Posted on March 23, 2021
by Peter Ackroyd
Within the following excerpt from Revolution, Peter Ackroyd transports readers to England in 1714, the place Prince George of Germany is about to be topped King George I of Nice Britain.
Queen Anne died on the morning of 1 August 1714, and on the identical day the excessive officers of state congregated on the gateway of St James’s Palace the place they proclaimed ‘that the excessive and mighty Prince George, Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg, is now, by the demise of our late Sovereign, of glad reminiscence, turn out to be our solely lawful and rightful liege Lord, George, by the Grace of God, King of Nice Britain, France and Eire, Defender of the Religion etcetera . . . ’. George had received the race over James Edward. It has been estimated that fifty-seven different folks had a greater hereditary declare; however the elector of Hanover, as he was additionally informally referred to as, was the one Protestant amongst them and had subsequently been acclaimed as monarch.
The cry went up after the proclamation that the Germans have been coming in droves, desirous to adorn themselves with the treasures of England, however within the occasion solely ninety employees or entourage made the journey with the brand new king. Amongst them have been the same old courtiers and officers, along with apothecaries and tailors in addition to an entire kitchen employees (the culinary experience of the brand new and unknown nation couldn’t be taken with no consideration); on the ship additionally have been George’s two Turkish physique servants, Mehmet and Mustafa, and two courtroom mistresses who precipitated virtually equal astonishment.
Fräulein von Schulenberg was a lover of lengthy standing, and certainly one of her two ‘nieces’ betrayed a detailed resemblance to the brand new king; she had first refused to journey to England with George, in response to Woman Mary Wortley Montagu, ‘fearing that the folks of England who, she thought, have been accustomed to make use of their kings barbarously, would possibly chop off his head within the first fortnight’. She modified her thoughts solely when she realized that her rival was additionally on the best way. At a later date Horace Walpole, the person of letters and connoisseur, recalled Frau von Kielmannsegge sporting ‘two fierce black eyes, massive and rolling . . . two acres of cheek unfold with crimson, an ocean of neck that overflowed’.
The London mob was extremely delighted by the truth that one was very skinny, and the opposite very fats. It was like a nursery rhyme. The brand new sovereign’s sad spouse, Sophia, was to not be seen. She had been imprisoned for nearly twenty years within the fort of Ahlden after being present in a bootleg liaison with a German depend; the depend himself disappeared in mysterious circumstances, thus giving the Hanoverian courtroom one thing of the ambiance of the fort of Otranto. George’s spouse by no means left confinement, however her son did ultimately turn out to be king of England.
‘George Ludwig’ landed at Greenwich on 18 September and within the following month was topped in Westminster Corridor. He was not precisely a golden prince. Sophia, earlier than their doomed marriage, had shouted that ‘I cannot marry the pig snout’ and thrown his miniature in opposition to a wall. She was maybe a bit unfair. He was relatively quick however his physiognomy was not out of the atypical; he had a considerably heavy countenance, with a excessive broad brow, which confirmed little signal of liveliness or animation. He had a big nostril and what have been described as ‘vacant’ eyes. He was reserved to the purpose of woodenness, a pure hesitation that made him gradual in speech and in thought. Because of this he was thought-about to be stiff and chilly in method, however this will solely have been a defensive stance in an alien atmosphere. As Lord Chesterfield stated, England was too massive for him.
It isn’t clear whether or not or not he may converse English, however surviving paperwork counsel that he understood so much and wrote a bit. In any case he had French, the worldwide language of diplomacy, to assist him. He had sure traits that he shared with the previous Stuart dynasty, amongst them ruthlessness and stubbornness. Maybe these are the traits of any profitable monarchy. He had launched into his first army marketing campaign on the age of fifteen so he couldn’t be accused of faint-heartedness, and he had dominated Hanover for sixteen years. He was no neophyte. Thackeray wrote of him that ‘he was greater than fifty years of age when he got here amongst us; we took him as a result of we wished him, as a result of he served our flip; we laughed at his uncouth German methods, and sneered at him. He took our loyalty for what it was; laid arms on what cash he may; saved us assuredly from Popery and wood sneakers. I, for one, would have been on his aspect in these days.’ Picket sneakers have been a token of French servitude.
Since he was by nature reserved and casual he didn’t hold an imposing courtroom. He maintained an internal German retinue that carried out the mandatory duties, and in consequence he appeared to his topics to be basically distant. He rose early however didn’t emerge from his chamber till midday to seek the advice of his ministers; after these conferences and conferences, which may final so long as three hours, he retired as soon as extra to his bedchamber. He walked within the gardens of St James’s within the late afternoon, and spent the night taking part in playing cards with certainly one of his mistresses. Visits to the opera or theatre have been occasional, they usually weren’t accompanied by any ritual or fanfare; the king prevented the royal field. The courtiers themselves weren’t vainglorious; they didn’t dazzle; there was no try to keep up the cult of monarchy. Except for Mustafa and Mehmet, and naturally the skinny and the fats mistresses, there was nothing distinctive about them.
The brand new king got here to England with an instinctive dislike of Tories. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of them nonetheless supported the Stuart trigger. And he couldn’t forgive the Tory politicians who engineered the treaty of Utrecht by leaving their allies abandoned on the sphere, of whose quantity he was in fact one. However it was extensively believed that, like Anne, he would try a average administration mixed of each events; however in observe this even-handedness lasted for a second solely.
Credit score: Charles Hopkinson
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, in addition to a broadcaster, biographer, poet, and historian. He’s the creator of the acclaimed London: The Biography, and the primary, second, and third volumes of his historical past of England, Basis, Tudors, and Riot. He holds a CBE for providers to literature and lives in London.
Tags: british historical past, German Historical past, Peter Ackroyd, Revolution