Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Devonshire, Elector of Hanover, Frederick-Louis, King George II of Great Britain and Ireland, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Seven Years War, William Cavendish, William Pitt
In the general election of 1747 Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales again campaigned actively for the opposition but Pelham’s party won easily. Like his father before him, the Prince entertained opposition figures at his house in Leicester Square. When Prince Frederick Louis died unexpectedly in 1751, his eldest son, Prince George, became heir apparent.
The king commiserated with the Dowager Princess of Wales (Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha) and wept with her. As her son would not reach the age of majority until 1756, a new British Regency Act was passed to make her regent, assisted by a council led by Frederick Louis’ brother, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, in case of George II’s death.
The king also made a new will, which provided for Cumberland to be sole regent in Hanover. After the death of his daughter Louisa at the end of the year, George lamented, “This has been a fatal year for my family. I lost my eldest son – but I am glad of it … Now [Louisa] is gone. I know I did not love my children when they were young: I hated to have them running into my room; but now I love them as well as most fathers.”
Seven Years’ War
In 1754 Pelham died, to be succeeded by his elder brother, Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle.
Hostility between France and Britain, particularly over the colonization of North America, continued. Fearing a French invasion of Hanover, George aligned himself with Prussia (ruled by his nephew, Friedrich the Great), Austria’s enemy. Russia and France allied with Austria, their former enemy. A French invasion of the British-held island of Minorca led to the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 1756.
Public disquiet over British failures at the start of the conflict led to Newcastle’s resignation and the appointment of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, as prime minister and William Pitt the Elder as Secretary of State for the Southern Department. In April the following year George dismissed Pitt in an attempt to construct an administration more to his liking.
Over the succeeding three months attempts to form another stable ministerial combination failed. In June Lord Waldegrave held the seals of office for only four days. By the start of July Pitt was recalled, and Newcastle returned as prime minister. As Secretary of State, Pitt guided policy relating to the war. Great Britain, Hanover, and Prussia and their allies Hesse-Cassel and Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel fought against other European powers, including France, Austria, Russia, Sweden and Saxony. The war involved multiple theatres from Europe to North America and India, where British dominance increased with the victories of Robert Clive over French forces and their allies at the Battle of Arcot and the Battle of Plassey.
George said his son Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (pictured), had “ruined me and disgraced himself” at the Convention of Klosterzeven, 1757.
George’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, commanded the king’s troops in northern Germany. In 1757 Hanover was invaded and George gave Cumberland full powers to conclude a separate peace, but by September George was furious at Cumberland’s negotiated settlement, which he felt greatly favoured the French.
George said his son had “ruined me and disgraced himself”. Cumberland, by his own choice, resigned his military offices, and George revoked the peace deal on the grounds that the French had infringed it by disarming Hessian troops after the ceasefire.
In the Annus Mirabilis of 1759 British forces captured Quebec and captured Guadeloupe, defeated a French plan to invade Britain following naval battles at Lagos and Quiberon Bay, and halted a resumed French advance on Hanover at the Battle of Minden.
By October 1760 George II was blind in one eye and hard of hearing. On the morning of October 25, he rose as usual at 6:00 am, drank a cup of hot chocolate, and went to his close stool alone. After a few minutes, his valet heard a loud crash and entered the room to find the king on the floor; his physician, Frank Nicholls, recorded that he “appeared to have just come from his necessary-stool, and as if going to open his escritoire”.
The king was lifted into his bed, and Princess Amelia was sent for; before she reached him, he was dead. At the age of nearly 77 he had lived longer than any of his English or British predecessors. A post-mortem revealed that the king had died as the result of a thoracic aortic dissection.
Frederick Louis died suddenly in 1751, nine years before his father, so George II was ultimately succeeded by his grandson, as King George III. He was buried on November 11, in Westminster Abbey. He left instructions for the sides of his and his wife’s coffins to be removed so that their remains could mingle. He is the most recent monarch to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
For two centuries after George II’s death, history tended to view him with disdain, concentrating on his mistresses, short temper, and boorishness. Since then, reassessment of his legacy has led scholars to conclude that he exercised more influence in foreign policy and military appointments than previously thought.