George I (1714 – 1727)
The first Hanoverian King of England was only 52nd in line to the throne, but, thanks to the Act of Settlement, George was the nearest Protestant eligible to take the crown. Born in Germany, George was not a fluent speaker of English and chose to speak in his native language, which made him deeply unpopular with his subjects. Although times had changed and most of Britain was now Protestant, George still had to fend off opposition from several Scottish Jacobite supporters, but any rebellion was swiftly crushed.
As with the reign of Queen Anne, George’s time on the throne saw the powers of the monarchy even more greatly diminished as the modern system of government by a Cabinet developed. By the end of his reign this progressed to the point at which actual power was held by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister. George died of a stroke during one of his many visits to his beloved Hanover and was buried in the Chapel of the Leine Schloss.
George II (1727 – 1760)
George II was the only son of the king and was also born in Hanover. When he ascended the throne he shared his father’s problem of having to fend off opposition from Jacobite supporters, with 1745 seeing ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ raise a strong army of rebellion in Scotland. This was famously crushed the following year in the notoriously bloody Battle of Culloden Moor.
During George II’s later years he showed little interest in politics but he did involve Britain in the Seven Years War, which saw many European countries rise up against one another. His reign also saw the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. After thirty-three years on the throne, he died while on the toilet and was buried at Westminster Abbey. As his eldest son Frederick had died of an abscess, the heir became the King’s grandson, also named George.
George III (1760 – 1820)
Despite being the third Hanovarian monarch of Britain, this King George was the first to be born in Britain and use English as his first language. During his reign, George III tried to reverse the diminished role of the monarchy in governing the country but by this point ministers were too powerful. Also during George’s reign Britain lost many of its colonies in North America, but Great Britain and Ireland were joined together to form the United Kingdom.
In later years George III famously suffered from recurrent mental illness, thought to be related to the blood disease porphyria. However, recent studies have revealed high levels of arsenic in King George's hair, suggesting that the poison was also a possible cause of the King’s insanity. After a final relapse in 1811, the King's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. Upon George's death aged 81, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV.
George IV (1820 – 1830)
As a young man the Prince Regent earned a reputation for fine living and decadence, and he became a lavish patron of the arts. Also developing a keen interest in architecture The Prince Regent commissioned the elegant Brighton Pavilion, with no expense spared. Over time he fell out with his father and many of his subjects who had to foot the bill for his expensive lifestyle.
George’s time as Regent was marked by victory in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the reconstruction by John Nash of Buckingham Palace as we know it today. When he finally ascended the throne as George IV he had a suitably lavish coronation extravaganza, although by this time he was obese and possibly addicted to laudanum, his life blighted by a difficult arranged marriage to his own cousin and the death of his daughter and mother. He died a bloated mess of a man, and was buried in Windsor Castle.
William IV (1830 – 1837)
Following the death of George IV, family deaths meant that his brother William took the throne. During his youth, he served in the Royal Navy and as a result was nicknamed the Sailor King. Due to ascending the throne at sixty-nine, his reign was short. It was, however, one of several major reforms, including local government being democratised, child labour restricted and slavery abolished throughout the British Empire.
However, the most important reform of William IV's reign was the Reform Act of 1832, which refashioned the British electoral system. He ultimately died of asthma-related illness and was succeeded by his niece, Princess Victoria of Kent. Under ancient law no woman could carry the Hanoverian crown, which went to William’s brother and so ended the Hanoverian Dynasty in Britain.