King George

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Ot the six King Georges that there have been in the British monarchy, the first four were the first four Hanoverian kings (1714-1830). It is most commonly these four that are meant by the adjective Georgian, although Georgian poets are usually those from the reign of George V (1910-1936). (See Georgian for more, and George for other uses of the name.)

One of the characteristics of the Hanoverian Georges was deep disagreement between father and son, extending through the generations. George II found it difficult to forgive George I for the separation with his mother. In turn, his first son, Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales (1707-51) was a "semi-detached member of the court" and the "Leader of the opposition", according to ODNB. (It also calls him "an example of filial disloyalty".) His son and heir, who became George III, disapproved of his extravagance, as he was later to do of the Prince Regent's (who became George IV), also reprehending the latter's indolence (in study) and debauchery (in private life).

George I

Born 1660; married Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle 1682; succeeded Queen Anne in 1714; died 1727.

Georg Ludwig, as he was born, was the Elector (hereditary ruler) of Hanover, in Germany. In 1692, his father, Ernst August rose to this position, as one of the nine rulers of German states who elected the Holy Roman Emperor, from an unpromising starting position, as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Georg Ludwig succeeded Ernst August as Elector of Hanover in 1698. Through his mother Sophia Dorothea, a granddaughter of James VI and I, who had become estranged from his father, he had a claim on the English and Scottish thrones. As his mother and he were protestants, they were named ahead of over fifty Catholic claimants in the Act of Settlement (1701) as the heirs apparent of Queen Anne. On her death (June 1714), and during fears of a Jacobite landing, Parliament confirmed the succession, and on Anne's death in August, Georg Ludwig became George I of Great Britain. "To the majority of his British subjects George I was always something of a distant presence who spent long periods in Hanover", and he hardly spoke English (ODNB). This gave rise to such Jacobite taunts as the song
Wha the deil hae we got for a King
But a wee, wee German lairdie!"
George II

Born (as Georg August) 1683; married Caroline of Ansbach, 1705; succeeded George I 1727; died 1760.

George II "spoke English volubly, though with a thick German accent" (ODNB) and took an active part in the government of the UK. He saw the end of the Jacobite threat, with the victory at the Battle of Culloden (1746) over the Young Pretender by his second son, William Duke of Cumberland.
George III

Born 1738, son of Frederick Lewis, prince of Wales (1707-1751), grandson of George II, whom he succeeded in 1760. Married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 1761. Died 1820. The first Prince of Wales to have been born in England since Charles II.

George III's long reign (60 years) saw much war, in a period when war was at the centre of political manoeuvring. The Seven Years War (1756–1763) saw the defeat of France and the consequent position of Britain as the major colonial power in India and in North America - the New England states which were lost in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), also known as the American Revolutionary War. The French Revolutionary Wars which began following the French Revolution of 1789, and continuing with the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815, saw his being labelled a reactionary and anti-revolutionary monarch - though in 1810, he finally succumbed to the mental ill-health that had occurred intermittently through his reign, and was put in a strait jacket. (This is depicted in the play The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett, starring Nigel Hawthorne, who also took the eponymous role in the film version, The Madness of King George (1994).) In 1811, his son was declared Regent, and governed until the father's death, when he ascended the throne as George IV.
George IV

Born 1762; appointed Regent in 1811; succeeded 1820; died 1830. Married 1) Maria Anne Fitzherbert (1785); 2) (2) Caroline of Brunswick (1795).

George IV is perhaps as well known to history as the Prince of Wales, who as Prince Regent governed during his father's insanity from 1811. He ruled during the defeat of Napoleon (1815). He was famously extravagant and loose in his living. He gambled, on horses and at cards; he spent enormously on two architectural projects, Carlton House (on Pall Mall, in London, designed by Henry Holland) and the Brighton Pavilion, designed by John Nash. In 1785, he married, secretly and illegally, his Catholic mistress, Mrs Fitzherbert, in defiance of the Act of Settlement, and ignored in order to make the dynastic marriage in 1795 with Queen Caroline (1768-1821), against whom later he unsuccessfully sought a divorce, to the great scandal of the nation. Some of his expenditure was on the arts: he was a patron of Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, and the painters Gainsborough, Reynolds and Constable; he collected art, and helped found the National Gallery; he had Nash remodel Buckingham Palace, and encouraged his development of Regent Street. One of the famous streets in Edinburgh, George IV Bridge, is named for him - an elevated street giving communication between the Old Town, built on a hilly ridge, and the New Town to the north, outside the old boundaries of the city. This commemorates his visit to Scotland with Scott in 1822, designed to reconcile his northern kingdom to the Hanoverians (and succeeding).
George V

Born 1865; married Mary of Teck (1893); created Prince of Wales 1901; succeeded his father Edward VII 1910; died 1936.

George V was his parents' second son: his brother Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, less able and of weaker character, died in 1892, aged 28, leaving the throne to his better qualified brother - the two were very close during their growing years. Both served in the Royal Navy, in which the future George V earned the rank of Captain, commanding a cruiser, but left it in order to take his seat (as Duke of York) in the House of Lords. He made many visits to the Empire as heir apparent, and remained interested in imperial and naval policy. But he best liked living as a country squire at Sandringham, in Norfolk, where he became an excellent shot (at game birds), and keen philatelist.
His reign was punctuated by conflict, first with the budget crisis of Asquith's (Liberal) premiership (1910), with consequent constitutional problems with the House of Lords; then with 'Irish Home Rule' (culminating in the Easter Rising of 1916, and the Irish Free State in 1921); most obviously, the First World War, leading amongst other more momentous changes to the change of the dynasty's name from Saxe-Coburg (after Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) to Windsor. It was also the time of the Russian Revolution (1917), with the consequent deposition and killing of George's cousin, the Tsar and his family. After the War came the General Strike in 1926, and the first dealings of a British monarch with a (Socialist) Labour Prime Minister, as well as the National Government that he helped to set up to deal with the consequences of the Great Depression of the early 1930s.
He set the tone of the British monarchy as domestic and respectable, which set the tone for the twentieth century.
George VI

(christened 'Albert Frederick Arthur George') born 1895; married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the first non-royal to marry a prince close to the succession since James VI and I) 1923; succeeded his brother Edward VIII after his abdication in 1936; died 1952.

George VI (known as 'Bertie' in the family) did not expect to reign. He joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Battle of Jutland, and later as one of the first officers in the Royal Air Force. He was a shy man, with a stammer, and his successful marriage helped to give him confidence, and he performed public duties in the UK, including philanthropic work with boys' camps which integrated the classes. Edward VIII's abdication in 1936 put George VI on the throne. He was popular - not least because he did his duty in coming to the throne, unlike his wayward brother. His experience at Jutland, as well as his decision to stay in London during the Blitz, reinforced a strong sense that he shared his people's wartime experiences. After the war, he ceased to be 'Emperor of India', with Indian Independence (1946), and various other changes in the Commonwealth