Wednesday, March 21, 2012


A review of Ragnhild Hatton’s George I (1978)

(Rating 4 of 5)

Ragnhild Hatton wrote a very good biography of a very forgotten—yet important—King of Great Britain. ‘Lucky George’ was the good fortune recipient of the Civil Wars that plagued Britain during the seventeenth century. He became the patriarch of the modern British dynasty, although they have since changed their name. George I’s rise to the British throne was really the pinnacle of an already successful political and military career. Although England’s patron saint since the time of Edward III was St. George, England never had a ‘King George’ until this monarch. They would go on to have five after him. This man did indeed live an interesting life.

(King George I)

Born in Germany in the final phase of what was call the Holy Roman Empire. His father Ernst August did everything he could to have his Duke of Hanover title converted into an electoral one. George’s destiny would be even greater where his dad became an elector he became a king.

(Electress Sophia of Hanover, matriarch of the modern British dynasty.)

The reputation that King George I has is that of a boring stand in. During the reigns of William III and Anne there were rumors that the Old Pretender was a changeling switched with a dead baby. This gave at least a hint of legitimacy to their rule. But there was no pretending with the House of Hanover, with over fifty people were better claims, they knew they owed their crown to a revolution, despite whether or not they wanted to admit it. The prettier, charismatic Stuarts seem to gain a great deal of sympathy against the boring, plain German dynasty.

This book debunks a lot of the myths about George I. Far from being a boring old king, he was general who led armies of the Holy Roman Empire during the War of Spanish Succession. Becoming King of Great Britain was a literal crowning achievement of an already spectacular career. He also, despite his reputation, acquired a working knowledge of English. When people say ‘constitutional monarchy’ what they mean is ceremonial figurehead. However that does not really describe King George I, he was an actually ruler who governed his kingdom with his ministers but understood and accepted that the King was restrained by law.

The only downside to this book is capitalization. No titles in this book are capitalized. In the text you have king George, prince Fredrick, and emperor Charles. It is very annoying. Despite this one drawback it is a quite good biography.

{Video from the series Kings and Queens of England}

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