Battle of Dettingen, Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Countess of Suffolk, Elector of Hanover, Frederick-Louis, Henrietta Howard, King George II of Great Britain and Ireland, Mistress, Prince of Wales (1707-1751), Thomas Pelham-Holles, War of the Austrian Succession, William Pitt the Elder
As king, George II exercised little control over British domestic policy, which was largely controlled by the Parliament of Great Britain. As Elector of Hanover, he spent twelve summers in Hanover, where he had more direct control over government policy. He had a difficult relationship with his eldest son, Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales, who supported the parliamentary opposition.
When George visited Hanover in the summers of 1729, 1732 and 1735, he left his wife to chair the regency council in Britain rather than his son. Meanwhile, rivalry between George II and his brother-in-law and first cousin Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia led to tension along the Prussian–Hanoverian border, which eventually culminated in the mobilization of troops in the border zone and suggestions of a duel between the two kings.
Negotiations for a marriage between the Prince of Wales and Friedrich Wilhelm’s daughter Wilhelmine dragged on for years but neither side would make the concessions demanded by the other. The marriage negotiations were welcomed by Frederick Louis even though the couple had never met. George II was not keen on the proposal but continued talks for diplomatic reasons. Frustrated by the delay, Frederick sent an envoy of his own to the Prussian court. When George II discovered the plan, he immediately arranged for Frederick to leave Hanover for England. The marriage negotiations foundered when Friedrich Wilhelm demanded that Frederick be made Regent in Hanover.
Instead, the prince married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg in April 1736. Princess Augusta was born in Gotha to Friedrich II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1676–1732) and Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst (1679–1740). Her paternal grandfather was Friedrich I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, eldest surviving son of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
George’s wife Caroline died on November 20, 1737 (O.S.). He was deeply affected by her death, and to the surprise of many displayed “a tenderness of which the world thought him before utterly incapable”. On her deathbed she told her sobbing husband to remarry, to which he replied, “Non, j’aurai des maîtresses!” (French for “No, I shall have mistresses!”).
It was common knowledge that George had already had mistresses during his marriage, and he had kept Caroline informed about them. Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, had moved to Hanover with her husband during the reign of Queen Anne, and had been one of Caroline’s women of the bedchamber.
She was his mistress from before the accession of George I until November 1734. She was followed by Amalie von Wallmoden, later Countess of Yarmouth, whose son, Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden, may have been fathered by George. Johann Ludwig was born while Amalie was still married to her husband, and George did not acknowledge him publicly as his own son.
In 1745 supporters of the Catholic claimant to the British throne, James Francis Edward Stuart (“The Old Pretender”), led by James’s son Charles Edward Stuart (“The Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), attempted and failed to depose George.
On April 27, 1746, Charles faced George’s military-minded son Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, in the Battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle fought on British soil. The ravaged Jacobite troops were routed by the government army. Charles escaped to France, but many of his supporters were caught and executed. Jacobitism was all but crushed; no further serious attempt was made at restoring the House of Stuart.
Against Walpole’s wishes, but to George’s delight, Britain reopened hostilities with Spain in 1739. Britain’s conflict with Spain, the War of Jenkins’ Ear, became part of the Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, when a major European dispute broke out upon the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1740. At issue was the right of Charles’s daughter, Maria Theresa, to succeed to his Austrian dominions. George spent the summers of 1740 and 1741 in Hanover, where he was more able to intervene directly in European diplomatic affairs in his capacity as elector.
The pro-war faction was led by Carteret, who claimed that French power would increase if Maria Theresa failed to succeed to the Austrian throne. George agreed to send 12,000 hired Hessian and Danish mercenaries to Europe, ostensibly to support Maria Theresa. Without conferring with his British ministers, George stationed them in Hanover to prevent enemy French troops from marching into the electorate.
The British army had not fought in a major European war in over 20 years, and the government had badly neglected its upkeep. George had pushed for greater professionalism in the ranks, and promotion by merit rather than by sale of commissions, but without much success. An allied force of Austrian, British, Dutch, Hanoverian and Hessian troops engaged the French at the Battle of Dettingen on 16/27 June 1743.
George personally accompanied them, leading them to victory, thus becoming the last British monarch to lead troops into battle. Though his actions in the battle were admired, the war became unpopular with the British public, who felt that the king and Carteret were subordinating British interests to Hanoverian ones. Carteret lost support, and to George’s dismay resigned in 1744.