's sickroom.


Napoleon and the British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger carve up the world between them,1805


In Uncorking Old Sherry (1805), Gillray caricatured Pitt
uncorking a bottle of Sheridan that is bursting out
with puns and invective.

King George III in military uniform, holds a tiny Napoleon
in the palm of his hand while inspecting him with a spy-glass.



London at the time of George II
Royal barque on the Thames and St. Paul's
cathedral in the background, painting by Canaletto


see also collection:





Whigs and Tories

Two factions confronted each other in the British Parliament: the Whigs and the Tories. They were the only political parties in Britain until the mid 19th century.

Both terms were originally derisive nicknames: "tory" came from an Irish word for outlaws, "whigs" were
Scottish Presbyterian rebels.

The Whigs stood for political and economic liberalism, a strong Parliament, and religious tolerance, the conservative Tories defended the rights of the Anglican Church and crown.

An election party of the Whigs, by
William Hogarth, 1755

see also c

William Hogarth

"A Harlot's Progress"




Whig and Tory

historical British political party

members of two opposing political parties or factions in England, particularly during the 18th century. Originally “Whig” and “Tory” were terms of abuse introduced in 1679 during the heated struggle over the bill to exclude James, duke of York (afterward James II), from the succession. Whig—whatever its origin in Scottish Gaelic—was a term applied to horse thieves and, later, to Scottish Presbyterians; it connoted nonconformity and rebellion and was applied to those who claimed the power of excluding the heir from the throne. Tory was an Irish term suggesting a papist outlaw and was applied to those who supported the hereditary right of James despite his Roman Catholic faith.

The Glorious Revolution (1688–89) greatly modified the division in principle between the two parties, for it had been a joint achievement. Thereafter most Tories accepted something of the Whig doctrines of limited constitutional monarchy rather than divine-right absolutism. Under Queen Anne, the Tories represented the resistance, mainly by the country gentry, to religious toleration and foreign entanglements. Toryism became identified with Anglicanism and the squirearchy and Whiggism with the aristocratic, landowning families and the financial interests of the wealthy middle classes.

The death of Anne in 1714, the manner in which George I came to the throne as a nominee of the Whigs, and the flight (1715) of the Tory leader Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, to France, conspired to destroy the political power of the Tories as a party.

For nearly 50 years thereafter, rule was by aristocratic groups and connections, regarding themselves as Whigs by sentiment and tradition. The die-hard Tories were discredited as Jacobites, seeking the restoration of the Stuart heirs to the throne, though about 100 country gentlemen, regarding themselves as Tories, remained members of the House of Commons throughout the years of the Whig hegemony. As individuals and at the level of local politics, administration, and influence, such “Tories” remained of considerable importance.

The reign of George III (1760–1820) brought a shift of meanings to the two words. No Whig Party as such existed at the time, only a series of aristocratic groups and family connections operating in Parliament through patronage and influence. Nor was there a Tory Party, only Tory sentiment, tradition, and temperament surviving among certain families and social groups. The so-called King’s Friends, from whom George III preferred to draw his ministers (especially under Lord North [afterward 2nd earl of Guilford], 1770–82), came from both traditions and from neither. Real party alignments began to take shape only after 1784, when profound political issues that deeply stirred public opinion were arising, such as the controversy over the American Revolution.

After 1784 William Pitt the Younger emerged as the leader of a new Tory Party, which broadly represented the interests of the country gentry, the merchant classes, and official administerial groups. In opposition, a revived Whig Party, led by Charles James Fox, came to represent the interests of religious dissenters, industrialists, and others who sought electoral, parliamentary, and philanthropic reforms.

The French Revolution and the wars against France soon further complicated the division between parties. A large section of the more moderate Whigs deserted Fox and supported Pitt. After 1815 and a period of party confusion, there eventually emerged the conservatism of Sir Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield, and the liberalism of Lord John Russell and William Ewart Gladstone, with the party labels of Conservative and Liberal assumed by each faction, respectively. Although the label Tory has continued to be used to designate the Conservative Party, Whig has ceased to have much political meaning.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Robert Walpole, 1st earl of Orford

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford Prime Minister

prime minister of Great Britain
also called (1725–42) Sir Robert Walpole

born August 26, 1676, Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England
died March 18, 1745, London

British statesman (in power 1721–42), generally regarded as the first British prime minister. He deliberately cultivated a frank, hearty manner, but his political subtlety has scarcely been equaled.

Education and early career
Walpole was the third son of Colonel Robert Walpole by his wife, Mary Burwell. He was educated at Great Dunham, Norfolk, and afterward became a scholar of Eton (1690–96) and subsequently of King’s College, Cambridge (1696–98). The death of his elder surviving brother, Edward, cut short his academic career, and, instead of entering the church, he returned to Norfolk to help administer his father’s estates. He married Catherine Shorter of Bybrook, Kent, on July 30, 1700. After his father’s death in the same year, he inherited a heavily encumbered estate and also the family parliamentary seat at Castle Rising, for which he was immediately elected. In 1702 he transferred to King’s Lynn, which he represented, with one short intermission, for the next 40 years.

Walpole rapidly made his mark in the House of Commons, earning the reputation of being a clear, forceful speaker, a firm but not fanatical Whig, and an active parliamentarian. He was made a member in 1705 of Prince George of Denmark’s Council, which controlled the affairs of the navy during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). His ability as an administrator brought him to the attention of both the duke of Marlborough and Lord Godolphin. On February 25, 1708, he was promoted to secretary at war and in 1710 to treasurer of the navy, a post from which he was dismissed on January 2, 1711, with the advent of the Tory Party to power after the general election of 1710. During these years Walpole established himself as one of the foremost of the younger Whig leaders; in society as well as in politics he made his mark. He became a leading member of the Kit-Cat Club, a meeting place of many Whig men of letters. He had many friends, but his expenses were so high that he fell heavily in debt. He had relied on his political offices to keep himself afloat; nevertheless, he refused to compromise his principles for the sake of his salary and perquisites.

His assiduity in attending the Commons and his ability in debate made Walpole the effective leader of the opposition, and the Tories determined to ruin him along with Marlborough. In January 1712 he was impeached for corruption as secretary at war, found guilty, expelled from the Commons, and sent to the Tower of London. He was immediately acclaimed as a martyr by the Whigs, and he himself developed a hatred for the Tory leaders Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, who brought about his fall. Walpole enjoyed his revenge in 1714 at the accession of George I when, as well as being made paymaster general of the forces, he became chairman of the secret committee that led to the impeachment for treason of both Bolingbroke and Oxford. Walpole’s mastery of the Commons, allied to his formidable industry, brought him rapid promotion. He became first lord of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer on October 11, 1715. His abilities also aroused jealousy, which was exacerbated by a conflict over foreign policy that saw Walpole and his brother-in-law, Charles, Viscount Townshend, on one side and two of the king’s closest advisers, James Stanhope and Charles Spencer, earl of Sunderland, on the other. Walpole and Townshend maintained that British interests were being sacrificed to the king’s Hanoverian interests in order to curry favour. The break came in 1717, and Walpole and Townshend left the ministry; shortly afterward a violent quarrel between the king and the prince of Wales split the royal family, and the opposition acquired its own court at the prince’s residence, Leicester House.

During the next three years Walpole fought the government on every issue, achieving considerable success in bringing about the rejection of the Peerage Bill (1719), which would have limited the royal prerogative in the creation of peers. During this time, too, he became friendly with Caroline of Ansbach, the princess of Wales, who was to help maintain him in power when her husband succeeded to the throne in 1727 as George II. Walpole used his influence with the prince to bring about a reconciliation with the king in April 1720 and his own subsequent return to the ministry as paymaster general of the forces.

No sooner was Walpole back in office than the country was caught up in the speculative frenzy associated with the South Sea Company, a joint-stock company with monopoly rights to trade with Spanish America. A scheme was set up in 1720 whereby the company would take charge of a large part of the national debt. Although Walpole had favoured letting the Bank of England take over the debt, he was no more prudent than many others and invested heavily in South Sea stock. He was saved from financial disaster by the foresight of his banker, Robert Jacomb. Nevertheless, Walpole had not been a promoter of the scheme, and he was free from the stigma of corruption that marked many other ministers as well as the king’s German favourites. He used his great political skill and persuasive powers of argument in the Commons to save the Whig leaders and the court from the consequences of their folly. Some members had to be sacrificed to appease public opinion, among them John Aislabie, chancellor of the Exchequer; others died under the strain, the most notable being Stanhope and James Craggs and his son James. Walpole restored confidence, maintained the Whigs in office, and greatly improved his own and Townshend’s standing at court. He became first lord of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer in April 1721, offices that he was to hold until 1742. Townshend became once more secretary of state and took over the control of foreign affairs. For some time, Walpole and Townshend were forced to share power with John Carteret (later Earl Granville), who had succeeded to Sunderland’s influence after Sunderland’s sudden death in April 1722. By 1724, however, Walpole and Townshend obtained the dismissal of Carteret from his secretaryship of state and had him sent to Ireland as lord lieutenant. For the rest of George I’s reign Walpole and Townshend remained at the head of the ministry. Their position steadily grew stronger. The hopes of the Jacobites, supporters of a return to the throne of the Stuarts, which the South Sea Bubble had fanned, were quashed in 1723 by the exposure of the insurrection planned by Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester. The outlook for the Tory Party was equally gloomy in spite of the pardon given to Bolingbroke in 1725.

The long ascendancy
The supremacy in the Commons was maintained by Walpole until 1742. In 1727, at the accession of George II, he suffered a minor crisis when for a few days it seemed that he might be dismissed, but Queen Caroline prevailed on her husband to keep Walpole in office. In 1730 he quarreled with Townshend over the conduct of foreign affairs and forced Townshend’s resignation, but his retirement had no effect on Walpole’s position. These were the years of Walpole’s greatness. His power was based on the loyal support given to him by George I and George II. This enabled him to use all royal patronage for political ends, and Walpole’s appointments to offices in the royal household, the church, the navy, the army, and the civil service were, whenever possible, made with an eye to his voting strength in the House of Commons. By these means he built up the court and treasury party that was to be the core of Whig strength for many generations. These methods, however, never gave him control of the House of Commons. His majorities at Westminster came about because his policy of peace abroad and low taxation at home appealed strongly to the independent country gentlemen who sat in Parliament. Also, Walpole possessed remarkable powers in debate: his knowledge of the detail of government, particularly of finance, was unmatched, and his expression was clear, forceful, and always cogent. He never underestimated the powers of the Commons, and no minister, before or since, has shown such skill in its management.

Walpole needed all his art, for his rule was never free from crisis. Foreign affairs gave him constant trouble. Although Townshend had secured the prospect of a settlement by the Treaty of Hanover in 1725, which helped to strengthen the alliance between England and France, the difficulties that had arisen with Spain over Gibraltar and British trading rights in the West Indies proved intractable, and England hovered on the brink of war until Walpole intervened. By showing willingness to negotiate he secured the Treaty of Seville (Sevilla) in 1729. This was followed by a general settlement in 1731 at the Treaty of Vienna. When war broke out on the Continent in 1733 over the question of the succession to the Polish throne, Walpole had to use all his influence with the king in order to maintain England’s neutrality.

Many politicians, particularly those whom Walpole had driven into opposition, regarded his foreign policy as a betrayal of England’s interests. They thought that he had become the dupe of France to the neglect of England’s former allies (the Austrians and the Dutch), and that his desire to maintain friendship with France led to weakness toward Spain. They also disapproved of his use of patronage, which they stigmatized as corruption. They condemned his financial schemes as a sham, particularly the sinking fund to abolish the national debt. The prime movers in this opposition were William Pulteney, an able Whig whom Walpole had rejected in 1724 in favour of the duke of Newcastle as secretary of state, and Bolingbroke. They drew together a miscellaneous collection of members in opposition: Jacobites, Hanoverian Tories, dissident Whigs, and urban radicals. They attempted to give coherence to the party so formed, but with little success. The liveliest part of their campaign was the violent press agitation against Walpole. For this purpose they founded The Craftsman, which denigrated Walpole’s ministry week after week. Walpole was lampooned in pamphlets, ballads, and plays, as well as in the newspapers; and this constant stream of abuse, which was not without a certain element of truth, did much to bring both Parliament and politics into contempt.

The great opportunity for the opposition came in 1733 when Walpole decided to check smuggling and customs frauds by imposing an excise tax on wine and tobacco. This was extremely unpopular, particularly with the London merchants, and the opposition did all in its power to influence opinion. Walpole saved himself from defeat by withdrawing this measure, but those politicians who had been indiscreet enough to show opposition to Walpole’s bill lost their offices. These dismissals, however, weakened Walpole’s position; he lost considerable debating skill as well as votes in the House of Lords, which at that time still played an important part in government. After 1733 the list of able but dismissed Whig politicians grew large enough to supply an alternative Whig ministry to Walpole’s own, and, after the excise crisis, the opposition Whigs had far less need to rely on Tory and Jacobite elements in their battle against Walpole. Bolingbroke himself realized this; he withdrew from politics and retired to France in 1735, admitting defeat in his lifelong struggle with Walpole.

Growing unpopularity
Walpole won the general election of 1734, which had given rise to many violent contests and a resurgence of the old bitterness about excise, but his growing unpopularity was underlined by the loss of many seats in the large seaports and heavily populated counties. Nevertheless, his majority, although diminished, remained comfortable. Without much difficulty he surmounted troubles that arose in Edinburgh (the Porteous riots) over the royal pardon of a captain of the guard who had fired on a crowd demonstrating at Edinburgh prison; he easily persuaded the Commons to reject Sir John Barnard’s scheme to reduce the interest on the national debt and showed his contempt for the literary opposition (among whose members were Swift, Pope, and Fielding) by imposing regulations on London theatres (1737). Yet from 1737 his position began to weaken. The death of Queen Caroline had less effect than many have assumed, for by then George II had developed great loyalty to his minister. More important was Walpole’s increasing age, which led young politicians, such as William Pitt (afterward earl of Chatham), to look elsewhere for their future advancement. The emergence as a leader of the opposition of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, who had quarreled violently with his parents, provided a focus and a court for the “patriot boys,” as these young Whigs came to be called. The growing difficulties with Spain over trading matters in the West Indies were used by this opposition to embarrass Walpole. He did his utmost to settle these difficulties by negotiation, but in 1739 he was forced to declare war against Spain—the so-called War of Jenkins’ Ear. He disapproved of the war and made his views clear to his cabinet colleagues. These years, too, were darkened by private grief as well as public anxiety. His wife, with whom he had been on indifferent terms, died in 1737, and he was married by March 3, 1738, to his mistress of long-standing, Maria Skerritt, a woman of great charm and wit. Three months later she died in childbirth.

The war with Spain did not prosper, and opposition continued to mount against Walpole. He succeeded in winning the general election of 1741, but many Whig politicians, and a number of independents, did not consider him capable of directing the war vigorously enough or of surviving another seven years’ Parliament. His resignation was forced on February 2, 1742, on a minor issue. The king created him earl of Orford (he had been knighted in 1725) and gave him an annual pension of £4,000, but the Commons set up a committee to investigate his ministry with a view to impeachment. They failed to secure sufficient evidence and the rancour against Orford petered out. For the rest of his life he continued to play an active and valuable part in politics. He did his utmost to secure the dismissal of Carteret, who had become secretary of state on the fall of his ministry, and to secure the promotion of Henry Pelham, his protégé and leader of the Walpole Whigs, to the position of chief minister. Orford’s influence with George II remained powerful up to his death.

Although Walpole rejected the title of prime minister, which he regarded as a term of abuse, his control of the treasury, his management of the Commons, and the confidence that he enjoyed of the two sovereigns whom he served demonstrated the kind of leadership that was required to give stability and order to 18th-century politics. He used his power to maintain the supremacy of the Whig Party, as he understood it, and his prime concern was to forestall the machinations of the Jacobites, which he took very seriously, by securing the Hanoverian succession. He thought that this could best be achieved by prosperity and low taxation, which in turn depended on peace and on freedom from foreign entanglements. In order to achieve strong support for this policy he created as many obligations as possible among the politically powerful groups in the country. The Jacobite rebellion in 1745 demonstrated both the reality of his fears and the success of his policy.

The influence of Walpole’s long ministry on the structure of 18th-century politics was profound. The Tory Party, split as it was between Hanoverians and Jacobites, faded into insignificance, and to be a Whig became a necessity for the politically ambitious. The struggle for power ceased to be a conflict between two parties and became a battle fought between divergent groups, personalities, and policies within the Whig Party itself, in order to gain the support of the court on the one hand and the independent country gentlemen in Parliament on the other. The frank realism that Walpole had used in all appointments to office, as well as the violent, prejudiced, and often exaggerated criticism to which this gave rise, did much to bring the institutions of government into disrepute and to strengthen the early growth of urban radicalism, particularly in the City of London. On the other hand, Walpole’s ministry had little influence on constitutional development: many generations were to pass before any minister wielded power comparable to his. Like his master, George II, he disliked cabinet government and used it as sparingly as possible. He showed what could be done within the accepted conventions of the constitution; he never attempted to change them.

One side of Walpole’s life is too little noted. He possessed remarkable delight in and judgment of works of art. His house, Houghton Hall, Norfolk, built and furnished under his close supervision, is a masterpiece of Palladian architecture. To the distress of his son Horace, the famous man of letters, Walpole’s collection of pictures was sold to the empress of Russia by Walpole’s grandson George in 1779. Now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, it was one of the most remarkable collections in Europe. He delighted in ostentation and lived in great magnificence, spending freely the huge fortune that he made out of judicious speculation and public office.

Sir John Plumb

Encyclopaedia Britannica




George I

George I of Great Britain in 1680

king of Great Britain
in full George Louis, German Georg Ludwig

born May 28, 1660, Osnabrück, Hanover [Germany]
died June 11, 1727, Osnabrück

elector of Hanover (1698–1727) and first Hanoverian king of Great Britain (1714–27).

George I, c. 1714

George Louis of Brunswick-Lüneburg was the son of Ernest Augustus, elector of Hanover, and Sophia of the Palatinate, a granddaughter of King James I of England. George married his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle in 1682, but in 1694, accusing her of infidelity, he divorced her and imprisoned her in the castle of Ahlden, where she died 32 years later. He succeeded his father as elector of Hanover in 1698. The English Parliament’s Act of Settlement (1701), seeking to ensure a Protestant succession to the throne in opposition to the exiled Roman Catholic claimant (James Edward, the Old Pretender), made George third in line for the throne after Princess Anne (queen from 1702–14) and his mother.

During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) George fought with distinction against the French. England’s Whig politicians began to court his favour, but many Tories remained loyal to the Old Pretender. When George’s mother died on June 8, 1714, he became heir to the throne, and on the death of Queen Anne (Aug. 1, 1714) the Whigs, who had just gained control of the government, ushered him into power.

Naturally, George formed a predominantly Whig ministry. Although the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1719 were readily suppressed, he was far from popular in England. Ugly rumours concerning his treatment of his wife were widely disseminated, and the greed of his two German mistresses reflected badly on his court. He attempted diligently, however, to fulfill his obligations to his new kingdom. Since he could not speak English, he communicated with his ministers in French. Although he stopped attending Cabinet meetings, he met with key ministers in private—a step that led to the decline of the Cabinet, which had largely controlled the government during Queen Anne’s reign. His shrewd diplomatic judgment enabled him to help forge an alliance with France in 1717–18. Nevertheless, he often found it difficult to get his way in domestic politics, in which he had to deal with such strong-willed ministers as Robert Walpole (later earl of Orford), James Stanhope, and Viscount Charles Townshend. In 1716–17 Townshend and Walpole left his government in protest over Stanhope’s alleged efforts to mold English foreign policy to the needs of George’s Hanoverian possessions. By joining with George’s son, the prince of Wales (later King George II), whom the king detested, these dissidents formed an effective opposition movement within the Whig Party.

Shortly after this faction was reconciled to George in 1720, the South Sea Company suffered a financial collapse. In the ensuing scandal it became apparent that George and his mistresses had taken part in South Sea Company transactions of questionable legality, but Walpole’s skill in handling the House of Commons saved the king from disgrace. As a result, George was forced to give Walpole and Townshend a free hand in the ministry. They pushed several of the king’s friends out of office, and by 1724 George had come to rely completely on their judgment. George died of a stroke on a trip to Hanover. In addition to his son and successor, George II, he had a daughter, Sophia Dorothea (1687–1757), wife of King Frederick William I of Prussia and mother of Frederick the Great.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




George II

George II

king of Great Britain
in full George Augustus, German Georg August, also called (1706–27) marquess and duke of Cambridge
born Nov. 10 [Oct. 30, Old Style], 1683, Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover
died Oct. 25, 1760, London

king of Great Britain and elector of Hanover from 1727 to 1760. Although he possessed sound political judgment, his lack of self-confidence caused him to rely heavily on his ministers, most notable of whom was Sir Robert Walpole.

George II

George Augustus was the only son of the German prince George Louis, elector of Hanover (King George I of Great Britain from 1714 to 1727), and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. He grew up in Hanover and married (1705) the beautiful and intelligent Caroline of Ansbach. Upon the accession of his father to the English throne he was designated prince of Wales. By 1717 George I and his son, who had for years detested each other, were quarrelling openly. The prince’s London residence, Leicester House, became the gathering place for a dissident Whig group headed by Walpole and Viscount Charles Townshend. The tepid reconciliation that took place between George I and the prince in 1720 led to the inclusion of Walpole in George I’s administration, and Walpole lost the prince’s favour when he became one of George I’s leading ministers. The prince, upon his accession as George II, would have dismissed Walpole from office had not Caroline intervened on the minister’s behalf.

During the first two decades of his reign George II followed foreign and domestic developments closely. He supported Walpole’s policy of peace and retrenchment and allowed the minister to use crown patronage to build up his majority in Parliament. Walpole won acknowledgment of George’s legitimacy from many influential Tories who had been Jacobites—supporters of the exiled Stuart pretender to the English throne. Hence, no politician of prominence deserted George’s cause during the abortive Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Nevertheless, opposition to George and Walpole grew as the pattern of George I’s reign repeated itself: George II and his son Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, quarrelled, and the prince became a leader of an antiadministration faction. By 1742 these dissidents were strong enough to force Walpole to resign. George II quickly found another mentor in John Carteret (later Earl Granville), whose haughty ways proved unpopular in political circles. The two men brought England into the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), and in doing so they gave their opponents an opportunity to charge them with subordinating the interests of England to the needs of George’s German possessions. In November 1744 George bowed to parliamentary pressure and accepted Carteret’s resignation. Fifteen months later the king’s ministers, by resigning (temporarily) en masse, forced George to accept into office Carteret’s chief opponent, William Pitt (later earl of Chatham).

During the last decade of his life George II’s interest in politics declined. He was little more than an observer of the events of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) against France, for it was Pitt who devised the brilliant strategy that eventually brought about a British victory. George died suddenly and was succeeded by his grandson (son of Frederick Louis) King George III.

Throughout his life George II maintained a passion for anything military. He displayed courage while fighting the French at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743—the last time a British king appeared on the battlefield—and he organized each day with the precision of a drill sergeant. His other major interest was music; he loved opera and was a patron of the German composer George Frideric Handel.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caroline Wilhelmina of Brandenburg-Ansbach
by Charles Jervas

Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline; 1 March 1683 – 20 November 1737) was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.

Margravine Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was born at Ansbach in Germany, the daughter of Johann Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and his second wife, Princess Eleanor Erdmuthe Louise of Saxe-Eisenach. Orphaned at an early age, Caroline grew up an intelligent, cultured and attractive woman, and was much sought-after as a bride.

When the opportunity to become Queen of Spain presented itself, she turned it down because it would have meant renouncing her Protestant faith. Shortly afterwards, she met and married Georg August, son of the Elector of Hanover, who would later become heir to the throne of Great Britain and eventually George II of Great Britain. Their wedding took place in Hanover on 22 August 1705, and their first child, Prince Frederick, was born on 1 February 1707.

The Princess of Wales,
painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1717

Princess of Wales

On the accession of George I in 1714, Caroline's husband automatically became Duke of Cornwall, and was invested, shortly afterwards, as Prince of Wales, whereupon she became Princess of Wales. They moved to England at this time. She was the first Princess of Wales for over two hundred years, the last one being Catherine of Aragon.

As the King had repudiated his wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle in 1694, there was no Queen consort of Great Britain, and Caroline was the highest ranking woman in the kingdom. Within three years of their arrival in England, however, her husband fell out with his father at the 1717 baptism of her fifth living child, George William. The King, who was godfather to the new prince, insisted on having the Duke of Newcastle as the second godfather, instead of his brother, Ernest, Duke of York and Albany, whom the Prince of Wales preferred. During the ceremony, the prince insulted Newcastle, an action for which he was temporarily arrested, banned by his father from St. James's Palace, and excluded from all public ceremonies.

Caroline had struck up a friendship with Sir Robert Walpole, politician and occasional Prime Minister, and his influence ensured that the Prince and Princess of Wales were able to maintain their position and lifestyle during the estrangement. He also played a role in the 1720 reconciliation.

Caroline's intellect far outstripped George's. As a young woman, she corresponded with Gottfried Leibniz, the intellectual colossus who was courtier and factotum to the House of Hanover. She also helped initiate the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, arguably the most important of all 18th century philosophy of physics discussions, which is still widely read today.

By and large, however, George and Caroline had a successful marriage, though he continued to keep mistresses, as was customary for the time. The best-known of these was Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, one of Caroline's ladies of the bedchamber.

Queen Caroline,
painted in 1735 by Jacopo Amigoni


Caroline became Queen consort on the death of her father-in-law in 1727. In the course of the next few years, she and her husband fought a constant battle against their eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had been left behind in Germany when they came to England. He joined the family in 1728, by which time he was an adult and had formed many bad habits. He opposed his father's political beliefs, and, once married, applied to Parliament for the increase in financial allowance which had been denied him. Caroline, despite having personally selected her new daughter-in-law, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, seemed determined that the marriage should not be a happy one, and was dismayed when she learned, in 1736, that Augusta was pregnant. A peculiar episode followed, in which the prince, on discovering that his wife had gone into labour, sneaked her out of Hampton Court Palace in the middle of the night, in order to ensure that the queen could not be present at the birth.

Queen Caroline held a powerful position; she was made Guardian of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and His Majesty's Lieutenant within the same during His Majesty's absence, thus acting as regent when her husband was in Hanover. She was co-heiress to Sayn-Altenkirchen through her mother, whose mother Johanette reigned as Countess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn-Altenkirchen, but ultimately never inherited it. Her grandson, George III, was compensated for this in 1803.

As Queen, Caroline continued to surround herself with artists, writers, and intellectuals, commissioning works such as terracotta busts of the kings and queens of England and even cottages. She collected jewelery, especially cameos and intaglios, acquired important portraits and miniatures, and enjoyed the visual arts.

A satirical verse of the period went:

You may strut, dapper George, but 'twill all be in vain,
We all know 'tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign.
She is also subject of the popular children's nursery rhyme:

Queen, Queen Caroline
Washed her hair in turpentine.
Turpentine made it shine,
Queen, Queen Caroline.


Later life
Further quarrels with her son followed the birth of the Prince of Wales's daughter, and a complete estrangement between them occurred in the remaining months before Caroline's death.

She died of complications following a rupture of the womb on 20 November 1737, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. Handel composed an elaborate 10-section anthem for the occasion, The ways of Zion do mourn / Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. The King had arranged for a pair of matching coffins with removable sides, so that when he followed her to the grave (twenty-three years later), they could lie together again.

Queen Caroline famously asked him to remarry on her deathbed, to which he replied "No, I shall only have mistresses" or in French, "Non, j'aurai seulement des maîtresses!".

It is probable that, alongside Mary of Modena, who caused the Glorious Revolution, and Prince Albert, who determined foreign policy, Queen Caroline was one of the most important consorts in British history.




George III

George III by Allan Ramsey, 1762

king of Great Britain
in full George William Frederick, German Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

born June 4 [May 24, Old Style], 1738, London
died Jan. 29, 1820, Windsor Castle, near London

king of Great Britain and Ireland (1760–1820) and elector (1760–1814) and then king (1814–20) of Hanover, during a period when Britain won an empire in the Seven Years’ War but lost its American colonies, and then, after the struggle against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, emerged as a leading power in Europe. During the last years of his life (from 1811) he was intermittently mad—his son, the future George IV, acting as regent.

Early years
George III was the son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. From his parents and their entourage, the young George imbibed an unreasonable dislike of his grandfather, King George II, and of all his policies. George was a child of strong feelings but of slow mental development. This unequal growth of brain and heart made him difficult to teach and too easy to command and produced in him an appearance of apathy; he could not read properly until he was 11. His affection for his immediate family circle dominated his life.

George was 12 when his father died, leaving him heir to the throne. It is clear that, in beginning with his 18th birthday to prepare conscientiously for his future responsibilities, he tormented himself with thoughts of his inadequacy. The curious blend of obstinate determination with self-distrust, a feature of his maturity, was already evident. His method of screwing up his courage was to set himself an ideal of conduct. This ideal George thought he had found personified in John Stuart, 3rd earl of Bute, who became his inspiration, his teacher, and later his chief minister.

George was potentially a better politician than Bute, for he had tenacity, and, as experience matured him, he could use guile to achieve his ends. But at his accession in 1760 in the midst of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), between Great Britain and Prussia on one side and France, Austria, and Russia on the other, George did not know his own capacity nor the incapacity of his hero. As king, in 1761, he asked Bute for a review of all eligible German Protestant princesses “to save a great deal of trouble,” as “marriage must sooner or later come to pass.” He chose Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and married her on Sept. 8, 1761. Though the marriage was entered into in the spirit of public duty, it lasted for more than 50 years, due to the king’s need for security and his wife’s strength of character. Bute’s only other useful contribution to his royal pupil was to encourage his interest in botany and to implant in the court more respect for the graces of life, including patronage of the arts, than had been usual for the past half century. (In 1768 George founded the Royal Academy of Arts.)

Political instability, 1760–70
Politically, Bute encouraged the most disastrous of George’s delusions. The government of England at the time lacked effective executive machinery, and members of Parliament were always more ready to criticize than to cooperate with it. Moreover, the ministers were, for the most part, quarrelsome and difficult to drive as a team. The king’s first responsibility was to hold coalitions of great peers together. But under Bute’s influence he imagined that his duty was to purify public life and to substitute duty to himself for personal intrigue. The two great men in office at the accession were the elder Pitt and Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle. Bute and George III disliked both. Pitt was allowed to resign (October 1761) over the question of war against Spain. Newcastle followed into retirement when his control of treasury matters seemed to be challenged. The two former ministers were each dangerous as a focal point for criticism of the new government under the touchy captaincy of Bute. The government had two principal problems: to make peace and to restore peacetime finance.

Peace was made but in such a way as to isolate Britain in Europe, and for almost 30 years the country suffered from the new alignments of the European powers. Nor was George III happy in his attempt to express the agreed purposes of the country that to Bute had seemed so clear. George III might “glory in the name of Briton,” but his attempts to speak out for his country were ill-received. In 1765 he was being vilified by the gutter press organized by the parliamentary radical John Wilkes, while “patriotic” gentlemen, moved by Pitt or Newcastle, suspected that the peace had been botched and that the king was conspiring with Bute against their liberties. For Bute the way out was easy—he resigned (April 1763).

George realized too late that his clumsiness had destroyed one political combination and made any other difficult to assemble. He turned to George Grenville, to his uncle, William Augustus, duke of Cumberland, to Pitt, and to the 3rd duke of Grafton for help. All failed him. The first decade of the reign was one of such ministerial instability that little was done to solve the basic financial difficulties of the crown, made serious by the expense of the Seven Years’ War. Overseas trade expanded, but the riches of the East India Company made no significant contribution to the state. The attempt to make the American colonists meet their own administrative costs only aroused them to resistance. Nor was there consistency in British colonial policy. The Stamp Act (1765) passed by Grenville was repealed by Lord Rockingham in 1766. Indirect taxes, in the form of the Townshend Acts (1767), were imposed without calculation of their probable yield and then repealed (except for that on tea) as a maneuver in home politics.

George III was personally blamed for this instability. According to the Whig statesman Edmund Burke and his friends, the king could not keep a ministry because he was faithless and intrigued with friends “behind the curtain.” Burke’s remedy was to urge that solidity should be given to a cabinet by the building up of party loyalty: the king as a binding agent was to be replaced by the organization of groups upon agreed principles. Thus the early years of George III produced, inadvertently, the germ of modern party politics. In truth, however, the king was not guilty of causing chaos by intrigue. He had no political contact with Bute after 1766; the so-called king’s friends were not his agents but rather those who looked to him for leadership such as his predecessors had given. The king’s failure lay in his tactlessness and inexperience, and it was not his fault that no one group was strong enough to control the Commons.

By 1770, however, George III had learned a good deal. He was still as obstinate as ever and still felt an intense duty to guide the country, but now he reckoned with political reality. He no longer scorned to make use of executive power for winning elections nor did he withhold his official blessing from those of whose characters he disapproved.

North’s ministry, 1770–82
In 1770 the king was lucky in finding a minister, Lord North, with the power to cajole the Commons. North’s policy of letting sleeping dogs lie lulled the suspicions of independent rural members who were always ready to imagine that the executive was growing too strong. As a result, 12 years of stable government followed a decade of disturbance.

Unfortunately, issues and prejudices survived from the earlier period that North could only muffle. America was the greatest and the fatal issue, and North could not avoid it because the English squires in Parliament agreed with their king that America must pay for its own defense and for its share of the debt remaining from the war that had given it security. George III’s personal responsibility for the loss of America lies not in any assertion of his royal prerogative. Americans, rather, were disposed to admit his personal supremacy. Their quarrel was with the assertion of the sovereignty of Parliament, and George III was eventually hated in America because he insisted upon linking himself with that Parliament. North would have had difficulty in ignoring the colonists’ insults in any case; with the king and the House of Commons watching to see that he was not weak, he inevitably took the steps that led to war in 1775.

By 1779 the typical English squires in Parliament had sickened of the war, but the king argued that though the war was indefensible on economic grounds it still had to be fought, that if disobedience were seen to prosper, Ireland would follow suit. He argued also, after the French had joined the Americans in 1778, that French finances would collapse before those of Britain. So the king prolonged the war, possibly by two years, by his desperate determination. The period from 1779 to 1782 left a further black mark upon the king’s reputation. By 1780 a majority in Parliament blamed North’s government for the calamities that had befallen the country, yet there was no responsible or acceptable alternative, for the opposition was reputed to be both unpatriotic and divided. At the time people believed that corruption alone supported an administration that was equally incapable of waging war or ending it. This supposed increase in corruption was laid directly at the king’s door, for North wearily repeated his wish to resign, thus appearing to be a mere puppet of George III. When North fell at last in 1782, George III’s prestige was at a low ebb. The failure of Shelburne’s ministry (1782–83) reduced George to the lowest point of all. North joined with the liberal Whig Charles James Fox to form a coalition government, and George even contemplated abdication.

The Three Youngest Daughters of King George III. c. 1785 by John Singleton Copley

George and the Younger Pitt, 1783–1806
Yet within a year the king had dramatically turned the tables, carrying out amid applause the most high-handed act of royal initiative in 18th-century England. When Fox and North produced a plan to reform the East India Company, which aroused fear that they intended to perpetuate their power by controlling Eastern patronage, the king reemerged as the guardian of the national interest. He let it be known that anyone who supported the plan in the House of Lords would be reckoned his enemy. The bill was defeated, and the ministers resigned. The king was ready with a new “patriotic” leader, William Pitt, the Younger. This initiative was dangerous. Pitt’s government was in a minority in the Commons, and the discarded ministers were in a mood to threaten a constitutional upheaval. Everything depended on the verdict of a general election in March 1784. The country, moved by real feeling as well as by treasury influence, overwhelmingly endorsed the king’s action. The king did not go on after his victory to further demonstrations of power. Though many of Pitt’s ideas were unwelcome to him, he contented himself with criticism and a few grumbles. Pitt could not survive without the king, and the king, if he lost Pitt, would have been at the mercy of Fox. They compromised, but the compromise left most power, with the king’s willing assent, in Pitt’s capable young hands.

George loved his children possessively and with that hysterical force that he had always shown in relations with those close to him. He was depressed by the prince of Wales’s coming of age in 1783 as it meant emancipation from the family. The king’s ruefulness was soon converted into rage. The prince associated politically with Fox’s Whigs and socially with Fox’s gaming friends. In contrast to George III’s rather straitlaced court, the prince’s circle was lively and dissolute. As his sons escaped him, one by one, George oscillated between excitement and despair. In the crises of his reign he frequently talked of abdication; but in 1788 it was announced that it was his reason that had fled its throne.

The stresses endured by this hard-working man seemed sufficient to account for his violent breakdown. Twentieth-century medical investigation, in fact, suggested that the king had an inherited defect in his metabolism known as porphyria. An excess in purple-red pigments in the blood intoxicated all parts of the nervous system, producing the agonizing pain, excited overactivity, paralysis, and delirium that the king suffered in an acute form at least four times during his reign. The porphyria diagnosis, however, is not universally accepted by medical opinion.

The king’s incapacity produced a political storm. But while Pitt and Fox battled over the powers that the prince of Wales should enjoy as regent, the king suddenly recovered in 1789. He was left with the fear that he might again collapse into the nightmare of madness. For the last decade of the 18th century, he was bothered more about the details than about the main lines of policy. Pitt, whose policies contented him more and more, gradually absorbed in his own following most of North’s old following and even some of Fox’s. After the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France in 1793, all but the most radical Whigs joined the government, leaving Fox in hopeless, if eloquent, opposition.

The war with France seemed to most of the aristocracy and the upper middle class to be waged for national survival. The old king, an object of compassion in his collapse and obviously a well-meaning man, was soon a symbol of the old English order for which the country was fighting. Although his potential power in politics was greatly increased, his will to wield it was enfeebled. George enjoyed himself in encouraging farmers to grow more food; or he talked for hours (ending his sentences rhetorically and fussily with the repeated words “what, what, what?”) about past conflicts, or military tactics, or even of the shortcomings of Shakespeare; or he played to himself on his harpsichord; or he regulated the lives of his daughters, who found it so much less easy to escape than did his sons. From such quiet occupations he was aroused to activity by Pitt’s Irish policy at the turn of the century.

The French war had made the issue of Roman Catholic emancipation urgent. Rebellion in Ireland, in Pitt’s view, could not be cured simply by the union of the British and Irish Parliaments. Conciliation, by the political emancipation of the Roman Catholics, was a necessary concomitant of union. George III believed this proposal to be radical ruin and used all his personal prestige to have emancipation defeated. Pitt resigned (1801), and George persuaded Henry Addington (later 1st Viscount Sidmouth) to form a less adventurous cabinet. The collapse of Addington’s administration in 1804, after the short Peace of Amiens (1802–03), brought Pitt back into office (1804–06), but he returned at the cost of giving up his emancipation proposals. The king was decisive in this crisis only because it was an issue upon which he felt most deeply and upon which he instinctively expressed the feelings of the majority of the backbenchers in the House of Commons, though Pitt never pushed the matter to a real trial of strength.

Last years, 1806–20
On the death of Pitt (January 1806), the king accepted Fox as foreign secretary in a coalition “ministry of all the talents” (1806–07). He even came to feel affection for Fox and sincerely to lament his death in 1806. During this short period of Whig administration, the king allowed his ministers to discuss (abortively) peace with Napoleon and to abolish the slave trade; he asserted himself and forced their resignation only when they dared to propose some amelioration of the laws against Roman Catholics. This second break on the Roman Catholic issue came about in circumstances which witnessed to George’s declining abilities. Still strong in body, he had become almost blind. He needed the help of a secretary in the task, which he would not reduce, of reading all the official papers. Lord Grenville thought the king had agreed to a paper that proposed the grant of higher rank in the army for papists. The king thought that his ministers were trying to trick him and that Sidmouth alone had explained to him the significance of the paper. He demanded from his ministers a promise not to bring up the subject again, for he feared he might be deceived into betraying his sworn duty to the Church of England. The perfectly proper refusal of ministers to pledge themselves for the future led to their supersession by the Tories, under Lord Portland (1807–09), Spencer Perceval (1809–12), and Lord Liverpool (1812–27), successively.

Much of the remainder of the king’s lifetime was a living death. The death of his youngest child and frequent companion, Princess Amelia, in 1810, was a bitter blow; she had, in part, consoled him for his disappointment about his sons. Worse still was the return of the king’s illness. In 1811 it was acknowledged that he was violently insane. The doctors continued to hope for recovery, but Parliament enacted the regency of the prince of Wales (the future George IV) and decreed that the queen should have the custody of her husband. He remained insane, with intervals of senile lucidity, until his death at Windsor Castle. George III’s reign, on its personal side, was the tragedy of a well-intentioned man who was faced with problems too great for him to solve but from which his conscience prevented any attempt at escape.

John Steven Watson

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818) was the queen-consort of the United Kingdom as wife of King George III.

Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the arts, known to Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, among others. She was also an amateur botanist who helped establish Kew Gardens. George III and Queen Charlotte had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.

Early life
Charlotte was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince of Mirow and his wife, Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

She was a granddaughter of Adolf Frederick II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz by his third wife, Christiane Emilie Antonie, Princess of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. Her father's elder half brother reigned from 1708 to 1753 as Adolf Friedrich III.

For a woman marrying the sovereign of one of the most powerful countries of the time, her descent from kings was somewhat remote. All her ancestors up to the level of great-great-great-grandparents were solidly princes, dukes and counts (or the equivalent) with no kings. While her 58 closest ancestors (rather than 62; four of her great-great-great-grandparents are counted twice) included some reigning princes, one might observe that she was of ducal and princely blood, rather than royal blood. Only two of her great-great-great-great-grandfathers were kings: Gustav I of Sweden and Frederick I of Denmark and Norway. Other royal monarchs are found in her earlier ancestry.

Detail of a portrait of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz


Charlotte's brother Adolf Friedrich IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (reigned 1752–94) and her widowed mother actively negotiated for a prominent marriage for the young princess. At the age of 17, Charlotte was not thought conventionally pretty; she had a wide nose and mouth, and dark hair. Nevertheless, she was selected as the bride of the young King George, although she was not his first choice. He had already flirted with several young women considered unsuitable by his mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by his political advisers. He also was rumored to have married a young Quaker woman named Hannah Lightfoot, though all later claims to prove this marriage were deemed unfounded and the purported supporting documents found to be forgeries.

Princess Charlotte was collected at Cuxhaven by a squadron of British yachts and warships under Admiral Anson (including the specially renamed HMY Royal Charlotte), but on its return the squadron was subjected to westerly gales and took ten days to reach Harwich, which it did in early September 1761. Charlotte then travelled to London, where the couple were married at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace, London, on 8 September of that year. Looking back at her betrothal, Charlotte reflected, "The English people did not like me much, because I was not pretty." After a carriage accident in which she broke her nose, she joked "I think I was not so ugly after that!"

Her mother-in-law did not welcome her with open arms, and for some time there was a slight tension between the two. However, the king's mother had yet to accept any woman with whom he was alleged to have been involved, therefore it seems that the young king cared little for her approval by this time. Despite not having been her husband's first choice as a bride, and having been treated with a general lack of sympathy by her mother-in-law, the Dowager Princess of Wales, Charlotte's marriage was a happy one, and the king was apparently never unfaithful to her. In the course of their marriage, they had 15 children, all but two of whom (Octavius and Alfred) survived into adulthood. As time went on, she wielded considerable power within the realm, although she evidently never misused it.

Interests and patronage

Queen Charlotte was keenly interested in the fine arts and supported Johann Christian Bach, who was her music teacher. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then aged eight, dedicated his Opus 3 to her at her request after they met in London in 1764. Charlotte sang an aria accompanied by Mozart. When Joseph Haydn visited London in 1794, Charlotte invited him to stay at Windsor.

The queen also founded orphanages and a hospital for expectant mothers. The education of women was a great importance to her, and she saw to it that her daughters were better educated than was usual for young women of the day. However, she insisted that her daughters live restricted lives close to their mother, and refused to allow them to marry until they were well-advanced in years, with the result that none of her daughters had legitimate issue (one, Princess Sophia, may have had an illegitimate son).

The queen was a well-educated amateur botanist and helped establish what is today Kew Gardens. Her interest in botany led to the magnificent South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honour.

In 2004, the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace staged an exhibition illustrating George and Charlotte's enthusiastic arts patronage, which was particularly enlightened in contrast to that of earlier Hanoverian monarchs; it compared favorably to the adventuresome tastes of the king's father, Frederick, Prince of Wales. Among the royal couple's favored craftsmen and artists were the cabinetmaker William Vile, silversmith Thomas Heming, the landscape designer Capability Brown, and the German painter Johann Zoffany, who frequently painted the king and queen and their children in charmingly informal scenes, such as a portrait of Queen Charlotte and her children as she sat at her dressing table.

Up until 1788, portraits of Charlotte often depict her in maternal poses with her children, and she looks young and contented. However, in that year her husband fell seriously ill and became temporarily insane. It is now thought that the King was suffering from a genetic metabolic disorder, porphyria, but at the time the cause of the King's illness was unknown. Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of her at this time marks a transition point after which she looks much older in her portraits. Indeed, the Assistant Keeper of Charlotte's Wardrobe, Mrs. Papendiek, wrote that the Queen was "much changed, her hair quite grey".

Relations with Marie Antoinette

The French Revolution of 1789 probably added to the strain that Charlotte felt. Queen Charlotte and Queen Marie Antoinette of France kept a close relationship. Queen Charlotte was 11 years older than the Queen of France yet they shared many interests, such as their love of music and the arts in which they both enthusiastically took an interest. Never meeting face to face they kept the friendship to pen and paper. Marie Antoinette confided in the Queen of Great Britain upon the outbreak of the French Revolution. Queen Charlotte had even organized apartments to be prepared and ready for the refugee royal family of France to stay in.  After the execution of Marie Antoinette and the bloody events that followed, Queen Charlotte was said to be shocked and overwhelmed that such a thing could happen to a kingdom, and right on Britain's doorstep. King George lowered taxes to avoid a British revolution.

Husband's illness
After the onset of his madness, George III was placed in the care of his wife, who could not bring herself to visit him very often, due to his erratic behaviour and occasional violent reactions. However, Charlotte remained supportive of her husband as his illness, now believed to be porphyria, worsened in old age. While her son, the Prince Regent, wielded the royal power, she was her husband's legal guardian from 1811 until her death in 1818.

Later life
The queen died in the presence of her eldest son, the Prince Regent, who was holding her hand as she sat in an armchair at the family's country retreat, Dutch House in Surrey (now known as Kew Palace). She was buried at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Her husband died just over a year later. She is the second longest-serving consort in British history, having served as such from her marriage (on 8 September 1761) to her death (17 November 1818), a total of 57 years and 70 days.

Her eldest son, the Prince Regent, claimed Charlotte's jewels at her death, but the rest of her property was sold at auction from May to August 1819. Her clothes, furniture, and even her snuff was sold by Christie's. It is highly unlikely that her husband ever knew of her death, and he died, blind, deaf, lame and insane, fourteen months later.



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