Unlike his mother Sophia, Electress of Hanover, George did not come across as being very impressive. He was a rather shy man who preferred to avoid crowds and pageantry. What he did possess was the essential qualities that the Stuarts lacked - stability and permanence. When building a new dynasty, there is nothing more necessary.
It was a beautiful autumn day in September when King George sailed up the Thames with his son. George was expecting a wonderful welcome and what he saw pleased him. London was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was fifty times larger than Hanover and the crowd, estimated at around one and a half million people, were lined up along the river, pushing and shoving for their first glimpse of their new king.
The English knew very little about him, not even what he looked like, and to most of England, being ruled by a German took some getting used to anyway. Their idea of Germany was a land full of yokels farming turnips and even at this early stage, before having even seen him, people were calling him their 'Turnip King'.
And then they heard all about his treatment of his wife. They heard the story of his mistresses and they heard the heart-wrenching story of how his wife's love had turned up dead in the river after she had refused to give him up, even as George was flaunting his own mistresses. They heard how George had cut her off without a second thought and then sent her away in exile never to see her family or children again, and never allowing her to leaver her prison as long as she lived. And they didn't like it. Not one single bit.
It was a warm summer's day in June 1727 when the Chief Minister arrived unannounced at the country residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He was out of breath and in a panic. He had come to tell George that the man he had been locking horns with in a 'do or die' struggle for most of his life - his father King George I - was dead.
He received the news with barely a frown. His seething anger at the pain and suffering his father had caused was still so intense, it didn't cease at the news of his father's death. To him, his father was an obstinate, self-indulgent, miserly tyrant and George decided not to even travel to Germany for the funeral, using the excuse that he was needed more in england than at the gravesite of the man he loathed.
When the will was read, it was pretty obvious there was anger on both sides. His father had stipulated that his succession in both England and Hanover was to be split between his future grandchildren, no given to his only son. It was a ridiculous will, even a spiteful one, and both England and Hanover disregarded it completely as George I had no right to pick and choose his successor in either country.
England had already had a preview of what the Hanoverians were like. They had witnessed first hand the quarrelling between George I and his son and they were still a bit surprised at the intensity of the arguing. But within the first year of George II's reign, England were to find that this dynasty was actually more dysfunctional than even the Tudors had ever been.
From the beginning, George III was different from his Hanoverian predecessors and England welcomed him like a breath of fresh air after his previous feisty ancestors. And George wasn't about to let them down. Not only was he young enough to make a difference, he was born in Britain and English was his first language. He even felt British. But as we all know, good intentions are sometimes not enough. Even though he was determined to improve British opinion of his family, you could say he was the one responsible for setting the most catastrophic times into motion since James II.
George had a lot on his plate from the very beginning. From what he could see, while his family had been fighting and squabbling amongst themselves, the Whig party had grown incredibly strong and it was being controlled by rich men who ran the party by bribery and corruption. And then there was the war with France and the American colonies. Being new to the role and inexperienced, George was still trying to play catch-up so he can be forgiven for not having a closer look at whom he was dealing with.
The years 1782 and 1783 were bad ones for George. George had been already showing signs of stress. He had lost the Americas, there was the death of two of his beloved children and he was dealing with the dreadful behaviour of his eldest son and heir. things started to slip off the rails a little for him.
In history, people laugh at what is regarded as the 'Madness of King George' but at the time, it was not a laughing matter at all. England was seriously concerned by his lapses in lucidity. His symptoms began simply as talking for long lengths of time, barely stopping for breath. Sentences of 400 words and eight vowels were not unusual and he would often repeat himself over and over again. Sometimes he would talk until froth ran from his mouth. But as worried as his physicians were, they became very concerned when George was found wandering in his garden, trying to plant a steak. When he began to suffer from seizures and fits as well, his doctors were forced to strap him into a chair to stop him from harming himself.
In the truest sense of the word, George was given the full Georgian medical treatment with a series of procedures that were nothing short of horrendous. The usual treatments included procedures such as bloodletting, blistering his head, sweating, restraints and scary cocktails containing arsenic. All had no effect and it was decided that something more drastic was needed.
By the time his father died, George IV felt as if he had endured a lifetime of frustration. He was unhappy in love, unhappy with his finances and by the time he finally ascended the throne, he was an ageing, 58-year-old obese playboy.
Everything George did seemed out of spite towards his father and mother. There were very few who surpassed his reputation as a scoundrel. He was a chronic gambler and without his father's permission, he had wilfully married a twice-widowed Catholic actress by the name of Maria Fitzherbert who was, not surprisingly, six years his senior since George loved older women.
George knew people were talking about him behind his back. during his life as a prince and as his father's Regent during his father's lapses in lucidity, he'd heard the whisperings at court about his unsuitability for the throne and the gossip varied depending on who was doing the whispering. Sure, George could be charming and witty, drunk or sober, they muttered, but it was usually when he wanted something. Most of the time, the murmurs were that he was self-indulgent, cruel and he could forget friendships in a heartbeat without a backward glance. They even went as far as saying he was self-engrossed, his judgements were harsh and he showed no regard for anyone else's feelings. And he also spent far too much money on renovating palaces, gambling, buying pictures, hosting parties, drinking alcohol and chasing mistresses, regardless of his amazing weight gain. And it was all very true. In the end everyone was in total agreeable. George was most definitely not king material.
William never imagined he would be sitting on the throne of England. He had two older brothers who could carry that bothersome burden without any help from him and he had very little interest in politics anyway. He'd never even felt the urge to offer any opinions. Not that he had many anyway. He'd been a soldier for most of his life, not a politician, serving in North America and the Caribbean, although even then, he hadn't seen much action. If his brother George IV was considered the black sheep in the family, William should have been known as the dark horse.
By the time his brother's only child had died in childbirth, along with her child, England were beginning to panic a little. Out of the fertile Hanoverians, all the sons of George III were waging playboys with no legitimate heirs to their name. So the decision to marry fertile princesses was not made by William or his brothers Edward, Alphonse, Frederick or Augustus, it was made by Parliament. If there was no one left to take over after all the brothers had ruled, it then would come down to the next Stuart waiting not so patiently in the long queue. And everyone knew they were all Catholics. something Parliament almost shuddered at.
The race was on to find a fertile wife and have children as soon as possible. William promptly left his mistress and ten children to find a bride and his brother Edward unceremoniously did exactly the same. Adolphus had already popped the question to his second cousin and the baby race began.
As it turned out, Edward won the race with a bouncing baby girl while the wives of his brothers miscarried time and time again. It seemed England's future revolved around a tiny little girl by the name of Victoria.
Victoria's story is one of intricate family squabbles. Their pleasures, their friendships and above all, their poisonous rivalries and jealousies, would play a key role in the realignment of Europe. It is also the story of how royalty dragged Europe into the abyss of a terrible family tragedy that would end the lives of many millions of innocent people.
Victoria did not ask to be Queen. It was thrust upon her by the accident of birth and then by a succession of accidents that removed others who stood between her and the throne. She assumed it reluctantly and at first incompetently at the age of eighteen.
Victoria had tangled connections with the kings, queens and lesser royals of Europe and hers was a dysfunctional family held tightly together largely by arranged marriages, some which turned out to be reasonably happy and many of which did not. There was a very complicated German connection that ran through Victoria's veins. Through both parents and grandparents, she was German and she in turn had married a German. She even felt German. As such, it is easy to understand that Britain and Germany were the best of friends for a long time. In the future though, there would be a tragic failure for her grandchildren to understand one another. It destined these two nations to explode on the battlefields of the First World War as the biggest family squabble of all time, surpassing the War of the Roses. How Britain came to fight alongside Russia against Germany is one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century, especially since Germany was family, friend and a traditional ally.
Victoria kept close tabs on all of this, as she did almost everything. She presided over a nation that was in a state of creative bloom and she had plenty to do with bringing it to the cusp of the modern age.