20 Interesting Facts about the Four King Georges

George I, George II, George III, and George IV - Queen Anne

Anne of Great Britain, Author’s Collection

Queen Anne ruled until 1714. After her death the Georgian Era began and was named as such because of the rule of four kings — George I, George II, George III, and George IV. The Georgian Era ran from 1714 to 1830, although many people also include the short period that William IV reigned, which ended in 1837. This rule by the four George’s started off rocky. First, protests against a German Hanover king broke out on the day of George I’s coronation, and, secondly, there were numerous Catholic relatives with stronger claims to the throne, although the Act of Settlement of 1701 guaranteed a Protestant succession. This resulted in a Jacobite uprising and a failed attempt to overthrow George I. With George I maintaining the throne, it paved the way for the succession of three other George’s assuming the throne.

Here are twenty interesting tidbits about these four English kings named George:

George I, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George I, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George I

  • Because George I spoke English haltingly, he was considered too German. Moreover, many of his British subjects disliked him and described him as “wooden” in public.
  • George I was extremely close to his younger half-sister Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg, Countess of Darlington. In fact, many people thought he was having an affair with her. He also took a long-time mistress named Madame Melusine Schulenburg (later the Duchess of Kendal). Because George’s half-sister was portly and his mistress extremely thin, the British public nicknamed them “the Elephant” and the “Maypole,” respectively.
  • George I did much to refurbish and improve Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.
  • In 1717, during George I’s reign, Sir Issac Newton wrote a report to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury about the bimetallic relationship between gold and silver coins. A royal proclamation was then issued forbidding the exchange of gold guineas for more than 21 silver shillings, which inadvertently resulted in a silver shortage and moved Britain from the silver standard to the gold standard.
  • George I and his son, the future George II, hated each other.
George II, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George II, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George II

  • King George II was a naturalized English subject and spoke only French until he was four years old.
  • Before he became George II and while titled the Prince of Wales, an assassin attempted to shoot him in his box at the Drury Lane Theatre in December of 1716. Instead of killing him, the assassin killed a guard and was apprehended.
  • George II was the last British monarch to lead an army into battle, which he did at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743.
  • George II’s relationship with his heir apparent and son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, became hateful, similar to George II’s relationship with his father. George II eventually banished Frederick. Moreover, when the Queen was ill, George II would not let Frederick visit his dying mother. The hate George II felt towards Frederick is also aptly demonstrated by the remarks he made after Frederick died from a burst abscess in his lung: “I lost my eldest son, — but I am glad of it.”
  • Because of George II’s reputation for meanness, it came as a great surprise to the public when upon his wife’s death his grief became universally known, and he “showed a tenderness of which the world thought him before utterly incapable.”
George III, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George III, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George III

  • George William Frederick, later George III, was born two months premature in 1738. He was immediately baptized because it was thought he would not survive. However, he lived until he was 81 years old and is recognized as one of Britain’s longest rulers, reigning from October 1760 to January 1820.
  • George III was known to be extremely affectionate to his children and would gently tap on their apartment doors at five in the morning to inquiry how they slept.
  • King George III suffered from mental illness and was said to display “incessant loquacity,” resulting in him often speaking with a foaming mouth.
  • Margaret Nicholson, a mentally ill woman, who believed she was the rightful heir to the throne, made an attempt to assassinate George III in 1786. When the King descended from his post chariot at the garden entrance of St. James’s palace, Nicholson attempted to stab him in the chest, but he drew back in the nick of time. As she prepared to strike again, a yeoman wrenched the knife from her hand, and, then, supposedly, “the king with great temper exclaimed, ‘I am not hurt—take care of the poor woman, do not hurt her.'”
  • One day George III went without his attendants to see how the repairs were going on the Salisbury Cathedral. He looked at the book of donations and offered a £1000 to aid in the repairs. The person accepting money not recognizing him asked, “What name shall I write, Sir?” The King replied, making himself one with his own subjects, “Oh! a gentleman of Berkshire.”
George IV, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George IV, Courtesy of Wikipedia

George IV

  • In his youth, the future George IV was given the nickname Prinny, which was short for Prince of Wales. Some people thought the nickname of Prinny was endearing and others thought it a term of derision, as it had great rhyming capabilities for balladeers.
  • At the age of 18, Prinny, acquired his own separate residence and began living a zestful and scandal-driven lifestyle that involved heavy drinking, numerous mistress, and wild escapades.
  • For most of his reign, George IV did little to rule, which left the governing and day-to-day operations of the country to the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool.
  • George IV had poor relations with his parents and he also did not have a happy marriage with his wife, Caroline. In fact, he attempted unsuccessfully to divorce her, which, in the end, garnered her much sympathy as the public regarded her a “victim of her husband’s love of vice.”
  • Prinny’s only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, died in 1817, three years before he assumed the throne. Charlotte was 21 at the time and died from postpartum bleeding after giving birth to a stillborn son. Her death so shocked the nation, stores closed for two weeks and deep mourning fell over the country. George IV’s grief was also great, he could not attend her funeral, and, when Caroline learned of her daughter’s tragic death, she fainted.

References:

  • Anecdotes of His Late Majesty George III, 1821
  • Chambers’ Encyclopædia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, Volume 2, 1892
  • Jesse, John Heneage, Memoirs of the Court of England from 1688 to the Death of George the Second, 1843
  • Law, Philip Alphonse, The History of Hampton Court Palace, 1891
  • The History of Great Britain from the Death of George II to the Coronation of George IV, 1828
  • Williams, Henry Smith, The Historians’ History of the World: England, 1642-1791, 1904

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